Breathing Life Into Saltaire Oyster Bar And Fish House
Fresh-caught seafood, expert shuckers, and a robust beverage program reinvigorate the former Willett House space.
Photos By Ken Stable
Les Barnes, the owner of new restaurant Saltaire Oyster Bar and Fish House in Port Chester, grew up walking the stalls early mornings at New York’s original Fulton Fish Market with his father, Leonard Barnes. The elder Barnes founded London Lennie’s in Rego Park, Queens, in 1959; the younger Barnes took over management of the family-friendly seafood restaurant at 22.
Saltaire, which is located in a 1903 grain warehouse that was last The Willett House steakhouse, is a more modern take on seafood dining than the traditional London Lennie’s. “My vision for Saltaire is to bring a new era of seafood to Port Chester,” says Barnes, a Rye resident.
Barnes enlisted Kim Nathanson of The Niemitz Design Group in Boston to transform the 7,600-square-foot space into a casually elegant environment with nostalgic nautical touches as well as contemporary comforts. “There are many blues dancing through the space in many different shades and hues, all a celebration of the different moods and depths of the ocean,” says Nathanson.
Elements were added but “a lot of the existing features we left alone,” says Barnes. “We wanted to keep as much of the old-world charm of the place as possible.”
1. The warehouse setting provided some beautiful details including original brick walls and vaulted ceilings. The booth-backs, booth cushions, and water glasses, all in ocean-inspired colors, match Executive Chef Bobby Will’s seafood menu with dishes such as grilled swordfish with a spicy cherry glaze and red snapper ceviche with charred lime, sorrel verde, and a cashew-yuca purée.
2. An antique haylift harkens back to the building’s past life as a grain mill.
3. The four candelabras ($2,900 each) have 35 bulbs on the top ring and 30 on the lower. The "bucket" lights are a nod to fishing tackle.
4. Nautical-style touches, including a wall of antique seafaring maps, abound at Saltaire.
5. The three-sided marble-topped bar (meant to evoke old-time seafood markets and butcher shops) has a raw bar including an extensive oyster selection—10 to 12 daily— plus seafood towers. Also behind the bar are wines on tap and craft cocktails designed by consulting mixologist Clinton Terry and prepared using local ingredients and housemade infusions, syrups, and sodas.
6. The exterior was mostly left alone, except for adding the blue-and-white front door signage and a few faux shutters to the windows (see above).
7. Black-and-white fisherman photography and maritime signal flags hang above some of the booths.
Saltaire Oyster Bar and Fish House
55 Abendroth Ave, Port Chester (914) 939-2425;