Read the latest and greatest at Reel Seafood Co.
Food Network Magazine editor comes to Albany.
By Brianna Snyder, Times Union
When Maile Carpenter became the Food Network Magazine's founding editor-in-chief, "foodiesm" was still on the rise. Those fast-lapse food videos weren't even twinkles in ambitious social-media innovators' eyes, yet. Ah, yes. The Twitter-is-still-new heyday of 2008.
Reel Seafood Co. has been named the #1 Seafood Restaurant in the March 2015 issue of Capital Region Living.
Real Easy Deals for the Early Birds at Reel Seafood Co.
Reel Seafood Co. recently developed a new Early Seating Menu which offers 3 delicious courses all for just $22 per person. The Early Seating Menu is available Mondays through Saturdays 4-5:30 PM and all day on Sundays.
Reel Seafood Co.Valentine's Day Specials available throughout the weekend
Delectable specials available throughout the weekend include oyster stew for two, a spicy tuna roll, a seafood trio pasta, and surf & turf for two all at reasonable prices!
For the past year, Faith Takes has been making business decisions as both an owner of a for-profit college and a restaurant owner. The owner of Albany-based career college and technical training school has been running the business side of Reel Seafood Co.
Takes, owner of Empire Education Corporation, purchased the restaurant on Wolf Road last January with Aliki Serras, then the general manager of the restaurant. Serras' father, LeGrande Serras, opened the restaurant in the 1980s. Today, Reel Seafood is one of the last independently owned restaurants on Wolf Road.
LeGrande Serras asked Takes, a longtime family friend, to help Aliki write a business plan. Takes agreed to help with a business plan and introduce Aliki to bankers for financing.
"It turns out, as I got involved in writing the plan, the more we explored, the more interested I became," says Takes, who runs Mildred Elley and Austin's School of Spa Technology.
Serras says she developed about seven business plans over a year and a half. Today, the restaurant serves simply-prepared seafood in its newly renovated interior. The two women undertook a complete interior renovation of the restaurant last winter and will do an exterior renovation later in 2015.
Though Serras and Takes purchased the business together, Takes did not publicly identify as an owner for the first year to emphasize the restaurant is still family owned. Takes says she's involved with Reel Seafood on a daily basis and handles the business end of the restaurant.
"I see so much of the passion I had for the business I grew in her," Takes says of her co-owner.
For now, Serras and Takes are focused on growing Reel Seafood's audience by promoting its space as fit for business meetings and small gatherings. A side room off the main dining room can fit up to 50 people. Serras also added a happy hour that's bringing in a younger crowd for $1 oysters.
Centrally located on Wolf Road near the Albany International Airport, Colonie Center, and Crossgates Mall, Reel Seafood Co. has offered the freshest seafood in New York State’s capital for over 28 years. The newly appointed chef Alan Maki hails from 677 Prime and brings contemporary innovative twists to delicious seafood dishes with his recently instated menu featuring fun dishes like ying yang scallops and lobster lollipops as well as wasabi pea-crusted halibut. Enjoy a meal in their recently remodeled dining room or on the outside patio while the weather is nice.
A liki Serras balances the demands of the restaurant industry with yoga, music and biking -- that is, when she can squeeze it all in during her 90-hour work weeks. In January, she became owner of Reel Seafood Co. in Colonie, the restaurant her father opened three decades ago. Serras says she had never planned to stay in the business she grew up in. Now that she’s there, she’s devoted to positioning Reel Seafood to reimagine itself for the future and survive the onslaught of chain restaurants. A renovated Reel Seafood is one sign of her progress.
Did you really grow up in the restaurant?
I remember being 8 and gluing oyster shells and clam shells to a bucket. I started hosting when I was 12 or 13. I definitely grew up in the restaurant.
Was it apparent that you would take over someday?
I always had in my mind that I wanted to be a translator. It became apparent that without a dialect of Arabic or Chinese, I wouldn’t be competitive. I was a Spanish major in college and also spoke Greek.
