How did I miss that a ‘Hooked’ had opened in Halifax? The first time I came across a
‘Hooked’ was in Toronto, it was 2012, and I was working remotely for a consulting firm.
To break up my day I would grab my fresh vegetables from the St. Lawrence farmers’ market and on Saturdays I’d buy my meat for the week and a fresh loaf of Blackbird Baking bread in Kensington market at Sanagan’s butcher shop, with its beautiful displays of fresh meat on the left side and a deli on the right. There were fishmongers to the west of Sanagans but I was hesitant to try them. A strong fishy odour wafted out of the stores and it was Ontario.
I don’t know what led me into Hooked – it was totally indistinguishable from the store on either side, set back from the sidewalk with a large awning hiding half the windows. But walking in was a revelation. It smelt fresh. The fish, neatly arranged on beds of ice, was labelled with a name, where it was caught, and by what method. It was new AND it was revolutionary.
I shopped there and at the Leslieville location for the next few years. Even after moving to London, my mom and I would make pilgrimages to Hooked, with a cooler of ice, whenever either was going to Toronto.
I’ve since learned the backstory of how ‘Hooked’ was started by Dan Donovan and his wife, Kristin. At 34, Dan needed a change from working on Bay Street. He did a short stint at Jamie Kennedy’s ‘Palmerston Cafe’, fell in love with food, enrolled at the unique Stratford Chef School – which has its own story, graduated, and worked at Jamie Kennedy’s Wine Bar.
Kennedy had to sell off the Wine Bar to avoid bankruptcy during the 2008 financial crisis but Dan already had started to think about a business that sourced fish caught in a sustainable manner, that knew its fishermen, knew how the fish was caught, and hoped there were people who wanted to eat that kind of fish.
This from Dave Adler of ‘Hooked Halifax’, now open at 5783 Charles Street just around the corner from Local Source. In 2010, while working for the Ecology Action Center marine team, he was involved in developing their Off the Hook initiative. The program was a co-op with Digby County fisherman, designed to connect local, small scale fisherman directly with consumers through a subscription program. A few years and iterations later, the community-supported fishery has wrapped up. But the NS market for sustainably-harvested fish appears to have grown, and consumers now have access via ‘Hooked Halifax’ and ‘Afishionado Fishmongers’.
On my first visit to ‘Hooked Halifax’ I picked up a pound of line-caught haddock. I soaked it in buttermilk before breading with cornmeal and flour. I served it on potato latkes with sautéed red cabbage and a dill sour cream. It was delicious.