Angie Storm, who owns Downtown's Erbert & Gerbert's Subs and Clubs, was preparing to take her industry experience and channel it into an independently-owned restaurant -- something that she could craft into an ideal East Side eatery.
On Friday, June 23, just in time for the East Side's Summer Solstice Music Festival, she opened the doors of Hotch-A-Do and introduced it to the neighborhood as the casual yet hip place that keeps an eye on health without sacrificing anything that makes dining out a special treat.
When you sit down at a table in Hotch-A-Do it isn't hard to tell that the space was once used as a Laundromat. Although that may sound as if it'd be off-putting, it's not -- it works well in a way that gives the new restaurant just the right amount of unique, modern flair to keep your eyes interested as you dine.
The spacious dining room, thanks to its high ceilings, is breathable and open and decorated in a way that feels decidedly industrial. Floor to ceiling windows occupy the entirety of the west- and north-facing walls, allowing diners a full view of the bustling neighborhood around them.
Although owner Angie Storm opened her eatery in late June, we waited a while before heading over for a weekday lunch.
During the week Hotch-A-Do serves breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. -- and until 3 p.m. on weekends -- but since we arrived sometime after noon, we has to miss out on the very tempting blueberry and banana pancakes ($6), made from scratch via an old family recipe (as Storm claims is the case with the majority of the menu), as well as the versatile sunrise sandwich ($7), which gives you the choices of either ham, bacon or tofu on an English muffin, bagel or croissant, and smothered with organic eggs, cheese and avocado.
Lunch and dinner, served after 11 a.m., offers salads ranging from pasta ($3) to spinach ($4), pizza by the slice ($2-3) or whole ($15) and a range of sandwiches ($5-8).
At about a 12-minute wait from our order to receipt of our slices, the thin-crusted pizza was crisp, crunchy, warm and fresh. Making the dough daily helps give the slices a fresh taste and once Hotch adds its fresh tomato sauce and two types of cheese, you have very enjoyable deli pizza.
Sandwiches are a substantial part of the Hotch-A-Do menu, and we sampled two of them, the veggie sandwich ($7) and the roasted chicken sandwich with provolone ($8). The chicken sammy is definitely better than the veggie.
The veggie sandwich was stacked with two kinds of cheese -- havarti and cheddar -- as well as avocado, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, mustard and a light ranch dressing. Unlike other restaurants, they really load on the avocado, which adds a lot to the sandwich. Unfortunately, the bread was slightly greasy (it might have been pan friend) and overall the sandwich didn't have a very exciting taste. Simply put, it was fine, but nothing special.
The chicken provolone, however, was stellar. Served on a hoagie bun, the chicken was juicy and flavorful, with a well-sized slice of cheese and a delicious drizzle of homemade sauce made from fresh tomatoes and numerous fresh spices. We would return to the restaurant just for this sandwich.
However, both sandwiches came with a pasta salad that we found flavorless and a bit dry. We would order chips next time.
As a vegetarian, Storm created the menu with the non-carnivorous in mind, but don't be too quick to label the joint as a veg-head's health haven. Storm has sprinkled her eclectic menu with a few decadent surprises, including cheese potatoes with crumbly topping that are a great $5 side dish or served with bread as an $8 meal, and the restaurant rarity -- though probably often desired -- taco drip, which comes with a mound of tortilla chips for $6.
Hotch-A-Do offers a full bar that represents several of Wisconsin's micro-breweries and a fairly extensive wine list. They're also happy to whip up bloody Marys and mimosas for those Sunday brunches.
Jeff Sherman contributed to this report.