What was the moment you realized you weren’t going to be a translator?
I was studying abroad in Granada, Spain, and realized that what I had wasn’t unique. It was just a realization that it wasn’t a skill set that was going to propel me in that capacity. I had to revisit what I wanted to make a career out of. I don’t regret my language major. It enabled me to travel.
What did you consider doing as a career?
I’m a product of both of my parents. My mom is a Reiki master and sound-healer. Holistic nutrition has always been a hobby of mine. I explored the idea of attending a holistic nutrition school in Manhattan. The restaurant -- it clicks differently than anything I’ve really experienced. It’s so full-circle.
When I was little, my parents always had friends and family over. There were always people at our home. I remember being 9 years old and excited for Christmas, not because of the presents, but because we host Christmas dinner and it was the first year I was able to set the table by myself.
When I get disheartened, I connect to how I felt at 9. I feel that at 29 in the restaurant. That motivates me.
What’s your typical day like at Reel Seafood?
I’m here by 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. I come in, prep for lunch and greet people. We have a lull between two and three, where I get paperwork done, set up meetings with distributors and meet with our chef. I’ll work dinner hours.
Then business dictates when I leave. Saturday and Sunday is more of a reprieve. I have time in the afternoon, where I’ll go to the gym. I live on the bike path every weekend. It’s a little oasis. Then, I come back and work at night.
How was the transition from general manager to owner?
We made the decision that my father wouldn’t be present for the renovation and my first month as owner. He would have been a crutch. I needed to make decisions to rise to the occasion. There were moments where it was very overwhelming. Nothing could have prepared me for it.
What is your vision for the future of the restaurant?
The irony is that what I think will keep us relevant in the future is our connections to our roots. We’re the only independent restaurant on Wolf Road and one of a few restaurants owned by families across generations.
How’s the competition as the last independent on Wolf Road?
It’s two-fold. Against chains, it’s direct competition, especially at lunch when people have a finite period of time. There are also people who only support independent restaurants and there are a lot of choices. It’s part of the changing landscape.
Do you see yourself here in 10 years?
I’m excited for the future. Each day, I get more settled, and it proves to me that people appreciate we’re independent. I have 150 percent of my heart and soul involved. I’m not motivated by money. I know the importance of being profitable. I genuinely do this because I love the power of hospitality in its most unadulterated form.
Title: Owner, Reel Seafood Co. in Colonie
Family: Father, LeGrande Serras, owned Reel Seafood Co. for 30 years. Mother Arji Cakouros is a Reiki master and sound-healer.
Education: Attended Ithaca College, studied abroad in Granada, Spain
Outside the restaurant:“I do consider myself to be an artist and music is my medium. ... I grew up playing piano. My mom has a beautiful baby grand. I’ll go over to play that.”
The giant octopus sign outside Reel Seafood Co., a recognizable symbol of one the last independent restaurants on Wolf Road in Colonie, New York, will be replaced in the second phase of renovations at the family-owned seafood restaurant. Aliki Serras' major project as new owner of of Reel Seafood Co. was to renovate the interior of the seafood restaurant her family has owned since the 1980s. Now, she's planning a second phase of improvements so the exterior matches the inside's blue-and-white, Mediterranean and Aegean inspired decor. Renovations will include improvements to the awning, facade and landscape, in addition to a new sign.
"As much as I love it, it doesn't fit with the aesthetics of the interior," Serras says of the sign. A number of people have expressed interest in owning the sign after its taken down, she says. Serras, 29, who became owner in January 2014, says she's surprised by the number of people who come into the restaurant and were unaware the restaurant went through a redecoration. The exterior renovations will indicate the changes at the restaurant, she says.
The second phase of renovations, with a price tag of $150,000, will begin in either November or early 2015, with minimal disruptions to the business. It will be complete in time for the 2015 patio season, she says. The first set of renovations, which cost $750,000, required the restaurant to close for three weeks. The general contractor is Tom Picozzi of TMP Construction Services LLC in Clifton Park, who was general contractor for the earlier renovations.
