Pub still ‘place where everybody knows your name’


Staff Writer

CHRIS KELLY staff  New owners say they will update Hook, Line & Sinker, Rumson, but it will still have the ambiance that has kept it a popular neighborhood pub for 34 years. CHRIS KELLY staff New owners say they will update Hook, Line & Sinker, Rumson, but it will still have the ambiance that has kept it a popular neighborhood pub for 34 years. There are new faces behind the scenes at Rumson’s long-running Hook, Line & Sinker restaurant, but the new owners say the neighborhood pub will remain true to its roots — as it has since it was established in 1934.

“It’s still going to be Hook, Line and Sinker. We’re not going to try and reinvent something we love,” said managing partner Michael Sharkey this week. “But we want to bring it up to date.”

“It’s been a local mainstay for such a long time, and it’s really what we like to call a neighborhood pub,” said Jamie Wark, a new owner. “It remains a casual place where families and any age group can come and find something they want on the menu — and get really friendly service.”

“But how do we update that for 2005?” asked Wark, who also is a partner in Salt Creek Grill located just across Rumson Road.

“The challenge for us is not to make too many changes so that the people who love it now will still love it. I don’t want anybody to come in and feel it’s not the same place. A few might come in and say, ‘I’m not sure,’ “but that’s OK, they will love us again.”

Sharkey was general manager at Salt Creek Grille when Wark brought him into the new management team that is steering the West Rumson Road restaurant. New owners also include Will and Frances Statter, Red Bank, former owners of Rumson Pharmacy.

On the Rumson scene for 70 years, Hook, Line and Sinker has had a succession of owners over the years, Wark said, but has managed to keep its base of faithful patrons by sticking to what it does best.

Wark, Middletown, said he and his partners plan to make some improvements to enhance the overall dining experience.

“We recognize that favorites like the hand-formed burgers grilled on an open flame, daily seafood specials, among other signature items, have to stay,” said Wark, who once worked at Hook, Line & Sinker as a bus boy when he was a teen.

But the menu has been streamlined to eliminate redundancy, he said.

“I get more comments about the things we’ve added and we haven’t added anything,” he confided. “You can just see it now. “

The authentic pub fare is priced moderately and draws a lunch and dinner crowd, Sharkey said.

“A big bar crowd comes in and orders burgers cooked right at the bar grill,” he said. “The menu is traditional pub food, a little bit of everything, including seafood, salads, steaks.”

Quality food at moderate prices is one of the reasons for the restaurant’s appeal, he said. At Hook, Line & Sinker, prices range from $5.50 for burgers and sandwiches, to $24 for steak or filet mignon.

Sharkey, Atlantic Highlands, is working on a new menu that features signature dishes plus some lighter, organic items that reflect today’s health-conscious lifestyles.

According to Wark, a reshuffling of duties has made it possible for executive chef Mark McGregor to devote full time to the kitchen operation.

“Mark was doing everything,” Wark said. “We’ve taken a lot of the business outside of the kitchen away and allowed him to focus more on the kitchen.”

Sharkey said the restaurant needs to be brought up to date aesthetically and technically. “We’re planning on doing some renovations; they’re in the design stages now,” he said.

“Early next year we plan to implement some improvements that will enhance the restaurant but will not change its character.

“We’d like to grow, to expand with the redesign,” explained Sharkey, adding that the pub currently seats 24 for dinner at tables, and 40 people for lunch, dinner and late night bar menu.

The restaurant is open seven days a week, until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Sharkey grew up in Leonardo and earned a culinary degree at Atlantic Community College, Mays Landing.

His culinary career path was set early on — as a high school student, Sharkey did double duty at Beacon Hill Country Club where he worked as a caddy and in the kitchen.

After earning a culinary degree, Sharkey moved between the kitchens at several popular local eateries including Steak & Ale in Middletown, and Fisherman’s Wharf in Rumson, before stepping out of the kitchen to become general manager of the Salt Creek Grille in Rumson.

Wark grew up in Rumson and worked at Hook, Line & Sinker as a 15-year-old bus boy.

He moved to California some 15 years ago, had his own promotions firm and became involved in the original Salt Creek Grill in Dana Point in Orange County eight or nine years ago. He sold the business in 2000 and, along with his partners, he said, brought the Salt Creek concept to Rumson.

“It’s the most successful restaurant in Monmouth County,” he said.

While Hook, Line & Sinker remains successful, Wark said there’s room for improvement in food quality and ambiance.

“We’re getting back to what they used to do so well,” he said. “We’re going to focus more on service.

“People come in several times a week,” said Sharkey. “The bartenders know who they are and our guests know everyone that works here. It’s like family.

“The draw is that we really care. That’s the key — caring about people that come in and caring about staff, who, in turn, feel good about being here. They bring that feeling to the guests.”

To illustrate, Wark recounted the experience of a regular who comes in every Wednesday for dinner with two friends. The trio always ordered the same drinks. One night, she arrived with only one other friend, went to visit the restroom and came back to find three drinks sitting on the table.

“When the woman pointed out one of the trio was missing,” Wark said, “the waitress’s response was, ‘Where’s Frankie? You can’t have dinner without Frankie!’

“That really sums it up for me,” Wark explained. “If you were going to build a bar like Cheers today, what would it look like? That’s what Hook, Line is, and there really isn’t anybody else that serves that kind of market in the entire industry.”