From the outside, you may not even notice it as you drive by. Seemingly, just another hole-in-the-wall hidden among other restaurants underneath the GrandMarc at Westberry Place Apartments. But, the electric blue sign and odd name will catch your eye.
Hammerhead, a new sushi restaurant in the 109, is not one to be looked over. The atmosphere is one of a unique, upscale bar. The chandeliers’ low dim light and the granite countertop bar that wraps around the corner give it a sense of elegance. Moving onto the dining room, the red velvet booths that extend half way up the wall give it a modern, yet classic feel. The ceiling is painted in shades of blue with a design that looks like rippling water, making it feel like being underwater.
Hammerhead’s atmosphere sets itself apart from an average sushi restaurant.
“It’s very relaxed here. You can kick back and listen to some Tom Petty and hang out with your friends. It can be a quiet place or a happening place. On a Friday night, the bar is packed and there’s lots of chatter. People know it’s OK to be loud and have a good time. It’s an impressive place but you never feel underdressed or overdressed. It could even be a great date spot,” Hammerhead’s general manager, Anna Reeves said.
Hammerhead all began in the summer of 2010, as owners Danny Weaver and Michael Martin’s “brain child.” With much work and planning, they were finally able to open the doors to the public on Jan. 19, 2011, with a soft opening.
Hammerhead is the first of its kind but Weaver and Martin said they hope to open up more locations down the line after they have all of the kinks worked out. Weaver is also the owner of the Aardvark across the street.
They chose this location because it was so close to Weaver’s other business and because “[it] is a really busy street with lots of traffic. It’s a hot spot for business,” said Anna Reeves, Hammerhead’s general manager.
Weaver and Martin created this restaurant with the mindset of opening a sushi restaurant with 109ers and TCU students in mind. They didn’t want a “techno beat sushi place.” They wanted a “relaxed, chill, alternative sushi atmosphere that plays rock and roll music,” Reeves said.
They even have a large projector screen in the dining room that plays Kung Fu movies at night.
The name Hammerhead may sound like it has a history with a cool story behind it. But don’t be fooled. Weaver and Martin just thought “it sounded cool.” The restaurant does not serve hammerhead or any kind of shark on its menu.
So far business has been a bit of a “roller coaster with its up and downs,” Reeves said. It was very busy at first, then slowed down, and picks back up every now and then. They consider TCU students to be a majority of their market because the restaurant is basically on campus.
However, Reeves stresses that “it is for everyone, not just students.” They realize students are a huge part of the market, but they want to try and appeal to others in the community such as 109ers and TCU alumni. This will be important for the times of year when students are not on campus.
When Spring Break rolled around and all the students went out of town business was dead. We really don’t want to lose students as customers, but, want to broaden our horizons to everyone in the area, Reeves said.
To begin to reach more of the community, Hammerhead enlisted their first promotion—a Groupon that was recently sent out. Groupon is a website, with a mobile app, that features daily deals on things such as restaurants, services and events. All deals are specific to a given area or city.
“We love customers. We don’t want people to feel like it’s just a student hang out. We’re open to all types of customers,” Reeves said.
Reeves is a self-proclaimed “sushi connoisseur,” eating it nearly three to four times a week before she began her job at Hammerhead.
“The fish is so unbelievably fresh. You really get what you pay for. The rolls are simple, not gaudy or extravagant or falling off the plate,” Reeves said.
The chefs help make Hammerhead what it is. The chefs are “the hardest working people that we have here,” Reeves said. Lewi Cheung is the head chef who prepares all of the restaurant’s rolls. Cheung learned various techniques from his father, who has opened several Chinese and sushi restaurants in the Dallas area.
“He takes pride in everything he does. If there’s something you want that isn’t on the menu, he can make it. He likes to ‘Americanize’ the rolls. Just the other day he made his own version of a Philly cheese steak roll! He’s very talented,” Reeves said. Another one of his more creative rolls included chicken fried steak.
Cheung likes the fact that he is “in charge.” He gets to “be more creative with rolls. [He] does [his] own little thing like design stuff and cater it to the Fort Worth crowd,” Cheung said.
But his favorite thing to do is customize rolls for people. “If there’s one on the menu you don’t see, I can throw some stuff together and make whatever you want,” Cheung said.
Currently, their only advertising has been word of mouth and making friends with everyone who comes in the restaurant. Next year they hope to become more a part of campus and make a name for themselves. The image they hope to establish is “great food, great service – you can’t have one without the other,” Reeves said.
Reeves would really like to see Hammerhead become a “late night sushi place; one of those things that people eat at late at night, maybe after leaving the bars.”
So far, there has been a great response all around from customers. Plans for a grand opening are in the future.
Hammerhead is open for business Mondays through Thursdays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. It is located at 2858 W. Berry Street on the bottom floor of the GrandMarc building.
Reeves said, “It is a little seed right now; customers slowly come in and water us and we keep growing.”