The flood waters of hurricane Sandy were deceptively cruel to the Red Hook seafood restaurant. "At first, it seemed like all items above the flood line were okay," says chef Kevin Moore. "We thought we'd replace the sheetrock, the wainscoting... but then we noticed the floor tiles were buckled, and the fear of mold became paramount... there was a dull quiet in the place like the life had drained with the sea."
As has been the case with several businesses in the area, Red Hook rallied behind Kevin's. "Restore Red Hook was the first to come through with a check and a sense of hope. Lucky Ant, the community funding site, offered to waive their fee and we set a modest goal... eventually we passed that amount and doubled it and then some."
The reconstruction moved along very quickly thanks in part to Luis Grippi, a local contractor who showed up with a crew and worked alongside him until everything was complete. They used the down time as an opportunity to make improvements; a new bar was built using materials that were donated from the Red Hook Marble company. A new sign was built by Chico MacMurtrie, the artistic director of Red Hook based Amorphic Robot Works.
Business has been slowly picking up since reopening at the end of February, so in the interim, Kevin is the only one cooking in the back of the house. During a recent visit, I peaked into the kitchen as he was managing several saute pans, dressing salads, and grilling squid all by himself. His brother Gene was working as the host, waiter, and dishwasher for the evening. Despite the lack of help, the chef refuses to pare down his menu and even welcomes each guest with an amuse bouche of jumbo shrimp poached in chili oil and then finished on the grill.
"We [Kevin and his wife Caroline] opened the the restaurant in 2008, as a response to the needs of the neighborhood that didn't have any brunch options and surprisingly no seafood options," explains chef Moore. "At first we offered lunch, brunch, and dinner Wednesday to Sunday, but it just wasn't sustainable with the number of lunch customers we had."
In order to stay in the black, Kevin still manages the restaurants hours to take advantage of when Red Hook is busiest; they are open for dinner Thursday through Saturday and brunch during the weekend. The rest of their week is spent catering for large events as well as sourcing ingredients for the restaurant. During the summer, they also run Little Eva's, the outdoor beer garden at Picnic Point on Governor's Island.
Brunch is a considerably more crowded affair at Kevin's; diners sip on their french pressed Stumptown coffee as they work on plates of blueberry pancakes and crab cakes with poached eggs. The scene is reminiscent of the type of family-run seafood restaurant you'd encounter in Cape Cod or on the coast of Maine, where lobster and cod and are more abundant than beef and chicken, and the waiters are on a first name basis with all of the diners.
Check out more of Kevin's dishes in the slideshow.