MUKILTEO — The dishes were hot off the stove. Ahi tuna on a bed of red risotto. Alaskan halibut drizzled with lemony lobster butter. And a ribeye steak in a cast-iron skillet.
Servers hurried the steaming plates to the restaurant’s brand new — but empty — dining room and tables.
Last week was a trial run. This week, they’re ready to roll.
Lombardi’s Restaurant Group, owner of Lombardi’s restaurants in Everett, Mill Creek and Bellingham, took over the Arnies location in September and began two months of renovations.
Now, they’re eager to show off the transformation — new cream-colored walls, new booths, new carpet, new black granite bar and, of course, a new menu.
One feature hasn’t changed: the restaurant’s sweeping view of trains, ferries, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.
Hook & Cleaver features locally sourced steak and seafood, plus traditional favorites, such as the French dip, club sandwich and Cobb salad, said Kerri Lonergan-Dreke, the restaurant group’s CEO and a co-owner.
At a soft opening Friday, upbeat piano jazz played. Diners at the invitation-only lunch sampled the fare — clam chowder, french fries, surf and turf salad and the house cheeseburger with a Wagyu beef patty.
“We’re doing a smaller and more focused menu,” said Andy Hilliard, the restaurant’s head chef and Lombardi Group co-owner.
Building a menu begins with traditional recipes, but after that, there’s plenty of room for innovation, Hilliard said.
“We play with things here and there, if it doesn’t work we adapt it,” he said.
The price point is higher than Lombardi’s but similar to Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing restaurant, Lonergan-Dreke said.
Former Arnies customers have been popping in to check on the progress, Lonergan-Dreke said.
Lonergan-Dreke and her mother, Lombardi’s founder and co-owner, Diane Symms, welcome their return.
“We’re excited to hear what they have to say,” said Lonergan-Dreke, front and center last week amid the hectic practice run.
Hook & Cleaver is the ninth restaurant Symms has opened since launching a sandwich shop in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood in the 1970s. She opened the first Lombardi’s in 1987. Symms semi-retired in 2021 and sold her interest in the chain to Lonergan-Dreke and two longtime Lombardi’s employees, Hilliard and Kristofer Korshaven.
Arnies customers should recognize some front of house and kitchen staff, including head chef Payton Parkerson, general manager Carrie Asplund, with Arnies since 1989, and assistant general manager Barbie Pearson, a 15-year veteran.
“I look forward to seeing to a lot of our regulars,” Asplund said.
“They’ve opened everything up — the dining room, the view,” Pearson said of the restaurant’s new look. “The changes are fabulous.”
Hook & Cleaver offers lunch and dinner and brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Lunch: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner: Monday to Thursday and Sunday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Happy Hour, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to close.