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Gill House restaurant reopens in Henderson Harbor

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HENDERSON HARBOR — A persevering anchor on the Lake Ontario shore for anglers, tourists and residents, the Gill House Restaurant & Inn reopened June 22 after a two-year hiatus — putting smiles back on the faces of residents who’ve wined and dined there for decades.

Two Syracuse restaurateurs — Michael D. Brady and E. James Hickey — became inspired last year to launch the restaurant, 13565 County Route 123, which seats 130 people and is staffed by 15 employees. The eatery will showcase a menu with favorites such as the Gill House perch dinner with special cayenne sauce, along with new imports such as its bam-bam shrimp topped with noodles and Asian sauces.

Mr. Hickey, who owns the Toggenburg Mountain ski resort outside Syracuse, also has experience as a chef. He said the menu at the ski resort’s restaurant, Foggy Goggle, will now have a second home in Henderson Harbor.

While the menu will feature plenty of special entrees, Mr. Hickey said, the restaurant will maintain its original character with its seafood dishes, burgers and sandwiches. Chefs had to do some experimenting with the old Gill House recipe for the perch sauce, he said, but he’s confident the new version will bring the past back to life for old diners.

“An old-timer scratched the recipe for us on a piece of paper, and at first we didn’t know what to do with the ingredients,” he said, laughing. “After soul searching and playing with (the recipe) a while, we finally had a couple come in who had been in the area their whole life to try it. They said we aced it.”

Diners can expect a “casual-fine” atmosphere at the restaurant and will notice dishes are prepared by chefs with an unusual flair. Executive chef Melinda C. Cleaver, who also works at the restaurant in Syracuse, has 15 years of fine-dining experience and often develops recipes with Mr. Hickey. He said five daily specials will be offered at the restaurant so diners can keep their palates guessing.

“We try to prepare things to taste good and are seasoned well and garnished properly to make an attractive plate,” Mr. Hickey said. “You eat with your eyes first, so we try to be as good as we can be and put out food that’s fun.”

Mr. Brady, a member of Mr. Hickey’s ski resort, said he persuaded his partner to resurrect the Gill House. “It’s just a perfect spot and beautiful,” he said of the eatery, which has an outdoor porch with a view of the bay. “Henderson Harbor needs something like this on the waterfront, and our goal is to breathe some life into a traditional place.”

Ten boat slips along the waterfront will be reserved for patrons of the Gill House, which also has a lodge with 12 rooms. It will be open each season from May to September.

And Mr. Brady, who’s a frequent diner at Mr. Hickey’s restaurant in Syracuse, said he’s had the advantage of tasting the food on the menu firsthand. He urged newcomers to try the “Bubba shank,” a jumbo bone of meat braised in Carolina red sauce.

“The meat falls off the bone and melts in your mouth,” he said.

The Gill House Restaurant is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Breakfast is available from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday and 8 to 10 a.m. Sunday. The restaurant also has a brunch special that runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

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