Rising Stars and Established Excellence Serving the Cape
MERRICK SEAFOOD MARKET AND FISH TALE GRILL
In 1991, Joan and Richard Santorico, along with their good friends and neighbors, Kenneth and Patty Bracher, moved their families from Merrick, New York to Cape Coral where the two couples went into business together and opened Merrick Seafood Market. Later, the Brachers left the business when Kenneth decided he wanted to go into real estate. Even so, “To this day, Patty Bracher is my best friend in the whole world!” said Joan.
The market survived in spite of hardships and desperate times. “Richard worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week building up the wholesale business. I took care of the store,” Joan recalled. In 2004, when hurricane Charley ravaged Cape Coral, loss of electricity resulted in 150,000 pounds of ruined product. Soon after, the Santoricos lost another partner who had bought into the business when the Brachers left.
Back in 1991, the Santorico’s eldest daughter, Kerry, was far from pleased when her parents moved the family from New York, where she was born and raised, to the Cape. She was 18 years old, and had just graduated from high school. “It was a difficult adjustment for a teenager and such a drastic change from New York,” said Kerry. Joan tried to console her daughter during their first drive down Del Prado, “Look at those beautiful palm trees and so many flowers!” The teenager was unmoved.
Eventually, after working with her parents at Merrick, and holding other jobs, Kerry returned to New York where she spent years developing her skills working for restaurants and catering businesses. The very best result to come from going back to her home state was meeting Patrick Krieg, her future husband.
Patrick owned a catering business and health food store in Atlanta, Georgia. He later transitioned to New York and added to his extensive experience in the food service industry.
In 2010, Kerry and Patrick moved to Cape Coral from New York when they purchased Merrick Seafood Market from her parents. Kerry explained, “Pat and I needed change. We were tired. We’d been working long hours for such a long time. We were ready for a day job.”
Patrick focused on the wholesale side of their new enterprise. Kerry worked in the market and prepared take-out meals. Folks could stop by and purchase fresh seafood, or pick up a prepared meal to take home for lunch or dinner. This service, which is still offered today, led to the market’s motto, “We Make – You Bake.”
In order for their clientele to have a place to sit down while waiting for their take-out orders, the Kriegs bought 4 tables with chairs from a restaurant down the street that had gone out of business. As soon as tables were in place, customers came in, sat down and expected to be served a meal. Others lined up, waiting for a table. “They assumed we were a restaurant!. We were in shock!” said Kerry. “We scrambled to accommodate them. We had no silverware, no plates or napkins. We served the meals on fish display trays and kept flipping tablecloths.” Recognizing the need for a seafood restaurant in the Cape, the industrious young couple started making plans.
In the beginning they served lunch. Later, they expanded by purchasing the space next door to the market and began offering lunch and dinner. In 2013 Fish Tale Grill celebrated its grand opening.
Today, Fish Tale Grill is a top rated restaurant in the area. Reviewers commend the “amazing food,” “great service,” and “beautiful atmosphere.” The Surf and Turf Special (prime rib and lobster tail), Cranberry Macadamia Sea Bass and Grouper Piccata are some of the favorites among patrons. Other popular items include the Lobster Bisque and Seafood Cobb Salad.
Outside the restaurant and market, spacious wooden decks provide plenty of seating. Inside, the dining room reflects a contemporary décor: Deep blue walls are highlighted with white wave panels and stunning sea life metal art. Flowing glass waterfalls behind the bar add to the nautical atmosphere.
In October, 2016 Merrick Seafood Market celebrated its Silver anniversary. Santorico family members have worked for the company throughout those 25 years. The Kriegs continued this tradition at Merrick and then at Fish Tale Grill. “Our family has been through so much together. We support each other. We work side by side, along with our fantastic staff.” said Kerry.
Kerry is chef and is in charge of the kitchen. Patrick is head of wholesale (the market currently supplies seafood for over 300 restaurants in the area). Kerry’s sister, Amy Keen, is general manager. Amy’s husband, David Keen, oversees all fish purchasing. Joan Santorico is still involved, “I help out where I’m needed.” she said. Joan praises her children and their spouses, “I’m so proud of all of them!”
