In R.I., an unconventional New England clam shack is doubling down on sustainable seafood - The Boston Globe (2024)

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In a recent, wide-ranging interview, the Gillespies told me about the next phase of their business, which will include this summer’s opening of a fish market and restaurant on Ives Street in Fox Point (in the former Like No Udder vegan ice cream location. Like No Udder is now located at 783 Hope St. in Providence.).

The market will have some of Dune Brothers’ usual suspects, including lobster rolls, fish and chips, and their original fish sandwich. But it will also have a series of dishes they’ll be serving on the restaurant side, which Nick Gillespie says will show off a “sexier Dune Brothers.” The restaurant will be completely run by Luke Mersfelder, the lauded chef who most recently ran the kitchen at Bywater in Warren, R.I. (and earned a spot as a James Beard awards semifinalist in the “Outstanding Restaurant” in America category).

Jose Morales, Dune Brothers’ manager, says customers should expect to see underutilized species like sea robbins, scup, rock crab, whiting, and “you can’t forget about squid.”

Mersfelder “has really honed in his skills when it comes to fish. On the market side, we’re really excited to be cutting fish, making sausage, and doing things differently,” said Nick Gillespie, who previously worked in fine dining. “Luke is going to create quite a spectacular fish case. He’s got 10 million ideas.”

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In R.I., an unconventional New England clam shack is doubling down on sustainable seafood - The Boston Globe (1)

Monica Gillespie said whatever is fresh at the market will dictate what the restaurant side will be serving.

The market will have 18 seats inside and 32 outside with a takeout window, where the couple plans to eventually offer a separate late-night menu. Think: freshly made fish and chips at 11 p.m.

The market will also accept EBT cards. Nick Gillespie explains how that could help Dune Brothers “make a market” for species like rock crab. “A family of four, who doesn’t have much money, could go to the store and get some rock crab — which is pretty cheap at under $2 a pound — and have a little crab boil.”

The Fox Point location is in addition to the raw bar they plan to offer at Track 15, the Providence food hall inside the former Union Station building that’s set to open in 2025.

In R.I., an unconventional New England clam shack is doubling down on sustainable seafood - The Boston Globe (2)

When the Gillespies’ opened Dune Brothers in 2017, Nick Gillespie said he “never expected to be selling 400 pounds of dogfish per week,” but found success emphasizing sustainable fishing practices and being one of the state’s leading culinary voices in educating the public about different local species. After a while, his customers started asking where they could get the fish served at the seafood shack.

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“Our goal is to keep Rhode Island seafood in Rhode Island for all the chefs, and then be able to sell Rhode Island seafood out of state so that the fishermen can get paid money,” he said. “We have a business and need to make money. But there’s a greater mission that is keeping us going, and that’s what we are currently dead focused on.”

That’s why Morales is also working behind the scenes, building out and running the company’s new wholesale seafood division in an effort to streamline the supply chain to support the local economy.

Related: Rhode Island Report podcast: How sustainable are Rhode Island’s food systems?

For example, a lot of squid harvested in Rhode Island has to leave the country for processing before returning to Rhode Island to be prepared and served in local restaurants. That journey through the global supply chain drives up prices, but the money doesn’t go to the fishermen who initially caught the squid or the restaurants using it in dishes.

“We want to help get Rhode Island seafood out to all of the shops and restaurants in Rhode Island, but eventually also expand into Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland,” said Morales, who previously worked for corporate fish houses. “Dune Brothers can be the connector of this concept of ‘pier-to-plate.’”

“And that’s not just good for us. That’s good for the local fishermen who deserve better pay for their catch,” added Morales.

The upcoming Dune Brothers fish market and restaurant will be located at 170 Ives St. in Providence, R.I. Their original shack is located at 239 Dyer St. in Providence. dunebrothers.com.

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This story first appeared in The Food Club, a free weekly email newsletter about Rhode Island food and dining. Already a member of the club? Check your inbox for more news, recipes, and features in the latest newsletter. Not a member yet? If you’d like to receive it via e-mail each Thursday, you can sign up here.

In R.I., an unconventional New England clam shack is doubling down on sustainable seafood - The Boston Globe (3)

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.

In R.I., an unconventional New England clam shack is doubling down on sustainable seafood - The Boston Globe (2024)
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