Remington Tavern and Seafood Exchange was carved out of the side of Remington Lofts, a luxury loft project built into a former typewriter factory in North Tonawanda. It's a stone's throw from the Erie Canal, and tables outside allow boat-watching in pleasant weather.
Shaped by Paul Jenkins, Tempo's managing partner, and Mark Hutchinson, of Hutch's, its pedigree preceded it. Diners have been crowding into the space, surrounded by old red brick and fancy lights dangling from the ceilings.
The restaurant opened in July, with about 240 seats, and doesn't take reservations yet. Diners have reported waiting more than an hour for a table, but we got in before the crush.
The menu boasts of seafood, especially oysters, with four raw varieties ($25 per dozen), and Prince Edward Island clams ($12 per dozen) on offer, and Bahamian conch chowder ($8).
The entrees might seem familiar. With grilled ribeye steak frites ($32), double-cut pork chop with Niagara County peach chutney ($22), and rigatoni Bolognese ($19), Remington Tavern isn't looking to break the mold.
We asked for the shrimp, chicken and andouille gumbo ($8), grilled oysters with Parmesan butter ($12), and crab and zucchini croquettes ($10). Cat had sesame crusted tuna ($29). I chose chicken Milanese with arugula salad ($21).
The gumbo's flavor was deep and soulful, testifying to its foundation of dark roux, with an unabashed spiciness and chunks of shrimp and chicken.
Grilled Cockenoe oysters were a guilty pleasure. Six bivalves had been slathered in Parmesan butter and run under a salamander until bubbly and smoky.
The crab and zucchini croquettes turned out to be a mixture laced with crabmeat and shredded zucchini. Two orbs were expertly fried, crispy but barely greasy. They arrived on a plate with cured lemon slices and a swath of pleasantly bitter dressed watercress. The partnership of crunchy richness, puckery sourness and crunchy, fresh greenery was rousing.
Servers were hustling by our table all night, and we didn't mind until we saw our entrees go by. The server found us a few moments later, apologized, then griped at his partner as they walked past our table. That and a pronounced eagerness to take away our plates were smudges on otherwise excellent service.
The food still arrived warm. The chicken cutlets in my Milanese were crispy outside and moist inside, as they should be. The tangle of arugula and cherry tomato salad had been dressed modestly with balsamic vinaigrette. There were roasted red-skinned potatoes on the plate, too, tender and well-seasoned.
Cat's sesame-crusted tuna came with those potatoes, too, and zucchini rounds cooked just far enough to be tender. The tuna was rosy in the middle, with a toasty flavor from the crust of black-and-white sesame seeds. With pickled ginger, wasabi and a ramekin of soy dipping sauce, it was tasty enough, but left us wondering if a sauce wouldn't unite the plate's elements better.
We asked for apricot gelato and key lime cheesecake (both $8) for dessert. Before it arrived, Jenkins spotted me and came to sit down. We talked about the noise level and he reminded me that it's billed as a tavern.
The apricot sorbet was delightful, with a well-rounded fruit flavor. The key lime cheesecake was rich and subtly tangy, but still satisfying. Jenkins then brought us some cocoa nib gelato, which was terrific, with crunchy cocoa bursts Remington Tavern has a given NT's harborside area a restaurant where the food shines, even if it's more boisterous than its creators' other spots.
Carefully cooked seafood and more?give North Tonawanda an upscale choice.
8 (out of 10)
WHERE: 184 Sweeney St., North Tonawanda, ?362-2802, remingtontavern.com
HOURS: 4:30-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; ?4:30-11 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, $6-$12.50; oysters and clams, $6-$25; entrees, $16-$32.
PARKING: Street, parking lot at Main and Sweeney.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.