Carla Meyer

First Impressions: New Hawks good but loud

The liverwurst plate is a deal at Hawks Public House.
The liverwurst plate is a deal at Hawks Public House. Caral Meyer

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The long-in-the-works Hawks Public House, whose opening was one of the most anticipated of 2015, made it in just under the wire when it opened in early December.

The more casual expansion of Hawks restaurant in Granite Bay, Hawks Public House offers a compact menu of pub-friendly but artfully prepared small plates, salads and entrees that stay true, quality-wise, to the mother ship’s fine-dining roots. So does the pub’s already high level of service.

Married chef/owners Molly Hawks and Michael Fagnoni ably transformed a space in a visually chilly, nouveau Mediterranean building – which sits at Stockton and Alhambra boulevards in Sacramento but looks like it belongs in a suburban strip mall – into a cozy pub with a wood-lined ceiling and other homey touches.

(Hawks Provisions, a takeout spot attached to the pub, is expected to open later this month).

Menu: For dinner, Hawks Public House offers 12 small plates, from potatas bravas to liverwurst with frisee and apple. There also are three pastas, along with a house-ground Wagyu beef burger and Berkshire pork chop. The pastas and burger are offered at lunch as well.

Price point: The generously portioned liverwurst plate, which holds plenty of bitter frisee and sweet apple to cut the meat’s fatty flavor, is a steal at $6. But dinner entrees can get pricey. The petrale sole is $28 – a lot for the small amount of food on the plate (though the fish was cooked perfectly). Draft beers run a reasonable $6 and include local offerings American River Brewing Co. Coloma Brown and Bike Dog Mango Mosaic Pale Ale. Craft cocktails carry a comparatively hefty price tag – the one I tried was $14.

The liverwurst plate also is available at lunch, when salads cost $10 or less, but $15-$18 entrees push the menu into business-lunch, expense-account territory.

Ambiance: The atmosphere is inviting, with lots of wood and other warming touches. The large, metal-topped bar seems like the center of activity and the best place to sit.

When we visited during Christmas week, the place was packed and very, very loud. The more sumptuously decorated Granite Bay Hawks is exceptionally quiet given the amount of people it holds. This concrete-floored pub is the opposite, din-wise.

Drinks: Full bar. Six beers on tap. Nine bottled beers. Craft cocktails include a “Stockton Griffon,” with 1776 Rye, vanilla and chocolate bitters, the slight sweetness of which did not diminish the drink’s alcohol bite. The wine list, with 11 by-the-glass options, is extensive for a pub. Wines come by the bottle, glass or half-glass (for food pairings).

First impressions: The petrale sole and liverwurst plate were exceptionally tasty, and the roasted heirloom carrots ($10), with pistachio and Cara Cara oranges, were prettily plated and offered a nice textural and sweet/salty balance.

As an offshoot of a fine-dining restaurant that keeps the atmosphere casual but food quality high, the new Hawks immediately evokes OneSpeed, Rick Mahan’s (The Waterboy) pizza-centric place that sits not too far away from Hawks, on Folsom Boulevard.

OneSpeed’s high noise levels never have deterred East Sacramentans from patronizing it. Hawks likely will keep packing ’em in as well, especially given its high quality of service.

Service: Excellent. I visited Hawks the first night it officially opened to the public, and was impressed by how up-to-speed the staff already seemed about ingredients and wine pairings.

When I visited again, during Christmas week, the place was so packed it seemed impossible to get a seat. But the hostess worked magic and found me the only seat at the bar. It had been obscured by a patron’s purse and coat.

Try it if: You want to see what the fuss is about Hawks restaurant, but never have made it to Granite Bay.

Skip it if: You are sensitive to noise.

Hawks Public House

1525 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento

Information: 916-588-4440

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday (limited menu and bar seating from 2:30 to 5); 5-10 p.m. Saturday; 5-9 p.m. Sunday.