At Eclectic Hook & Master, Garces Dreams of Octopus — and Pizza

Chicago-meets-Brooklyn pizza, a tiki lounge, and a giant cartoon octopus combine for "complete culinary absurdity" that somehow works.

Photograph by Briana Farina

Jose Garces’s Hook & Master is a strange place. Right on the edge of gentrifying Kensington, it’s an octopus-themed Chicago-meets-Brooklyn pizza joint opened in the shell of the old Liquid Room. You can get kampachi crudo with yuzu and jalapeño, shrimp cooked in Calabrian chili butter, jumped-up tiki drinks — either at the main bar or in the tiki lounge upstairs — and Chicago-style deep-dish pies.

It’s a lot, I know. It’s the kind of restaurant I’d make up if I was telling a bad joke about desperate restaurateurs trying to smash together concepts in a misguided attempt at pleasing all the people, all the time. Except that here, it’s real. There’s a giant cartoon octopus painted on the outside, buoys hanging from the ceiling, cracker-crust tavern pies, Chicago pan and Brooklyn-style New York pizzas with blistered crusts topped with house-made sausage and long hots, plus special bowls of goop (Alfredo, ricotta with chili, herbed oil) just for dipping the crusts in.



Hook & Master
1361 North Second Street, Kensington

CUISINE: Eclectic


Order This: A Chicago pie and some tiki cocktails with friends — then a tavern-style to take home for tomorrow.

Funny thing is, though, it works. Mostly because there’s a fuck-it-all sense of complete culinary absurdity permeating the place that I truly appreciate, but also because Garces knows how to make a themed restaurant that doesn’t feel like a theme restaurant, you know? He’s done Old Cuba (Rosa Blanca) and Mexican beach vibes (Buena Onda). Hell, he even had a pizza joint once before (24, in Old City), and even if that place — egoless, efficient and, ultimately, cold — was the exact opposite of this, it’s a historical counterweight that makes Hook & Master’s mashed-up, genre-fluid oddity even more fascinating to me. In this moment, in this place? The absurd feels almost comforting.

So, too, does a big-ass pizza — thick-crusted, high-walled, perfectly laced with that pan-pizza curtain of near-burnt cheese. A man of Chicago from way back, Garces knows what a Chicago deep-dish pie is supposed to taste like but goes his own way anyway, giving his a spicy red top and an architecture that feels more like a straight pan pizza than those coliseums of sauce and cheese that the Windy City is (shamelessly) known for. 

So is it good? Sure. The small plates are clever. The tavern-style thin-crust pizzas are admirably greasy, floppy in the middle and crisp at the edges, just the way I like. But more importantly, Hook & Master feels real. It feels like unapologetic love, isolation madness, and recursive obsessions given physical form — like this whole place was based on a dream Garces had once that he just couldn’t shake. One with a giant octopus who loved crudo and Chicago pizzas and rum. 

Like any dream, I’m not sure Hook & Master will last. But it’s worth enjoying while we can.


2 Stars — Come if you’re in the neighborhood

Rating Key
0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in the region
★★★★: come from anywhere in the country

Published as “The Octopus Dream” in the April 2022 issue of Philadelphia magazine.