Hogan’s Hideaway is one of those restaurants that has been around for a very long time and is referred to as an institution. There are plenty in Rochester and not a ton that hold up too well to the passage of time. I think a lot of people kind of ignore it sitting off the quieter side of Park Ave; I know I have and hadn’t made a visit since college (~8 years ago) even though I’ve passed by innumerable times and have had friends live in that vicinity. The menu is simple but appealing with American classics and numerous mentions of Seven Bridges Farm (one of my favorite meat purveyors in the area) and I was in the mood for simple and delicious.
A large and diverse chalkboard specials menu greeted us in the entranceway with even more options from trout to pork belly tacos and a rabbit ragu dish amongst the 10 or so. It was a beautiful spring afternoon and we sat on the patio behind the restaurant to enjoy it. Starting off with a couple tall, cold glasses of Saranac root beer on tap was a good choice on a warm day and a nice option to have for the non drinkers like myself. We ordered up the crab cake appetizer and were excited by the Seven Bridges pork belly tacos and picked those as well.
A side salad came with the pork belly dish and we got it with their homemade caesar salad dressing. The dressing was lacking that crisp acidity and umami found in the best versions but was perfectly acceptable. Unfortunately, the lettuce was past prime leading it to be slightly yellowed and not very crunchy. Not a great start to a meal.
The crab cakes came out next with one cake for each of us to dig into along with some undressed greens and basil aioli for dipping. The pan sear gave some good crunch to the exterior and the interior was soft with a strong amount of large lump crab meat. Good flavor with peppers and celery and the binder wasn’t overwhelming. I haven’t had a lot of crab cakes to make a comparison but my fiancée thought this was a solid example. Basil aioli was a good dipping accompaniment to the cakes although it didn’t bring a bomb of basil and erred more toward the mayo baseline. Nothing particularly wrong with it just not a standout.
Biggest disappointment of the meal was the pork belly taco dish (see image above). Raw flour tortillas and an excess of sour cream were two of the major issues but leading the pack was the pork belly itself. Hogan’s started off with a great product from Seven Bridges and cooked it until it had almost no texture at all which was quite unfortunate. Pork belly deserves much more care and respect to make it shine and that was lost in what I can assume was a long braise. They would have been better served by crisping up the pork belly after a more cooking it to achieve some browning flavor and texture instead of the pure softness we got. Definitely needed some acidity to cut through the richness of the fatty pork and the sour cream as well. Unsalted rice and beans came with the tacos and offered very little in the way of taste.
To Hogan’s credit, they took that dish off our bill but I still walked out of the restaurant saddened that the food we were served didn’t live up to our expectations.
The service was perfectly pleasant and we had no issues with the patio itself. Our drinks were refilled regularly and the food did come out quickly. Our experience was strongly colored by the quality of the food we were served instead of the atmosphere of the restaurant and, for me, I’ll take food over atmosphere any day of the week.