The HiHi Room
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For almost a decade, Eric Finkelstein and Matt Ross’s beloved sandwich shop Court Street Grocers has maintained its scrappy, art-school ethos (signs in bubble lettering and playful menu names like “Uncle Chucky”), even after opening multiple locations. Now, they’ve evolved with a first-ever, full-service restaurant that’s shockingly not about deli meat stuffed in bread, save for muffuletta.
Their knack for reviving quirky regional specialities (as they did with the kaiser onion rolls and celery soda at Court Street) can be seen in the hush puppies ($6). They were a bit dry, though the honey butter made them better. We preferred the thinly sliced, salt-baked celery root over faro ($15), which had a tart punch of vinegar.
Brooklynites may flinch at the idea of Cincinnati chili, which is dumped atop spaghetti and often comes with oyster crackers. Chef Walker Stern’s adaptation ($22) is elevated with handmade noodles and duck bolognese but stays true to the Ohioan delicacy’s origins with raw onion and ajwain, here, an approximation of the original’s near-mythic spice blend. Overall, it felt like the kitchen was afraid to use the heavy-handed seasoning this dish needs for more dimension.
Beans do not often get their proper due, but at HiHi, they pull their weight in the menu’s two best offerings: Steen’s cane-syrup–glazed chicken ($26) with baked-style butter beans and the perfectly crispy trout ($32), which comes with a cascade of Sea Island red peas, replicating pebbles in a stream.
On multiple visits, the waits were long between courses, but we spent the time admiring the kitsch (a smiley-face menu logo, swizzle sticks that double as bubble blowers, and mustard and ketchup-hued pens). Yes, the sit-down version has higher prices than those at Court Street, and the clientele skews older. If you can accept that the feeling is no longer one of ironic normcore dad hats and instead a gathering space for actual neighborhood dads, come say hi.