Serras also plans to eventually expand the building at 195 Wolf Road to create a banquet facility to host small events.
How to appeal to the next generation (and not alienate the last)
A few years ago, Aliki Serras, would see customers her age only when they were out on dates. For anyone under 45, the restaurant her father founded was a destination, but only for special occasions.
Now, Serras, the 28-year-old owner of Reel Seafood Co. in Colonie, is welcoming a larger number of younger diners, and they’re not waiting for that one special occasion to come in.
Serras, who took ownership from her father, LeGrane Serras, this winter, has rebranded the restaurant to appeal to those between ages 27 and 45.
If you haven't been to the Reel Seafood Co. on Wolf Road lately, it's time to return. Since January, the restaurant has undergone a $1 million renovation, hired a new executive head chef and extensively trained their staff on the new menu and launched a new website, all under the leadership of the new owner and daughter of the founder, Aliki Serras.
Voted the #1 Seafood Restaurant by Capital Region Living, Reel Seafood offers guests the freshest seafood cuisine in the area.
The seafood is shipped in daily from the fintest seafood purveyors and you'll know after your first bite that they mean fresh. From the ocean to your plate, Reel Seafood Co. demands perfection. You can count on Reel Seafood Co. to provide you with the freshest seafood in the Capital District.Read the Full Article Here.
Located on Wolf Road near the Albany International Airport, Colonie Center and Crossgates Mall, Reel Seafood, is an easily accessible seafood restaurant. Reel Seafood, formally known as Real Seafood has been serving the freshest seafood in New York for over 28 years. The team has been voted the best seafood restaurant in Albany by local voters. Reel Seafood’s fish is shipped in daily from the finest seafood purveyors making it the freshest of its kind.
New Head Chef, Alan Maki
Reel Seafood Co. in Colonie has a new head chef, Alan Maki, who most recently was executive sous chef at Angelo’s 677 Prime in Albany and, before that, worked at Prime at Saratoga National in Saratoga Springs. He starts Tuesday (7/22). Maki replaces Dustin Aipperspach, who was hired late last year and overhauled the menu in January following the restaurant’s $600,000 renovation.
Reel Seafood owner Aliki Serras tells me she re-evaluated Aipperspach after six months on the job and determined he was not a good fit for the restaurant. Aipperspach tells me, “I have decided to move on from Reel Seafood Co. for another opportunity that better suits me.”
Serras says Maki may make slight modifications to the menu but won’t introduce a full menu of his own until the fall.
Congratulations to our very own Aliki Serras, Owner of Reel Seafood Co., at the 40 Under Forty class of 2014 ceremony.
Guests Enjoyed the Wine Dinner Hosted by Empire Merchants North.
Metroland Readers Voted Reel Seafood Co. as the Best Seafood in the Capital District - April 2014
Reinvention of Venerable Reel Seafood Largely SucceedsReel Seafood Co. Serras turned them all down.
Year after year, as those chains set up shop around him on Wolf Road in astonishing numbers — there are more than 40 currently on the 1.6-mile commercial strip that parallels the Northway north of Central Avenue — Serras held out hope that a person, not a corporation, would come along and take over his life's work.
Serras never thought that person would be his daughter. Aliki Serras went to college to become a translator, after all. But late last year, after years of working her way from buser to assistant manager at Reel Seafood after the translator career didn't pan out, Aliki Serras officially purchased the restaurant from her father.
Changes were sure to follow. LeGrande is 68; Aliki is 28. By Jan. 6, a week after the deal was finalized, the restaurant was closed for a $600,000 overhaul. It took two days to remove everything that had stood for the past three decades — the booths in the dining room, the bar, the mosaic that separated the two, the ceiling, the carpet, that giant glass octopus.
Three weeks later, a new dining room, a new chef, his new menu and a new restaurant were open.
Gone are salmon Oscar, parsley garnishes, bright lighting and big portions, with presentation that could have been clipped from a 1985 issue of Food & Wine.
