Published July 06. 2014 4:00AM Updated July 11. 2014 11:47AM
Mystic - If there were a navigational marker in the Mystic River named RED36, it would be located right across from the newly opened restaurant that bears that name.
Since opening in late June, the 150-seat restaurant at Seaport Marine that overlooks the Mystic River has been drawing crowds. The attraction is not just the scenic views, but also the fact that it is being run by Angela Kanabis, who along with her mother Carol operates Bravo, Bravo on East Main Street, Olio in Groton, and until recently Azu on West Main Street, three of the region's most popular, upscale restaurants.
With whitewashed clapboards, exposed beams, a large American flag draped from the rafters and a mural of a classic American station wagon with a surfboard on top, the open air restaurant gives diners the choice of sitting - on chairs, bar stools, Adirondack chairs, picnic tables and even couches - inside, outside under a canopy, or on a deck next to the river.
"People have not wanted to leave. It's an absolutely gorgeous spot with the boats going back and forth," Kanabis said last week as she watched the restaurant fill from a second-floor balcony that offers additional inside and outside seating. "Find a place your comfortable in and we'll take care of the rest."
Work to design and build the restaurant began three years ago after the marina owners were thinking of opening a clam shack. They approached Angela and Carol Kanabis about running the restaurant and showed them the vacant lot.
"We were like, 'Wow, it can't get any better than this.' We had a blank slate with this view. It was a no brainer to say yes," Angela Kanabis said. "Obviously, we did a little more than a clam shack but we still want a casual feel and we want people to feel like they can come from the beach or off their boat."
The marina at 2 Washington St. received a permit for the project from the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission in 2012 despite some concerns from neighbors about increased traffic.
"This has been a very fun project to work on. We're really happy with the way it turned out," she said.
The restaurant was designed by John Walsh of Westerly and built by G&M Construction of Mystic.
Kanabis said she had hoped to open a little earlier than she did.
"The process has taken a while, but we didn't want to rush it," she said.
Kanabis has filled out the staff with experienced employees from her family's other restaurants and with those who have worked for her in the past.
Kanabis' partner is executive chef Jason Kowalski, also the executive chef at Olio. He has created an array of dinner choices ranging from five types of burgers to grilled lobster, paella-style risotto, seared salmon, hangar steak and boneless beef short ribs. Among the appetizers are lemongrass coconut Prince Edward Island mussels, Thai peanut calamari, a bucket of fried clams with chipotle pepper remoulade and grilled Cajun fish tacos. A raw bar has littlenecks, cherrystones, oysters, lobster and ceviche. Burgers run $13 to $18 and dinner entrees are $18 to $33.
"My mom has always been about the food. That's the foundation we're built on," Kanabis said.
The cocktail menu from the restaurant's two bars includes Fishers Island Lemonade, a rum runner with Real McCoy three- and five-year rum made by local filmmaker Bailey Pryor, and a strawberry-jalapeno margarita. Beer choices include the new Stonington Glory Pilsner and Mystic Bridge IPA from Cottrell Brewing of Pawcatuck, and Flying Jenny Extra Pale Ale from Grey Sail Brewing of Westerly.
As for the restaurant's name, Kanabis said, red channel markers 32 and 38 flank the restaurant to the north and south, with none in front of the restaurant. If there were, she said, it would be number 35 or 36.
Kanabis said she hopes her loyal customers from Bravo, Bravo and Olio come in and give her honest feedback about their experience.
The building also includes laundry and shower facilities for boaters, and a retail space that is not yet finished.
Editor's note: This version corrects an earlier version that incorrectly stated Jason Kowalski's status at Olio.