If you look down at his feet, Hugo’s bar manager Brian Mulroy is nearly always wearing a pair of Chucks (as in Taylor, the iconic canvas basketball shoes made by Converse) that match the color of his shirt (reportedly, he owns two dozen pairs in different colors). This obsessive creativity lends him a bartending superhero quality that partners perfectly with Chef Sean Daly’s elegant and slightly bad-ass Low Country food. In fact, one evening as we relaxed in the lounge (no disrespect meant to Hugo’s capable dining room staff), I’ve never wanted a dish more than after hearing Mulroy quietly deliver the gospel of Daly’s deeply flavored, fork-tender braised short ribs. Blended with Israeli couscous, accompanied by tomato confit and a fried egg, and paired with a flawless Evan Williams Manhattan, its loverboy soulfulness set the course for texture-rich dishes flavored with the beauty and passion of the South: pork rillette, smoked salmon salad with egg mousseline, flat iron steak, and chicken with butter beans and bacon jam. Hugo is slated to move to new digs this spring, and while a move can be disruptive, I hope this one isn’t. Keep my seat at the bar warm—baby, we’re howlin’ for you.
3235 Madison Rd., Oakley, (513) 321-4846, hugo-restaurant.com
Originally published in the March 2012 issue.