PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y.-- Pleasantville resident and restaurateur Phil McGrath is turning Wheeler Avenue into Restaurant Row.
McGrath opened the Seahorse Seafood Shack last Friday at 30 Wheeler Ave., his third restaurant on Wheeler Avenue. McGrath has The Iron Horse Grill next door, and the recently relocated Pony Express across the street.
“Maybe someone doesn’t want to go to Iron Horse, so they go to Magic Wok,” McGrath said. “The food is great anywhere. You can have that symbiotic relationship. You can’t eat at the same place every night.”
The Seahorse is similar to seafood shacks found in New England, offering battered, blackened and grilled fish. McGrath said the shack is a simple concept with a blackboard menu offering sandwiches and baskets. The Seahorse also offers special tacos, fries and New Orleans po’boys. After four days, McGrath said the most popular item is the fried cod.
McGrath gets his food from New England and Hunts Point in The Bronx. All food served is either organic or all natural, and everything but the pickles are made in-house. McGrath picks up the pickles at Picklelicious at the Pleasantville Farmers Market. He gets his rolls from Good Bread in Port Chester.
“You’ll get a nice fresh piece of fish that’s simply prepared,” McGrath said. “It’s like what we do at the Pony, only more focused on fish. It’s very simple.”
McGrath said he enjoys having three restaurants in a triangle, saying it keeps it going. A very hands on owner at all three restaurants, McGrath shows off his fingers covered in dough.
“It keeps me young,” McGrath, who has lived in Pleasantville for 25 years, said.
What helps to keep McGrath going is his staff. At Seashack, the head chef is Roberto Contreras, an Ossining resident. Contereras’ brother, Alberto, is head chef at Pony Express. Roberto, who previously worked at Pony Express, said he enjoyed making the switch.
“I had been doing something for so long that it was good to change things up,” Roberto said. “I enjoy it.”
Opening to no fanfare on a random Wednesday night, Iron Horse attracted 60 customers its first night. McGrath said he has been lucky to find success in a business that sees more misses than hits. According to a study by H.G. Parsa, an associate professor at Ohio State University’s Hospitality Management program, about one in four restaurants close or change ownership within their first year of business.
“The restaurant industry can be trying,” McGrath said. “But I have been blessed with a great staff.”
When it comes to his favorite item on the menu, McGrath politely declines to play favorites.
“I love all the menu items like I love my children,” McGrath said. “All equally, but in different ways.”