FINS SEAFOOD & DIVE BAR
You’re having a good time the minute you enter FINS Seafood & Dive Bar. Welcomed by cheerful staffers, you’re escorted into either the funky, happening tiki hut patio dining area and bar, or into the colorful, but slightly more sedate indoor bar and dining room. “We used a little more restraint in the dining room,” said co-owner Kelly Feather. A large, enthralling fish tank aquarium separates the dining room from the bar.
“Dive Bar,” is a play on words when applied to FINS. The casual atmosphere offers a bright, spacious, clean and inviting environment. Throughout FINS, the vibrant, tropical theme includes carefully placed objects associated with scuba diving, including a stuffed mannequin diver and a vintage diving helmet.
There’s no end of delightful eye-catching art at FINS. Kelly’s mother, Bev Feather, created hand painted wooden wall hangings and added other artistic touches consistent with the tropics. Some images from the wall art have been digitally reproduced and incorporated into the table tops.
Co-owner, Richard Goodrick, contributed artifacts he’s collected over the years. One of his contributions is a life-sized Santa Claus statue that stands just inside the entrance. “I found it at a swap shop,” said Richard “It came from the Key West Hard Rock Café. As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted it!” Kelly and Bev had reservations about this one, “But then…it kinda worked. Now, everyone loves it.” said Kelly. She added, “Well, everything doesn’t have to make sense.”
We are offered a glimpse into Kelly and Richard’s history when the phrase, “We’re from Maryland,” sneaks up on you a couple of times on the menu, next to the Steam Pot and the highly acclaimed Maryland Crab Cakes. Kelly and Richard have known each other for 35 years. Kelly worked for Richard at two of his food and drink establishments in Baltimore. Then, Kelly left to attend college. Over time, they lost touch with each other. Richard retired to Cape Coral in 2005. Coincidentally, Kelly and her husband also moved to the Cape in 2005. It wasn’t until they happened upon each other on Facebook that, “We realized we lived in the same town! We all got together. Richard and my husband hit it off right away and became friends,” said Kelly.
Richard decided he wanted to open a restaurant in the Cape. He and Kelly devised a plan to establish a seafood restaurant. FINS Seafood & Dive Bar opened 8 months ago. A key player in making this happen was Mike Cass, General Manager and Chef. “He is amazing!” said Richard.
Chef Mike has been with the restaurant, “from the ground up.” His extensive experience in the food service industry is evidenced in FINS’ menu, which includes, among other delectable bites, their renowned Fried Seafood Baskets and the Diver Down Scallops.
Katrina Sell and her husband, Henry became permanent residents of the Cape 4 months ago. FINS has become one of their favorite restaurants. “The crab cakes! Now we’re talking! There’s so much more crab than stuffing!” said Katrina. “We like the food and the atmosphere. The wait staff is so friendly and helpful.”
“Our seafood comes fresh out of Pine Island. We filet it here,” said Mike. “If you don’t care for seafood, you can grab a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich or a big ol’ burger.” Also listed on the menu is an extensive selection of salads, among which is the Key West Grilled Chicken Salad.
Special events have added to FINS’ success. “Fun is the idea,” Mike explained, “including Florida style eats and drinks. Flip flops and T-shirts are welcome. FINS collaborated with Wicked Dolphin by throwing a “Christmas in July” party. Kelly recalled, “We had a packed house. Everybody had a blast.” Bar Manager, Tom McGregor, whipped up some special Christmas cocktails, like the Mo-Ho-Ho-Jitos. FINS got together again with Wicked Dolphin in August for National Rum Day, and threw a “Pirate’s Day” party.
Chef Mike’s experience is also manifested in his commitment to providing excellent service to the customer. In addition to on the job training, new employees receive FINS’ 49 page training manual, Steps of Service. “This is my second day on the job,” said 22 year old Kimmy Kania. “I have lots of studying to do. I have a test tomorrow.” The exam consists of 100 questions.
The manual stresses, among other things, cleanliness, protocol, timing, knowledge and understanding of the menu and cocktails. Emphasis is placed on knowing your customer and how to enhance the customer’s experience. One sentence from the manual sums up Chef Mike’s, and the owners’ philosophy, “Remember, every restaurant owes its existence to its customers.”
