Oct. 20, 2023 By Jessica Militello
Off The Hook, a seafood restaurant located at 28-08 34th St. in Astoria, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month having been the go-to venue for oysters, fish and an array of dishes in Astoria since opening its doors in 2013.
The restaurant continues to offer a range of seafood entrees and delicious drinks in its ever-adapting space, something owners Dritan and Iglent feel has been key to their success in the neighborhood.
“Staying on top of your business and being able to change with the times rather than sticking with one thing-we’ve always adapted,” said Dritan. “We’re constantly changing. [Iglent] is always outsourcing the best ingredients, changing the menu; the menu stays fresh all the time.”
Prior to opening Off The Hook, Iglent had been working in the restaurant industry at different establishments throughout the city. He even opened a different space that he ran for a couple years before selling it.
After that, while living in Astoria at the time, he saw a space become available in the neighborhood and he thought it would be the perfect opportunity to open a health conscious restaurant focused on carefully selected ingredients and seafood.
While the venture was originally a solo project, Dritan got on board as his partner shortly after the restaurant opened.
“I just wanted to make something different, to offer fish but a little bit differently,” said Iglent.
Dritan also played a role in putting the menu together.
“The menu is very inspired by travels, by different cuisines,” Dritan said. “It’s a different take on seafood where the protein doesn’t stand out by itself. It’s not about the fish or meat, the dish comes together as a whole and there’s a lot of flavors that balance well with each other.”
While the space was originally a bit smaller, they eventually expanded and now the restaurant has an outdoor patio, a dining area filled with open windows and lots of plants, as well as a more intimate seating area, along with their bar space.
The restaurant truly offers a step into a different world from the Astoria streets that’s both inviting and intimate for guests to enjoy.
The restaurant features a number of rooms given its expansion and aims to be inviting.
“Each area will give you a different feeling, it takes you somewhere else,” Dritan said. “It belongs to the neighborhood, you should feel comfortable to come in. It’s not very pretentious in terms of expensive chandeliers, but it’s pleasant and a clean environment.”
At first glance to passersby, Off The Hook might come off primarily as a raw bar and they definitely have their share of fresh selections of oysters, little neck clams, wild shrimp cocktail and even a cold seafood platter with oysters, clams, mussels and more. But the menu, while ever changing, offers even more and has some fan favorites, like the warm lobster roll, fish tacos, the wild shrimp mofongo, and free range jerk chicken, to name just a few.
“After October, we’ll bring in more meat, more seasonal vegetables and the salads change,” said Dritan. “Some of the main courses change and the sandwiches will change. And the specials change usually weekly where it’s more seasonal and also local produce of the season.”
One of their most popular specials that they’ve had since the beginning is their $1 oyster special, held every Monday, along with other specials throughout the week.
They also have a happy hour special every Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, from 1 to 3 p.m.
Dritan said they won’t be holding a Halloween party, although guests can stop by that day for some drink specials and soak in the decorations for the occasion.
In the meantime, as far as entertainment, guests can always stop by to enjoy live music performances on different days, including singers and musicians via the Astoria Music Collective twice a week, as well as live music on Thursdays.
Those interested should check their Instagram for the most current updates on bands and singers that will be there throughout the week. With the holidays coming up, the venue is also available for booking parties.
Whether Off The Hook is already a personal favorite, or a place newcomers need to check out for the first time, the owners definitely want their customers to feel at home and have a nearby place to go. They say it’s the right place to celebrate a special event, or just to wind down after a long day at work with a friend or two.
“The main thing we want is for people to go here, feel comfortable, and have a good time,” said Iglent. “We want to offer them the space and the environment for them to do that. We like to see people smile, that’s always the thing with restaurants-you get pleasure when you see people enjoying the food and enjoying the atmosphere. We try our best to strive for that.”
- *This story was first published in the October issue of BORO Magazine.