Rockfish restaurant debuts in Edgartown

Photo by Michael Cummo

Tuesday will mark the opening night of Rockfish, the new eatery and bar at 11 North Water Street in Edgartown, former home of Eleven North and David Ryan’s restaurants. While the address is the same, the place most certainly is not.

Nell, Will, and Geoghan Coogan are the owners, the sibling trio that have been part of The Wharf’s continued success since 2004. “We all have different personalities and experiences working in the business, at The Wharf and elsewhere in the country,” Nell Coogan said. “We all come at it from a different angle, know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and we’ve hired a stellar staff. We’ll be here for people in the winter and we’re excited to provide something warm, fun, and different.”

While Rockfish is only steps away from The Wharf, it feels a world away, and it’s obvious that the owners have created something unique. The space itself has been noticeably transformed. The downstairs bar has been rebuilt out of whiskey barrel staves and brought into the middle of the room, creating a stunning focal point. Upstairs, you’ll notice the newly vaulted ceiling, exposing beautiful beams, reclaimed hemlock, and refined ducting. In the corner is a wood-fired oven that was once at Lattanzi’s. This summer, the oven was moved to Rockfish and dropped in from the ceiling. Now, it is beautifully enclosed by inlaid brick. Surrounding the oven is a stunning copper bar supported by bourbon barrels, which emanated the liquor’s scent when cut to fit the space.

John Roberts of Island Food Realty, LLC, and Island craftsmen Bruce Stewart and Alex Young contributed to Rockfish’s impressive new look. There’s brick, glass, and dark wood accents throughout, illuminated by the warm, inviting glow of Edison lightbulb fixtures. The decor is rustic but contemporary, at the intersection of an Edgartown tavern and a Brooklyn whiskey bar. Call it what you will, it’s a place you’ll want to stay.

The floorplan has been rearranged and there’s increased bar seating, even more bar seats than tables. The vibe is upscale yet casual and the space makes it an ideal spot for a date night or a girls night out, versus the family-oriented dining scene at The Wharf.

“When our family took over The Wharf we walked right in and it was a turn-key operation, we didn’t change much of the place,” Ms. Coogan said. “This has been exciting, we’re starting from scratch. It’s pretty fun.”

The name Rockfish came about during the team’s brainstorming process and it just seemed right. Finally, a name all of the owners could agree on, unlike ‘Two Brothers Tavern’ which despite her brother’s best efforts, Nell just couldn’t accept. Rockfish is also another name for striped bass, an homage to seafood on the Vineyard, as well as ‘the rock’ slang associated with the Island.

Adam Rebello, an Island native and former assistant manager at Farm Neck Golf Club joins the Coogans as General Manager. Mr. Rebello has known the Coogan family since he was six years old, and though it was a hard decision to leave Farm Neck, he knew it was the right one. At the helm of the kitchen staff is chef John Shepherd. Mr. Shepherd previously headed the kitchen at The Wharf. The Coogans called upon him this summer to return to The Wharf and he was hooked by the opportunity to open Rockfish. “Once I saw this place I was sold. I was out of retirement, and back in the game,” Mr. Shepherd said. This is going to be a big deal.”

Mr. Shepherd won’t be the only one with head chef on his resume — he hired a who’s-who of culinary talent in the area. Ms. Coogan describes it as “a kitchen full of top chef material. There’s a lot of potential here.” So what will all of these head chefs be cooking?

The menu runs the gamut, from bar snacks like Marcona almonds to small plates of shrimp, bacon, and grits, and traditional entree-sized meals. One that’s sure to be a favorite is the seafood paella packed with shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams over saffron rice. Then of course there’s the flatbread pizza, served hot and fresh from the wood fired oven, with toppings such as baby clams, chorizo, sausage, mashed potatoes, arugula, ricotta cheese and more. When the oven isn’t pumping out pizzas, it will be roasting homemade marshmallows for s’mores off the dessert menu, or burning wood for the late night crowd after food service.

The menu will start small but will be constantly evolving. “It will be new and fresh all the time, I’ll keep a rolodex of recipes and we’ll go back and revisit ones that were loved, and we’ll refine them” Mr. Shepherd said. The menu boasts flavors and influences from North Africa, Asia, Morocco, the Mediterranean, and the South. No taste is off limits and the diversity in menu offerings lends itself to sharing. The option of ordering smaller plates and sampling several different things will allow diners to experience the range of the menu. The food service is similar to tapas style, where diners will be encouraged to share food and items will arrive as they’re prepared. Typical coursing can also be requested, but management is excited about offering this more interactive family style or “party style” of dining.

To compliment the food, the restaurant boasts two full bars, an extensive 40 plus bottle wine list, and a menu of classic and contemporary signature cocktails. Especially appealing is the Pear Bubbly, made with Grey Goose Pear, St. Germain, fresh lemon juice and homemade simple syrup. There’s also staples like old fashioned, and espresso martini plus a few dark liquor concoctions good for staying warm in the winter.

Rockfish will be open year round for dinner from 5:30 – 10 pm. The bar will remain open until 1am. Reservations accepted for parties of 8 or more only. For more information call 508-627-9966.

Note: The opening of Rockfish, originally scheduled for Monday, Nov. 24, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, November 25.