Minnow’s goal is near-complete sustainability. Environmental consciousness is evident in every aspect of the restaurant — from the menu, which only features line-caught seafood and locally sourced produce, to the decor, which is refurbished and reclaimed wood from around the North Fork, to the dining accouterments, like mismatched thrifted silverware sets and returnable glass to-go containers.
“This restaurant is everything I wanted but could never find,” said Andrea Tese, the owner and brain behind Minnow, located in the bayfront building that was home to Case’s Place, on the lot that had been home to the iconic Galley Ho. “I wanted to own a place that highlighted my passion for ocean conservation. I wanted to prove to myself that owning a restaurant that is completely sustainable and environmentally low-impact could be done.”
Tese is a longtime food lover and New Suffolk resident. Growing up, she spent many nights with her family in the Galley Ho restaurant along the docks overlooking the bay. The historical significance of the restaurant will be honored by Tese in the decor and ambiance of the establishment.
“I grew up right around the corner from the Galley Ho,” said Tese. “I remember being little and seeing all the ‘salty people’ like fishermen gather to have a good time and a good drink. It was a place that meant a lot to the community for a very long time.”
Tese grew up fishing with her grandfather – who had a passion for being on the water and passed along that love for the sea to Tese. Throughout her life, she spent many summers on the water, honing her skills for line, fly and spear fishing, which she still does to this day.
“I am an ocean person and have always needed to be on the water,” said Tese. “The name Minnow came from the memory of my grandfather taking me to Captain Marty’s down the road for bait. Minnows are also super important to the health of our oceans. I thought it was a perfect fit for what I’m trying to accomplish with my restaurant.”
Tese would also sit in the kitchen as her mom cooked, learning everything she could about food. Although her career led her to become a photographer, her passion for food never went away. Like many during the pandemic, she experienced a series of life changes that led her to alter her career path.
“I began to move away from photography and channeled all my creative energy into cooking,” said Tese. “It’s something that brought me joy.”
Earlier this year, she obtained the lease for the former Case’s Place in New Suffolk – in the same location as the beloved Galley Ho and owned by the New Suffolk Water Front Fund. While Tese has no personal experience in the restaurant industry, she knew she needed an excellent team in order to make her dreams a reality.
This February, a mutual friend introduced Tese to Cheo Avila and Amanda Akran.
Cheo Avila, the former mind and chef behind Greenport’s Kontiki and Amanda Akran, its former head bartender and menu curator, joined Tese in making her ideas as realistic as possible while retaining the ambitious sustainability aspect of Minnow.
“As one chapter was ending, another began for us,” said Avila. “Andrea is passionate and knowledgeable about food and her vision for this place aligned perfectly with a time where we were looking to take on a new project.”
While Tese knows what several signature food items will be on her menu, Avila made these ideas possible. Akran will curate the bar and cocktail menu. Every item offered will be sourced as consciously and as locally as possible. For example, Long Island raised duck will be used in lieu of pork, a leading cause of pollution from factory farming.
“The effort to create something like this is great,” said Avila. “We are doing the research and putting in the time and effort to make this place feel safe and happy – where you know your choices are the right ones for the Earth.”
The menu will also feature seafood caught only by line or in traps rather than nets, another overwhelming pollutant of the ocean. While there will be no salmon or yellowtail available, as those species are not native to the East End, Minnow will feature several underutilized fish caught by local fishermen.
“There is this concept of the ‘trash fish’ that we are trying to change the stigma of,” said Akran. “These fish have just been misbranded as fish you throw back or away. But they live right in our bays and are perfectly edible — delicious even.”
Although many of these fish will be new to the palettes of many patrons, there will be many familiar favorites as well.
One signature dish Tese is most excited to put on her own menu was inspired by a meal she had at the renowned Contramar in Mexico City — a whole fish that is butterflied, rubbed with parsley salsa verde and then charred on the grill.
“The key is to be consistent. We want people to come back over and over again, experiencing the same high quality and enjoying food that was grown or caught in their own backyard,” said Tese. “We want to offer people a mix of familiar and new items.”
Sustainability again is at the heart of all the menu decisions made by the trio. Much of Tese’s inspiration is pulled from other innovative restaurants from around the world. She admired the focus of the upscale supermarket Erewhon in Los Angeles, where all their locally sourced food is served in returnable glassware rather than plastic.
“From to-go containers, plastic cutlery and storage quarts, restaurants are very high-waste environments,” said Akran. “It’s something that Cheo and I always thought about working in kitchens. With Minnow, we are making a conscious decision to move away from single-use plastics. It’s the little changes that we think can really make a difference and go a long way.”
Minnow plans to open early summer. Make sure to check their website www.minnowrestaurant.com and their social media @minnowatthegalleyho for updates.