Hookin’ Ain’t Easy will celebrate two years in business over the Labor Day weekend with a grand opening party. No, not the store – the seafood market celebrated the opening of their new Tiki bar and café with live music, games, giveaways, food discounts, and college football on TV.
Owner Matthew Neumann created his own beach, adding white sand to half of the once-empty lot next the market, and seashells to the other side. He also added crab traps, buoys, and tropical plants.
The new cafe and Tiki bar at Hookin’ Ain’t Easy create a casual beach vibe.
There’s a Tiki bar at one end of the property and a mobile kitchen on the other. In between: a cluster of white, blue, and aqua green picnic tables with colorful umbrellas.
Hookin’ had two menus posted when I visited Sept. 1 – the grand opening specials and the regular menu. They included such items as fish sandwiches, smoked chicken wings, pulled pork sandwiches, smoked mullet, grouper nuggets, and a shrimp basket.
“Blackened grouper, shrimp, wings – these are things I grew up on,” Neumann told The Gabber.
Although Gulfport knows Neumann primarily as a commercial fisherman, he also enjoys cooking. And he’s not the only one in the family: Neumann’s brother Brent has two smokehouses in Colorado. Brent is the barbecue expert while Matthew is the seafood expert. Before opening the Hookin’ café, the two exchanged recipes. Now both have restaurants combining fresh fish and barbecue – one in Florida and the other in Colorado.
Although my $3 fish sandwich (Grand Opening special) was excellent, Neumann was more excited about having me try the chicken wings, so he brought me a couple.
“They’re smoked, we deep fry them, and the sauce is all homemade.”
They’re better than all the wings I tried in Buffalo, NY.
Hookin’ Ain’t Easy Café & Tiki Bar are open and serving lunch and dinner, with dreams of serving breakfast one day.
Hookin’ Ain’t Easy Café & Tiki Bar, 3660 22nd Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Mon.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. fb.com/HAESeafood