Seafood and freshness at Chappell’s

Jazzy combination makes Chappell's an inviting space

Chappell's Seafood Mix

Chappell's Seafood Mix. Photography by Neal Bruns

Chappell’s Coral Grill has always been all about fish. Of late, however, it’s also all about jazz, martinis and small plate goodies. The restaurant that opened on Broadway nearly three decades ago moved to its current home at Covington Plaza in 2010, and this fall it took over the space once home to next-door neighbor Covington Bar & Grill and turned it into a snazzy new lounge with an impressive 35-seat bar.

Dubbed “All That Jazz,” the expansion means owners Annrita and Gary Chappell can host private parties and dancing while still offering the classics that have made them one of Fort Wayne’s favorite restaurants.

“Our dining experience goes hand in hand with the whole experience,” Annrita Chappell said. The couple felt Fort Wayne needed a sophisticated place for couples to dance to jazz and other types of music.

The renovated area features a piano, dancing space, a lounge area where servers will provide full bottle service and cozy nooks for more intimate seating. The bar has been refurbished with a copper top that’s imbued with a patina of green and gold. The walls are a soft heather gray, and they are accented with metallic wall hangings and wooden beams. The black leather seating in the bottle-service area makes customers feel pampered, and a large portrait of a woman having a cocktail pulls the look together. Annrita said that portrait gave her the inspiration for the whole look in the All That Jazz side of the restaurant. Annrita, whose career as an interior designer was interrupted after she met Gary while working at another seafood restaurant 25 years ago, designed the expansion to feel both cozy and elegant.

“I’m trying to capture what Fort Wayne doesn’t have and do it in a sophisticated way,” she said.

Bar manager Todd Hullinger and his team have come up with new craft cocktails and martinis using infusions, and he has selected 10 craft beers to put on tap. Indiana vodkas and wines are also available. A small plate menu will offer soups, sandwiches and salads, along with various specials dreamed up by chef Jesse Kimes. Head chef Bryan Adams is still in the Coral Grill kitchen, cooking up the wide variety of seafood dishes that have thrilled diners for nearly three decades.

Chappell’s imports its seafood from as far away as Australia, (the succulent lobster tails) and Alaska (king crab legs), Hawaii (swordfish) and beyond. Adams said he’s “pretty much cooked every kind” of fish there is, and he enjoys preparing both the classics that have been on Chappell’s menu for the past 27 years as well as the new weekly specials that are developed based on the fresh seafood he gets delivered several times a week.

“I try to keep it fresh,” Adams said. “I have a lot of people who never order off the menu. They only order the specials. And we can switch it up, if a customer has dietary needs. We can do anything on the menu gluten-free.”

Chappell’s got its start on Broadway, spending 25 years there before branching out with a second location on Coldwater Road (and a third on Dupont Road) before consolidating its efforts on the Covington Plaza store in 2010. The Coldwater and Dupont branches have closed, and the Covington Plaza location incorporates elements of those other restaurants. Two big stuffed blue marlins grace the wall, their pointy bills sharp against brick walls.

And everywhere are the smells of the delicious dishes crafted by chefs Adams and Kimes. The warm sourdough bread that accompanies meals lends the air a homey scent, while Chappell’s famous crab slaw cools spicy dishes. The Chappell’s two children, son BaHa, 9, and daughter SeiNa, 7, are learning the restaurant business from their parents.

“It’s amazing how it’s all come together,” Annrita said.

Chappell’s Shellfish Mix

Serves 2

12 Prince Edward Island mussels

8 shrimp

8 sea scallops

2 teaspoons butter

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 1/2 teaspooons fresh minced garlic

1 cup diced Italian tomatoes

3 tablespoons chiffonaded fresh basil

1/4 cup white wine

kosher salt to taste

cracked black pepper to taste

1. Heat a sauté skillet over medium heat, add butter and olive oil, add garlic, cook about 1 minute, until fragrant.

2. Add mussels, shrimp and scallops, cover with lid and cook for about 1 minute.

3. Remove lid and stir, then add tomatoes and white wine. Cover another 1-2 minutes until seafood is cooked through.

4. Season with salt and pepper, top with basil and serve in bowl. Serve with grilled, buttered sourdough bread.

First appeared in the November 2013 Fort Wayne Monthly

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