Loosey’s: Simply Delicious
Simplicity is scarce in the restaurant business. It’s a never-ending pleasure cycle where variety can lead to mediocrity and complexity can lead to confusion. The desire for restaurant owners to impress with gimmicky themes and culinary buzzwords can often outweigh their attempt to relate, and it’s that disconnect that owners Danny and Joy Hughes sought to rectify when they opened Loosey’s Bar & Table in the Haile Market Square in December of 2013.
“It’s easy to want to be trendy and cool. It’s easy to get caught up in fads and outsmart your customer,” Danny Hughes said. “We’re not interested in being trendy, we’re interested in being good.”
After years of working in food service and bars, the couple has seen nearly every type of concept come-and-go with varying degrees of success, but it’s their unwavering belief in quality that’s led to the success of their first bar, Loosey’s Pub Downtown; a bar quickly gaining respect for its homemade food, extensive beer selection and great live music from Gainesville’s best original artists.
For Loosey’s Haile, they’ve partnered with their longtime friends Erin Adamson and Tim Hutchens in the finance and operations portions of the business, who, like Danny and Joy, are a couple and have spent most of their lives in food service management. The years of long hours, late nights, faulty gimmicks and just about every type of customer one could encounter has given the group the type of experience necessary to open a restaurant in a neighborhood with high expectations.
“The biggest challenge in opening a new restaurant is finding your place,” Adamson said. “I think Loosey’s can become one of the neighborhood’s ‘go-to’ restaurants, the kind of place where you can grab a craft beer after work, enjoy a romantic evening with a special someone, listen to live music with a group of friends—the fact that anyone can find a reason to call Loosey’s their favorite spot is so important.”
At Loosey’s Downtown, the slogan is “Beer, Burgers, Live Music” and some of the straightforward, down-home charm is making its way to Haile Plantation. Its distinguished burger, which has received high marks from Gainesville’s Burger Club and The Gainesville Sun, is still on the menu and suitable for lunch or dinner; but Danny has been in the kitchen transforming the menu from excellent bar fare to upscale, New American dining. With menu items like braised pork shank with garlic whipped potatoes and Brussel sprouts, Cajun Atlantic snapper with a warm citrus vinaigrette, dirty rice and roasted broccoli and Buccatini pasta with a housemade sunflower pesto and cherry tomatoes, you’ll find a small, but distinct, menu that is predicated on satisfaction, not variety.
“We use fresh ingredients, not frozen. We’re constantly trying out new recipes in the kitchen and behind the bar, and we have cooks and bartenders that are truly passionate about their role in this business and you can taste it in their craft,” Adamson said. Carving out a niche is important to a restaurant’s success, and beer and cocktails are a couple of ways Loosey’s stands out. It specializes in American craft beer, a revolving menu of four seasonal and signature cocktails and great wine.
“I think the U.S. is making the best beer in the world right now, and we’ve had the opportunity to taste a lot of beers and we feel there’s no reason not to support domestic breweries,” Joy Hughes said. “We focus on Florida beers first, then regional and West Coast after that. But this is also a place where you can get a great
$50 bottle of wine. We offer that flexibility to be a casual hangout or something more.”
Live music is also an important aspect of the Loosey’s concept, where any given weekend you can find Gainesville’s best artists playing original music born and bred in town. While the staple at Loosey’s Downtown is rock & roll, more folksy, lighthearted artists like Ricky Kendall and Michael Claytor will be regulars at the Haile location.
When Danny and Joy first bought Loosey’s in downtown Gainesville when the old Market Street Pub closed, they had the tall task of juggling their first business together, along side a new marriage. Both self-described work-aholics, Joy said it made it an easier transition, but gray areas arose and solid communication was the only chance they had to survive both as a couple and small business owners.
“One day it’s really hard, the next day it’s really nice. Sometimes we are each other’s
employees, and we have to live by that,” Danny explained. “I used to close Saturday nights in the kitchen just so we could have a drink together.”
With Erin Adamson and Tim Hutchens in the mix, there are more minds, personalities and schedules to navigate, but the foundation of friendship and love make Loosey’s Bar & Table a new, exciting adventure for the group.
“I’ve been quasi-involved with Loosey’s since the very beginning. I was there to help clean and paint the original downtown space, and I’ve always felt like Loosey’s doting aunt,” Erin said. “When Danny and Joy presented me with this opportunity, it was a pretty easy decision. The idea of owning a piece of a business I love so much was something I couldn’t pass up.”