MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There is a luxury to The Oceanaire Seafood Room that starts when you walk through the door — the decadent display of a whole snapper, crab legs, and oysters.
“This is where people come to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions. This place has a special significance to a lot of people,” general manager Alex Gabrielson said.
Gabrielson started as a host at the old Oceanaire location in the Hyatt, and 12 years later she’s running the place in her hometown.
“I can’t imagine being anywhere else. The people I work with make it special,” Danielson said.
Executive chef Drew Wilson started his culinary career as a dishwasher, now he cooks fish all day every day.
“I love it, they’re so delicate,” Wilson said. “I just try to let the natural flavor of the fish shine.”
Oceanaire started in Minneapolis in 1998, opened by Parasole, the restaurant company that created Chino Latino and Manny’s. Parasole sold to Landry’s Restaurants, and now there are a dozen locations around the country.
“I think competition gets more fierce every single year. The benefit we have is our pedigree. People know they can count on us,” Danielson said.
Oceanaire was the first Twin Cities restaurant to really show that seafood can be fantastic in the middle of landlocked Minnesota.
“Everything is flown in fresh. What we feature we’ve butchered that morning, and it’s come in that morning,” Danielson said.
The fish box is in back, kept cool, so the chefs can break down and butcher the whole fish each day. Oceanaire’s crab cakes are legendary, still hugely popular after two decades.
It’s not cheap to fly in fish daily, and storms to the east or west can make things challenging.
“Being inland, in the Midwest, it is tough sometimes to source something,” Wilson said.
The food is great, but it’s the experience that keeps people coming back.
“It’s really amazing to walk through the dining room on a Saturday night when we’re packed and say: this is my dinner party,” Danielson said.
Oceanaire Seafood Room
50 South Sixth Street
Monday-Friday, Lunch and Dinner; Saturday & Sunday, Dinner Only