HOBNOB: Review

(C) Agnes Lopez Photography 2013

by Damon Noisette // photo by Agnes Lopez

It would be hard to give a concise, coherent answer if asked what kind of restaurant HOBNOB Food + Social Exchange is, from its décor to its menu. It’s not fusion, though executive chef Roger Regulacion did spend some time in the kitchen at Roy’s. "Global inspiration and local intentions" is the stated theme of HOBNOB and it fits.

Restaurateurs Ellen and Alan Cottrill opened HOBNOB in late March, taking the space between Sbraga & Co. and the soon-to-open Brixx Wood Fired Pizza at 220 Riverside. Clever visual elements break up the restaurant’s dining room into distinct, smaller spaces without feeling claustrophobic. Also, if the weather is right, the doors to the dining room open to allow the outside in. Local craftsmen did much of the metal and woodwork, and the custom glass art installation above the lounge was created and installed by Brian Frus, director of Jacksonville University’s Glass Institute.

General manager Ted Hayes and beverage manager Marlon Hall made their way over from The Candy Apple Café to take on similar roles at HOBNOB, which offers an explanation for the efficient service and inventive cocktail menu. Of Hall’s concoctions, the Healer ($10, pictured on page 169) is one to try for both the theater and the taste; it’s like two drinks that slowly mix together as a vodka and pomegranate molasses cocktail becomes infused with a pear, apple and basil mixture seeping down in from a smaller glass that floats upside down in ice.

Starters range in origin from a spicy truffled edamame ($8) to steamed mussels with fennel sausage ($14) and a Mediterranean trio of dipping sauces served with naan bread ($12). There are also fried green tomatoes ($9) for those looking to stay closer to home.

HOBNOB’s entrées are equally diverse, with a five spice-infused crispy duck ($32) that’s true to its name to a grilled pepper-crusted ribeye ($35). Chef Regulacion’s Filipino heritage shines through in the grilled shrimp, house made longanisa sausage and pancit noodle ($25) entrée.

Ordering a “Soufflé of the moment” ($9) for dessert requires forethought due to the longer preparation time, but the ricotta fritters ($7) are a quicker option that offers a similar texture and a pair of dipping sauces, a blackberry coulis and a lovely crème anglaise. The coconut panna cotta ($8) with guava gelée is a tropical getaway in a glass.

Happy Hours Happy hour specials on drinks and small plates are served from 10 PM-midnight, Friday and Saturday, and specials every weekday 4-7 PM, with $2 off draught beverages and select $4 beer and wines.

Toast the weekend A champagne toast happens in the lounge every Friday, 5-6 PM, and if live music isn’t in the restaurant, it’s probably playing outside on the stage at Unity Plaza.

Claim your space Reservations can be made through HOBNOB’s website. Free parking is available in the garage under 220 Riverside until 5 PM and in the lot behind the building. Valet is available Friday and Saturday nights.

HOBNOB Food + Social Exchange 220 Riverside Ave., Suite 110 (904) 513-4272 hobnobjax.com