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Photos By Nicholas Karlin, Words By Brandon Wetherbee

Hazel is an excellent date location. If your date enjoys seafood, it’s perfect. If they’re opposed to shellfish, stick with the carrots and cocktails. Really. More on that later. But Hazel is for seafood lovers and should be embraced by seafood lovers.

We really like Hazel. We’ve raved about their brunch. The menu is small enough for a group of four to reasonably order everything. The beauty of Chef Rubba’s food is the diverse flavors he coaches from a seafood heavy menu. The Seafood Susan, available through September 12, accomplishes the same goal as the brunch menu. The six offerings are varied enough to warrant two bites from each dish.

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The Seafood Susan looks fantastic. It’s perfect for dates. It looks like it’s not enough food for two but it is. The dishes appear small but they’re heavy enough to leave two adults satiated. The highlight for our evening was the octopus dish. Served in a sweet, thick tomato sauce, it was different enough from the other octopus dishes on the menu to keep us intrigued.

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Another highlight was the Kanpachi dashi served with slices of hot peppers. Excellent for incredibly hot weather.

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The Seafood Susan is occasionally more special if you’re one of the few that also receive a drawn and illustrated memento of your meal. Look at this thing…

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Come on. That’s a perfect date memento.

The Seafood Susan is only available through the summer. It’s cute and a very fun dining experience but the food that has us more excited to return is on the regular dinner menu.

Chef Rubba’s octopus salad with melon is the best dish we’ve had this summer. Period. There isn’t a flaw. Fresh, raw seafood is excellent, a dish like this isn’t something I can find in most decent seafood restaurants.

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The second best dish we enjoyed is actually vegan. The barbecued carrots confused the palate in a fun way. It reminded us of hot dogs. Hear me out. The carrots are barbecued so there’s a smokey flavor you smell from a hot dog coming off a grill. They’re served in multiple ways and one of those ways develops a good snap on the carrots, like a good hot dog snaps. The sauce has some mustard, the best condiment on any hot dog. The barbecued carrots remind the eater of hot dogs in three ways. It tastes nothing like a hot dog.

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Hazel is exactly the type of restaurant every neighborhood deserves. You can go after work or on an anniversary date. It’s good for brunch and a late night dinner. It’s fine for sharing or solo dining. The staff is welcoming without bordering on snobby. The entrance is slightly back from the street so you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of a busy street with a packed rock club across the street and condos everywhere else. Each return visit reminds you why you like the place. The one poor mark is their lack of happy hour. But if I ran Hazel, I wouldn’t do it either. Just because I want it doesn’t mean the restaurant needs it. They’re doing perfectly fine serving Chef Rubba’s cuisine and making their indoor/outdoor space welcoming for all ages.

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Chef Rob Rubba

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