By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — For restaurant owner Mark Hutchinson, the opening of the Remington Tavern and Seafood Exchange in July was his chance to stretch his legs a little when it comes to his cuisine of choice: seafood.
“I really focus on seafood,” said the restauranteur who taught himself to cook.
Hutchinson, who also owns Hutch’s in Buffalo, opened the Remington Tavern with partner Paul Jenkins, who owns Tempo, also in Buffalo. The restaurant is situated in the newly renovated Remington Rand building on Sweeney Street, just across from the Erie Canal.
“Given the space in the kitchen and the ability to have more people working, we’re able to expand on (my focus on seafood) a little bit and have some fun with it,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson describes the restaurant as upscale American bistro, with a strong emphasis on healthy dishes — there’s very little cream or butter used in the dishes — fresh, local produce, and of course, the aforementioned seafood.
The hallmark of the restaurant, he said, is the indoor raw bar, where diners can enjoy fresh oysters and clams shucked to order.
“We’re selling a lot of beautiful cold water East Coast oysters,” Hutchinson said of the offerings at the raw bar. “We’re going to do them all year round. There are a lot of places that do them summer only.”
Bar offerings also include crab cakes, stuffed jalapenos, fried calamari, a selection of soups and sandwiches like a fried grouper filet and sirloin steak. For those looking for a sit-down dining experience, Remington Tavern offers an array of salads — insalata caprese, steakhouse wedge salad — and entrees — seafood risotto and blackened salmon to name a few.
“We have something for everyone on (the menu) because people are coming here for different reasons. People are getting off their boat and they just want a sandwich, other people are maybe into more fine dining,” Hutchinson said. “Because of the size of the place we’re able to accomodate everybody.”
Just because seafood takes center stage at the Remington Tavern, Hutchinson wants to remind diners steak, chicken and pork have a place on the menu.
“Pork chops are one of our big sellers, with local peach chutney. We brine them in apple cider and grill them,” he said.
And while there may not be much in the way of vegetarian or vegan meals on the menu, Hutchinson said the kitchen is more than happy to adjust the menu for those with specific dietary restrictions.
“We just create something out of the kitchen ... we enjoy working with them,” he said.
From shellfish shucked and served raw, to grilled steak frite featuring all-natural angus beef, Hutchinson said the focus is on letting fresh, quality ingredients take the spotlight, with as much focus on local produce as possible.
The restaurant uses hormone- and antibiotic-free beef and produce from local farmers markets and distributors. Specials will change depending on the season, Hutchinson said, pointing out that the kitchen staff has been making use of a recent abundance of local tomatoes.
“People are much more conscious of what they eat these days, between the TV and media everywhere. Our food is pretty healthy for the most part,” he said.
“One of the challenges you have with this (large) space is serving in a timely fashion, so we cook to order. That’s why certain items we have are very simple, fresh and right to the table. I think with fish, you should do that anyway.”
For the Remington Tavern, it’s all part of an effort to offer an upscale dining experience to the developing downtown North Tonawanda area.
“There’s a need,” Hutchinson said. “People (in North Tonawanda), if they want to go out for some of the items we serve, they’ve been driving for it. Now they don’t have to. That’s good, that means a lot of people stay here.”
The Remington Tavern and Seafood Exchange’s bar opens daily at 4 p.m. and dinner service begins at 4:30 p.m. The restaurant offers an upstairs banquet area for private parties, ideal for cocktails for about 80 to 100 people, Hutchinson said.IF YOU GO • WHAT: Remington Tavern and Seafood Exchange • WHERE: 184 Sweeney St., North Tonawanda • FARE: Seafood, American • MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.remingtontavern.com or call 362-2802