Though Hook (as it's more accurately known) opened three months ago, Abdeen has been making a life in Richmond for almost two decades. Raised in Jerusalem, he picked up a finance degree from VCU in 1986, and ever since has been exercising his entrepreneurial skills around the city. Case in point: Abdeen also owns Carytown Jewelers all the way across town.
If fried chicken gizzards and tennis bracelets seem a thousand miles apart, they do have one thing in common profits. Abdeen got the idea for Hook after noting the success of a similar franchise in the Midwest operated by his brother-in-law. "They say that Richmond is a test market," Abdeen says. "If you can make something work here, it can work anywhere." The fact is, his fish and chips biz is doing so well that Abdeen is already scouting locations on the South Side and out near Brandermill for his westward expansion.
Now for the nuts-and-bolts stuff: Fish dinners are five and six bucks; catfish tails, gizzards, okra and breaded zucchini stand out on the menu. Contrary to what I'd thought going in, this is not some kind of Scottish, beer-battered hand-me-down, but soul food, pure and simple.
As Abdeen and I sat in the empty fluorescence of the dining area discussing the bottom line, a question occurred to me: Does Abdeen eat the food? "Ah, I love the chicken wings," he says, brightening. "I eat them all the time. My wife, she likes the shrimp." In truth, Abdeen's product is his pride. He's still riffing on the wings when he says, "They're better than what you get at Tobacco Company. They're not greasy. It's fresh every day. If it's not better, I'll ... you come here."
When words will not do, he lets chicken wings do the talking. Abdeen is around the counter in a shot, loading a small bowl of wings for a makeshift sampler tray. As promised, they're excellent, fiercely hot but precisely tender. In the same vein, the servings of catfish and trout are simply perfect for gluttons: 5-pounds of food, enough to feed a threesome. You could take a table inside, but, in truth, that pile of grub tastes best in the front seat of your car, with the stereo cranked, where you can take in the scenery and revel in it.
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