Replacing them are tuna poke with cucumber, sweet onion, macadamia and crisped wontons, sea bass en papillote with saffron orzo, leeks and fennel, an expanded raw bar, a new bar area and a startlingly different dining room.
The aquatic ambience is still here, though it's no longer a night at the docks with the anglers, but rather an evening in an ocean-deep lounge. A trio of bubbling tanks with bright exotic fish is framed by hardwood and now separates the bar from the dining room. Teal and white-and-black combos make up seats and booths, including a quartet of U-shaped booths, their backs turned against one another, in the middle of the dining room.
There is a lot of blue as well. It beams out of the fish tanks and from a long, curving LED light that traces across the dining room ceiling. It all has clean, glowing Aegean feel.
Our party seemed split on the interior. One thought it was too much, another thought it worked, given the concept. I feel somewhere in between. Some of the new interior is a bit loud — the carpet is a rather dizzying array of semicircles — though I'm a big fan of the new, more contemporary bar. Another $400,000 will be spent later this year to redo the patio with a retractable roof to make it year-round seating.
Aliki admits that the change has thrown off some regulars who just want to sit in the same seat and eat the same thing they have for decades. But that is an increasingly older crowd — last year, LeGrande told the Times Union he felt as though he was spotting regulars in the obituaries on a weekly basis — and, to survive moving forward, Aliki doesn't want to exclude them, but knows she needs to appeal to young professionals.
Selling $1 oysters and $1 clams with happy hour — Reel Seafood did not previously have a happy hour — seems like both an excellent start and an excellent deal.
Oysters here come from both coasts. At dinner, a West Coast oyster sampler ($15) featured smooth, whistle-clean Kushhis from British Columbia, sweet and mild Kumamotos and, our favorite, big, plump, Hammerslys from the Puget Sound.
The fried buttermilk oysters ($9) are recommended as well, retaining excellent moisture and served with roasted lemon and jalapeno buttermilk ranch.
Service is more formal. Our waitress walked us through the menu, made a few suggestions and took the time to explain why ingredients were paired as such.
"The yuzu-miso really just brings the whole dish together," she said of the wasabi-pea-crusted halibut ($27), which she strongly urged one of us to try. I did, and while there was a tad more chew than flakiness, it wasn't ruined by any means, nor overwhelmed by wasabi heat. The miso sauce, thickened but still light, tracing around the fish in a bright circle, rounded out the fish as nicely, as our waitress said it would.
Another entree under the "Chefs Compositions" was the highlight of the night, a beef short rib and sea scallop dish ($28) with roasted wild mushroom, barley risotto and a soft cauliflower puree. With the puree smeared on in a sweeping swoosh, a chunk of fall-apart beef over risotto and a pair of perfectly seared scallops to one side, this was the type of presentation you never would have seen here just four months ago. It was on par with any scallop entree I've recently had in the Capital Region.
All fish except tuna arrive whole at Reel Seafood. To showcase them, you can order a portion of any and have it simply grilled and broiled, brushed with lemon butter and served with an "enhancement" — lemon beurre blanc, basil pesto, etc. — of your choice. I love this idea, a restaurant trusting its centerpieces are of a pedigree that they can stand largely on their own. A salmon paired with tzatziki ($23) did not disappoint.
The revamped wine list, still a work in progress, is heavy on California but has solid options from around the globe.
A night at Reel Seafood still is not cheap. Dinner for three — oysters, two appetizers, three entrees, a bottle of wine and dessert – came to $200 after tax and tip. This is not Reel Seafood as it used to be. However, it is certainly worth a trip to find out whether you welcome the change. Though work still remains, I certainly do.
A Special Thank You to The Daily Gazette for a Wonderful Review. Check it out:
— Reel Seafood has gotten a facelift, and boy, does it look sharp. Aliki Serras has taken over from her father, LeGrande Serras, who opened the restaurant in 1983, and she’s put her stamp on it.
More than $1 million for a facelift and thorough menu revamp has resulted in a swanky and sleek restaurant that will be one of the Capital Region’s best-regarded.
