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Shellfish Sports Bar & Grille offers fine dining in coastal setting

By Trysta Eakin
Dec. 20, 2010 at 6:20 a.m.


Butternut Squash SoupPrep Time: 15 minutes Cook time: 40 to 45 minutes

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. butter

1/2 Large onion, chopped

1/4tsp. nutmeg

1/4tsp. cinnamon

4-1/4 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1'' cubes

4-1/4 cups vegetable broth

1 Gala apple, peeled, corked and diced

1/2 cup apple juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

Crème fraiche for topping

Directions

1. In large pot melt butter, add onion and nutmeg. Sautee until onion turns golden and tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Add all other ingredients except heavy cream and bring to a boil. Salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer; uncovered, until squash and apple are soft, about 30 minutes.

3. Purée soup and return to large pot, add heavy cream and heat through to near boiling point. Serve in a bowl and garnish with a little crème fraiche and grated nutmeg. Top with a sprig of thyme.

Provided by Shellfish Sports Bar & Grille

Fun facts

The Shellfish is also home to Mr. Gordon, an alligator who lives in the bay behind the restaurant. The reptile brings in crowds of spectators, but remember, it's illegal to feed them.

Dianna Stanger often flies her helicopter to work to save on time and gas. She participates in Grace Flight, as well, flying cancer patients to hospitals and treatment centers throughout the month.

Along with cattle, the Stangers breed Arabian horses on their ranch.

Employed at Shellfish since its opening, head waiter Carl Wilson has recently returned from wine school and now serves as their sommelier. With more than 110 wines to choose from, Carl is your go-to guy for suggestions and pairing advice.

Al and Dianna are frequent guests of the restaurant. They can often be found partaking in the food, conversation and even the work at Shellfish.

Shellfish Sports Bar & Grille

Location: 2615 N. state Highway 35, Port Lavaca

Phone: 361- 552-5300

For reservations, menu listing, or more info: www.shellfishdining.com

Ambiance, elegance, exquisite food.

These are the kinds of words restaurant owner Dianna Stanger wants you to come away from her establishment thinking.

Before March 2009, Port Lavaca's fine dining experience was limited, leaving a market open for Stanger and her husband, Al, to seize upon.

"The restaurant was actually his idea," Stanger said. "We both love good food and atmosphere, but we'd have to go to Houston for that, and then we'd end up spending the night. He knew if he wanted that here locally, we'd have to open our own restaurant."

Their thought was, if they wanted it, other people must want it too, she said.

More than a year later, they've proved their hypothesis.

Now a thriving cornerstone in the seaport's economy, Shellfish draws in guests from all over the area and state, including Houston and Corpus Christi.

That doesn't mean a local crowd can't find a casual atmosphere with the urban-styled restaurant, though. With 12 flat-screen TVs and a relaxed dress code, the Sports Bar side offers 10 kinds of beers and a fully stocked bar.

For an occasion requiring a little more polish, say a date with your spouse or prom night, the Grille offers a view and table-side manor found in few places around the Golden Crescent region.

The Stangers are focused on promoting Port Lavaca's economy. They own Wolf Point Ranch and Bayou Feed Barn, and manage the Calhoun Air Center .

"We try to buy most of our ingredients locally, which helps out other businesses, like the local fishermen," Stanger said. "We don't buy anything frozen; if you can't get it fresh right now, right here, it's not on the menu."

Head chef Yolanda Revello can be seen each night at her station in the dining room, preparing the duck breast, panko-pecan crusted red fish and more out in the open for guests to see.

Another draw to the popular hangout is the rich and delectable cheesecake, made by sous-chef Charles Knisley.

To complete their team, manager Bianca Salinas has been with Shellfish since the beginning, helping to build a rapport with the community, becoming the face of the restaurant.

"People said we'd never make it because we didn't have chicken-fried steak on the menu," Stanger said.

Luckily for Golden Crescent residents, they were wrong.

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