By John Burton
RED BANK – Roy Jennings had a dream to open his own seafood restaurant. Last month that dream came true.
Roy and his wife Mary Jennings, Middletown residents, have recently opened Chowda House, 78 Bridge Ave., a casual seafood restaurant that is something Roy has been hoping to do for more than 30 years.
“It’s me. I love it. My family loves it,” he said of seafood.
The small eatery, located across from the NJ Transit train station on the borough’s west side, allows patrons to take out or dine in.
The couple is in the process of constructing an outdoor dining area behind the restaurant. When it’s complete in a couple of weeks, it will be able to seat maybe as many as 30 patrons, Roy said.
The nautically themed interior of the restaurant was built by Roy, a home construction contractor. His inspiration was Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and the submarine from book and movie, the Nautilus. He installed wood floors, porthole windows, iron trim and decorations that strike a high-seas image, including a fish tank in the front wall of the dining room.
“I’ve always been of the sea,” Roy said who has been boating his whole life and continues to spend a couple of weeks a year in New England on and near the ocean.
Mary is a New Englander, originally from Rhode Island. It was an appreciation for that heritage that led to the restaurant’s name, with the couple giving it the “Down East” pronunciation for their chowder.
“We just wanted to bring a little bit of New England charm,” to a casual dining experience, Mary said.
“We didn’t want to be all fancy-fancy here,” Roy said of the laid-back atmosphere he has tried to create. “There’s no attitude here. You can come here in a suit and tie or you can come in shorts and flip-flops.”
“There are no bells and whistle here,’ chef Glenn Kovacs said. “The food is the bells and whistles.”
The menu features fish and chips, fisherman platter, shrimp scampi and other entrees, plus sandwiches – a house specialty – called “stuffies,” which are the Jennings’ version of stuffed clams. There also is, of course, the clam “chowdas” – both New England and Manhattan-style. Other menu items for those not feeling especially seaworthy, included chicken and “land-lubber” soups, which are made daily, according to Kovacs.
“We’re not pretentious here,” said Kovacs, who has been a chef for about 17 years, including having worked for McCormick & Schmick’s.
For Roy it’s really quite simple: “I just want people to enjoy themselves,” he said.