Things were pretty good at the old place when I visited in 2007. It had a solid reputation for serving the best fish around. Service was dependable, desserts were homemade. Now it’s all that, and more.
When Mary and I stopped on a weeknight, every seat at the modernist white bar area was taken.
The main dining room is clean and elegant, with a ring of recessed blue lighting in the ceiling. There are booths on one wall, and banquettes on others. Four large C-shaped private seating areas each face out from the center of the room.
There are two smaller rooms suitable for private parties, and a patio in front, sheltered somewhat from Wolf Road by shrubbery.
The decor is sparkling white with traces of clear blue — a clean Mediterranean theme. Glass turquoise pendant lamps dangle elegantly, the place mats sparkle, and tea lights flicker in cobalt blue glasses.
The lighting is low and flattering, but strategically placed spots shine on the tables so you can read the menu and admire your food. Jazzy music plays softly. Lots of black-dressed, well-trained staff move noiselessly around the dining room. It’s definitely an upscale feel.
We were seated comfortably and immediately attended. The server suggested a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand for me, and a cabernet for Mary, selections we both liked.
And the menu. The raw bar is up first, with an array of fresh oysters at market price and two kinds of fresh tuna. There’s the seafood tower, an extravaganza of Maine lobster, oysters, shrimp, clams, crab claws and more, at $55, for two to three people.
Oysters and clams get various treatments in the hot appetizer menu, and they’re accompanied by crab cakes, mussels and escargot. You can get a poached lobster ($15) or a shellfish Cobb salad ($19). I like the chef’s compositions, which include lobster ravioli in cream sauce ($25) and sea bass in parchment paper ($32).
The purest incarnation of fish, steaks and fillets, are simply grilled or broiled, and you’ll find the likes of Chilean sea bass, halibut and salmon.
And for those who don’t care for seafood, there’s roasted chicken ($21), and a good selection of steaks, including a hanger steak ($23) and an 8-ounce filet mignon ($37). Whew.
The homemade rolls were just out of the oven and almost too hot to handle. Steam poured out when we pulled them apart and we slathered them with salty whipped butter. Delicious.
Mary started with the buttermilk fried oysters ($9) which were piping hot, served over mixed greens with a gently flavored jalapeño ranch sauce. The coating was light and the oysters were big, juicy and meaty, she said.
My salad was a sculpted pile of Romaine and mixed greens, covered with grated gruyere cheese, but it was the dressing that really impressed me. Pomegranate, of all things, and its flavor jumped right out at me. The dressing was sweet, but the salty cheese balanced it right out. Really well done.
Mary had the beef short ribs and scallops ($28), a wonderful dish. She is picky about scallops, and declared these perfect: enormous and perfectly browned. The boneless beef fell into tender pieces. The barley risotto was more chewy than she expected, but it was full of mushrooms and tasted delicious, she said.
My swordfish steak ($27) was a thing of beauty, thick with perpendicular brown grill marks. Swordfish is so easy to overcook but, helped along with plenty of butter, this was very juicy. It was a fantastic piece of fish, more subtly flavored than the fish that we often got just off the boats on Long Island.
The mixed vegetables were broccoli, carrots, green beans and thinly sliced yellow squash, some with grill marks here and there, none overcooked and all soaked in butter and salt.
Mary chose dessert from well-priced homemade options that include dulce de leche cheesecake and the obligatory chocolate dessert. We got coconut custard pie ($7) and two spoons.
There was coconut in every part — the crust, the custard and toasted coconut on the real whipped cream topping. The crust was crumbly with shredded coconut and unsweetened, a nice contrast to the filling. The custard had body and was rich and dense. The fresh blueberries that garnished the plate were surprisingly sweet.
The tab for our meal, without the wine, came to $98.15, with tax and tip.
Ms. Serras has preserved the best qualities of Reel Seafood, including the largest variety of fresh seafood in the area, homemade desserts and solid service, while updating the menu and the building and adding an air of exclusivity. I’ll be back.