I have to start by saying that I really, really, wanted to like Hoof & Ale. It's located OTP, isn't a chain, and it's based on the concept of "where craft food meets craft beers". The menu items are a twist on some of the more trendy food items, with a somewhat southern feel.
The location isn't cute, Hoof & Ale is located in a vast expanse of strip malls on Roswell Road in Marietta. The exterior of the malls is indistinguishable from one to the next, just another result of Atlanta's suburban sprawl. Upon entering though, there is a decidedly different feel to this place. Crafty use of wood lines the walls, a blackboard spells out what to pay attention to, a shiny red finish is applied to the bar, and people are casually centered around the bar chit chatting and enjoying the beer.
At first glance, the menu seems impressive and fairly priced. Daily specials are to be had, and they all sound tempting. The focus on Georgia breweries, which is appreciated, is apparent with the list of beers offered. The regular menu items are all impressive as well. Creative uses of pork belly, relishes, chicken skins, veggies and sandwiches line the menu.
We're greeted and offered a beer list upon sitting down, this is where things take a turn. Our server approaches, mumbles off a few lines that we couldn't understand and walks away while we ponder our choices. A few minutes later she comes to take our drink orders, craft local beers please! Is it possible to have the very worst pours ever at an ale house? Apparently it is. We stare at our glasses half filled with foam, and at the back of our server who has quickly walked away.
We'll chalk up the beer incident to bad service, the taps were clean and our beers were delicious. We anxiously await our food order, while munching on some wet popcorn doused in seasoned salt. Our dishes arrive, well prepared and promising looking. Upon first bite, the disappointment really set in. Every bite after held the possibility of redemption and always fell short.
After overhearing a server at the next table tell patrons that their food would come out at different times because there was only one cook, we knew the restaurant still has some growing pains to work through. The potential for greatness is there, and remains, ahem, untapped.