One can’t help but notice the man who continually stands in front of Point 57’s open kitchen. “He’s always there,” said staff member, Gail Stefanski. “Chef Arnold wants to see every meal before it’s served.”
From the street, Point 57’s appealing exterior resembles a white, metal roofed antebellum cottage nestled near the beach in old Florida. The outdoor dining area is more like a front porch than a deck or patio.
A closer look, outside and inside the restaurant, reveals a contemporary environment that conveys comfortable, unpretentious sophistication. Trimmed in white, the open concept, spacious dining areas reflect colors in rich browns and soft shades of tan and gray. Varying styles of modern, hanging pendant lamps and stunning, super-sized windmill ceiling fans add eye-catching notes to the décor. Co-owner and Chef, Matt Arnold grew up in Missouri around water pump windmills. He saw photos of the windmill fans in a catalog. “I had to have them!” he said.
“Fully stocked” is an understatement when referring to Point 57’s splendid bar. Beverage Director, Jay Sanders, has gone beyond the call offering top shelf wine and spirits, and an extensive craft drink selection with infused flavors made from scratch.
Co-owner, Cory Royer, and Arnold met when they were students at the University of Kansas. Rory has lived, or vacationed, in Cape Coral for years. His interests lie in real estate and investments. Arnold’s full attention is given to Point 57, its bar and restaurant and especially…its kitchen.
Early on, in Lawrence, Kansas at Tellers restaurant, “When I saw what my mentor, Chef Don Fortel, could do with food, It was like a light went on. I wanted to know everything,” said Arnold,.who went on to receive formal culinary training at New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. “At NECI there were so many great instructors who influenced me.” Later, he cooked for restaurants owned by Public Television’s celebrity chef, Lidia Bastianich.
For approximately 10 years Arnold lived in North Carolina where his appreciation of the south and southern food deepened. He cooked for Ben and Karen Barker’s Magnolia Grill in Durham where he “refined” his skills. “I was blessed to have had the opportunity to cook at Magnolia Grill. The Barkers had a massive influence on my cooking career.”
Arnold focuses on small plates, primarily dishes with a southern flair, but not like you’ve seen or tasted before; Sweet Tea Brined and Smoked Chicken, Crispy Pork Shank, Shrimp and Grits, Beef Stroganoff, Steak Frites, Blackened Catfish, and Black Eyed Pea Cakes are some of the most popular items on the menu. Growing up, Arnold lived close to his grandmother, Ruth Arnold. “She was my inspiration. She cooked hams, grits, corn bread, fried green tomatoes…the list goes on.”
Recently, Point 57 hosted a Sparkling Wine Dinner event. The event was sold out. Twenty six attendees enjoyed five courses of savory gourmet dishes served with sparkling wine. As each course was presented, wine representatives Megan Kieffer and Heather Smith described the wine. Chef Arnold explained how each dish was paired with its accompanying wine.
For days ahead of the dinner, Chef Arnold, Executive Chef, Bobby Bowman, Beverage Director, Sanders along with Kieffer and Smith, spent hours tasting the wines, determining what food combinations would best complement each wine. Californian, Italian, French, Spanish and Greek wines were offered at the dinner.
Hans Meller and his wife, Michaela attended the dinner. “My wife doesn’t care for oysters, but she likes these! Our friends have been to this restaurant and told us we had to try it. We’re glad we did,” said Meller.
The oysters were part of the second course, “Oyster, Egg 3 Ways, Hollandaise.” The cooked oyster was served in its half shell and topped with hollandaise and caviar, then garnished with finely grated, cooked organic quail eggs obtained from Circle C Farms. The dish was served with a golden raisin green salad and paired with Ronco Calino Franciacorta, an Italian wine.
“We wanted Point 57 to be a craft restaurant, a real from scratch restaurant. We think of our place like a home, and we are throwing a party for our friends every night. For that, we employ individuals who share our vision and passion and want to offer the best service and experience to our guests as possible,” said Arnold.
At the end of the dinner, Arnold brought out all members of his team who had participated in the preparation and implementation of the event, and prvesented them to the dinner party. “I got tears in my eyes when he did that.” said General Manager, Karen Morris. “He’s one of the humblest, sweetest souls you’ll ever meet.”