NEW HAVEN – In addition to knowing his way around a deep fryer and the spices that go into fried shrimp, scallops or fried fish, Paul Hill, owner of the new Always off the hook The seafood restaurant in the Amity section is nothing if not persistent.
Off The Hook – sound familiar to you?
For several years, Hill, 47, owned and operated Off The Hook restaurants in a few locations along Dixwell Avenue in Hamden. He closed the last one a few years ago.
But now he’s back with a new restaurant in the Whalley Commons Mall. It’s in the corner storefront that was once the short-lived Koreana restaurant and before that the Thai restaurant, in the mall which also houses Walgreens and a post office.
And he’s set to open additional locations that will spread his love of crunchy seafood in Bridgeport, Middletown and Waterbury.
“I want people to look at me as a guy who took his chance and did it,” said Hill, who grew up in the Newhallville section of town, noting that “in the Great Depression, millionaires had been found. “
While all of his past endeavors haven’t lasted, “you’re not a boss until you suffer a loss,” Hill said, calling himself “a 47-year-old man who thirsts for success.”
He’s making big strides now because “I like challenges,” he said. “I am a high risk taker.”
He also has longer-term plans, although he calls the restoration “a very difficult industry.”
“My dream and my goal will be mentor and franchise,” he said.
Hill, who heard about fried seafood years ago as an employee of Kevin’s Seafood in New Haven, said Always off the hook may not be the only fried seafood restaurant in New Haven “but I’m the most unique.”
“What makes me unique are my sauces – my garlic parma, my General Tso,” he said.
Still Off The Hook also serves a Lobster Egg Roll which is a mix of two classic Connecticut classics, Lobster Rolls and Chinese Egg Rolls.
Its food is available on site, to take away or in delivery from Seamless, Grubhub and DoorDash. Hill hopes to add outdoor seating soon. Lately, business has been split roughly 50-50 between on-site dining and take-out and delivery, he said.
The New Haven restaurant opened last fall. The restaurants in Bridgeport, Middletown and Waterbury are all fully approved and set to open as soon as Hill can muster the staff for them, he said.
The Bridgeport Still Off The Hook will be located at 75 Fairview Avenue, near St. Vincent Medical Center. The Middletown restaurant will be at 102 Court St. The Waterbury Still Off The Hook will be at 21 East Farm St., he said.
If you go to the New Haven restaurant, chances are good that “chef” Jeff Simuel will cook for you if Hill doesn’t do it himself. Simuel has 15 years of experience, notably at Chowder Pot, Chili’s and TGI Fridays, among others.
What’s her secret to making good fried seafood?
“Love,” said Simuel. “I put love in food.”