Maybe the best thing that can be said about One Thirteen in Hammond is that it gives the SLU students someplace nice to work. With the exception of the owners, it appears that the entire staff is also a student when not at work. They are very nice and quite attentive, but the homogeneity of this group is striking. It’s not offensive, rather cute, but striking nonetheless.
This is the hot new restaurant in downtown Hammond, right by the university. Open since last September, it is a collaboration between the next generation of the Wong family of Trey Yuen fame, and Saul Rubio, who hit it big with his chain of La Caretta eateries. We are ridiculous fans of La Caretta, readily admitting that the food is perfectly adequate, and the atmosphere the same. We’re there several times a week. No explanation or apologies about that - it is a family tradition dating back nearly ten years.
Both the Wongs and Saul Rubio are very successful restaurateurs, partnering before on a venue in downtown Hammond. The space is quite stylish, very different from what one usually sees in Hammond. But the landscape of Hammond is changing with the university, and at last count there were 28 restaurants there. None like this.
One Thirteen has all the elements that young people want. It is hip and stylish and Instagrammable. The music is trendy and it is cozy in parts with an outdoor space that has lights draped across the deck. In other words, it’s exciting to be there.
Until the food comes.
The menu looks great, but has a quiet hint that disaster could be ahead. An adorable tiled pizza oven has the address etched in tile. The fire in the back suggests that greatness exists here. Maybe it does. We didn’t order a flatbread, nor did anyone else during this visit. A young lady spends her time tending this fire, cranking out “artisan bread” that looks identical to the pita bread that became a phenom at Shaya four years ago. She brushes something melted on it when it comes out of the oven in a pillowy puff.
On our table was a spinach queso, a small side of the delicious La Caretta pico de gallo, and a huge pile of chips not nearly as good as La Caretta. These were much thinner and kind of greasy. The queso had that very yellow color that frankly looks unreal. It was the epitome of ordinary.
Smoked fish dips are everywhere now, and always on our table. Of the three or four sampled lately, this was the least good. Didn’t even look that good, and the crostini were totally uninteresting. Very smoky but otherwise bland.
Also on this table was an order of grilled artichokes. Someone should have suggested that raw artichokes are first steamed before grilling. Inedible. We took them home to steam them ourselves, but really. . .
Last, the burger, which I would bet money is a preformed patty. No imperfections. Points for an onion bun that would likely not disintegrate. We swapped out the fries for a baked potato after learning the fries were not fresh-cut.
And after a visit to the gorgeous bathroom, I noticed a baked potato waiting to be picked up. It looked good. It wasn’t. Not even hot enough to melt the butter, all the things that make it “loaded” didn’t really get loaded on it.
One Thirteen has been open long enough to iron out the kinks. But I suspect that is not necessary. It is the talk of the town because there is nothing else like it in Hammond. The place looks absolutely dreamy at night. Very cool. Romantic. Beautiful drinks. And that may be enough.
One Thirteen Restaurant
113 N Oak St Hammond
Friday & Saturday till 11