Where Can You Have a “Twin Peaks” Dining Experience in Regent Square?
Hemlock House serves irreverent food and cocktails with a punk rock aesthetic.
Josh Sickels is the David Lynch of the local dining scene.
The owner of Rockaway Pizzeria, a White Oak joint serving New York-style pies in an atmosphere that’s straight out of “Twin Peaks,” (the surrealist television series Lynch co-created in the ‘90s), now has a full-service restaurant in Regent Square that’s also extremely Lynchian in its aesthetics and eats.
Hemlock House opened last month at 1126 S. Braddock Ave., formerly The Map Room. Not only has the interior been transformed, the menu takes a detour when it comes to typical pub grub.
Chef Mike Allison, a native of Bangor, Maine, has prepared everything from fast food and French cuisine at Paris 66 Bistro in East Liberty to bar favorites at Hambone’s, a beloved Lawrenceville institution that closed in 2020.
Sickels’ expertise is pizza (his idol is the late Domenico De Marco, who opened Brooklyn’s famed Di Fara Pizza in 1965) and music (he’s in a band called Animal Scream and curates the restaurant’s playlist).
Together, they’re serving culinary plot twists that make dining out an adventure.
Foie Gras nigiri? Sure. Carnivalesque kielbasa corn dogs? Sounds delicious. Hush puppies stuffed with lump crab meat and bacon? Bring it!
“There are no dainty flavors,” Sickels says. “It’s very bold and there’s no great respect for history or style. If liquid butter tastes good on this, I’ll put it on.”
My Italian-sushi mash, Unibucatini, was a mouthwatering mix of uni (the edible part of a sea urchin) and sake cream sauce, stracciatella, black masago, bucatini and American Grana cheese. It was delicious in a way that, like a “Twin Peaks” episode, is hard for me to describe.
As Special Agent Dale Cooper would say, it was “damn fine.”
“I think we’re just trying to have fun and make good food without thinking too much about whether it’s appropriate or it’s a theme,” Allison says. “We make food we want to eat.”
His favorite thing on the menu right now is the French toast served during brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. He’s looking to add more vegetarian and vegan options, too. The kitchen is open late on weeknights, so industry workers can get a good meal once their shift ends.
The name Hemlock House is a nod to Pennsylvania’s state tree, the Eastern Hemlock, a conifer similar to the ones that dominate the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. There’s also a framed portrait of Comedian Larry David on the well along with a cheeky bust of Socrates.
So, what’s your poison?
Once they tie up a few liquor license loose ends, Hemlock House will serve irreverent cocktails and wine. The taps are flowing with offerings from Arboretum Trail Brewing. Although the brewery is closing its Washington Boulevard facility in Larimer on Aug. 31, owner Ben Steffan will continue to distribute suds while he restructures his business.
I’m a firm believer that nursing a cold beer in a dark, atmospheric bar with a killer soundtrack and off-kilter food is good for the soul. Consider it punk rock fine dining.
I bet David Lynch would be a fan.