It’s what Jeff Hamer, president and founder of the Fins Hospitality Group, likes to refer to as “being the rising tide.”
The long-time restaurateur has built his success directly around that of his “Fins family,” ever since his days of launching his very first venture in Rehoboth Beach.
“That’s why we like to say, ‘It’s the rising tide,’” Hamer explained. “If we can provide good-paying jobs, we can lift the people up around us, then the community just becomes stronger. [Our employees] all have families, homes in the areas, mortgages, their kids are in school — they have a stake in the community.
“That’s really been our blessing — it’s not about me when people say they love Fins,” he continued. “It’s the employees. They’re the ones that do it. I come up with the ideas and kind of paint broad strokes, and they’re the ones that make it happen. They make Fins, they really do.”
While Hamer’s vision has come a long way since its early beginnings — now including four Fins locations spanning from Rehoboth to Berlin, Md., Claws Seafood House in Rehoboth and Big Oyster Brewing Co., which is set to debut its new brew pub in Lewes later this month — the group’s “be the rising tide” philosophy has remained the same.
That was the case when the newest addition to the Fins family opened its doors last week, ready to embrace their new home in the Bethany Beach area with Fins Ale House & Raw Bar.
“My wife, Kim, and I actually take our morning walk in Bethany now,” said Hamer of his new daily routine after dropping off his kids at the bus stop en route to Worcester Preparatory School in Berlin. “It’s really just a great community. Everyone is really nice. It’s quiet. There’s plenty of nature trails here. It’s just its own little beautiful place in Delaware.”
After taking over the former location of Burnzy’s Bar & Grille in the Marketplace at Sea Colony, Fins Bethany will aim to stay true to its roots while offering some unique additions specific to the new location.
“We wanted to make sure that we brought in some veteran staff that represent our brand the way that we know they can,” said Director of Operations Briana Rovinske.
“We still have our ‘Build Your Own’ Fresh Fish Board — you could come into Fins seven nights a week and have a different meal every night just off of the fresh fish board — but then our chefs have come in with a lot of fresh ideas and a lot of new menu items that we’re very excited about.”
Menu staples and signature specials
Longtime members of the Fins family, including Rovinske, head chef Celaso Morales and executive chef Max Sopinskyy, have teamed up to create the location’s signature dishes to go along with the ever-changing menu of nightly specials.
So far, the new dishes, such as the Grilled Shellfish Combo — featuring baby lobster tail, shrimp, scallops and chorizo — have become fast fan favorites.
“We want to give people different options. We keep it fresh for the customers and keep it fresh for us, too,” said Morales of his culinary vision. “I’m very excited to be here in Bethany. I want to show people what we can do.”
The menu also includes an array of seafood specialties, ranging from the Fins’ Shellfish Pasta, Spanish Seafood Paella and Balsamic Glazed Salmon to some of the usual seafood suspects, including fish-and-chips, both fried shrimp and fried oyster dinner platters, and jumbo crabcakes.
While the seafood choices continue onto the sandwich menu to feature the Fins’ Lobster Roll, fish tacos, buffalo shrimp and fried oyster po’ boys, and more, there’s also plenty of sandwich and entrée choices for land-lovers, with dishes such as Chicken Marsala or center-cut filet mignon, honey bourbon chicken sandwich, half-pound burger and a full menu of soups and salads.
As always, one of the most popular draws has been the Fins raw bar, offering up freshly shucked selections of oysters, clams and signature shooters cocktails to go along with steamed oyster, clam, shrimp, mussels and combo options as well.
Favorites on the appetizer menu included Fins’ tuna nachos with fresh ahi tuna, house-made guacamole and honey-wasabi aioli; chorizo cheese fries; Fins’ Homemade Crab Dip; flash-fried calamari, oysters and lobster tails; and fried green tomatoes, just to name a few.
Big Oyster brews and more on tap
No matter the menu selection, the Fins team is well equipped to recommend something from the newly revamped wine list for pairing, or one of the local brews from their draft rotation.
There was something on tap for everyone during opening weekend, with selections from Fins’ Big Oyster Brewing Company, such as the Solar Power Belgian blonde Witbier, fruit-forward hopped POW! (as in “right in the kisser”) and traditional throwback Bonnethead Pale Ale.
When the new 15-barrel, 80-seat brew pub launches in Lewes, Big Oyster brews in cans will be available as well.
As for the rising tide, even with the new ventures on the horizon, Hamer and his team are ready to establish themselves as part of their new community in Bethany, the same way they always have before — whether it’s through creating new jobs that can one day become careers or donating to the Fisher House and other military organizations, as they do with their north locations, and “Make a Difference Monday” fundraisers, as they do in Berlin.
“Each community is different and has its own needs. That’s always an important part of our mission is to give back,” said Hamer. “We feel like the more ventures we get into, the more jobs we can provide the community. A lot of our general managers now started off as bus-people or dishwashers. Everybody works their way up.
“We’re a family. People stick around for a long time. We offer plenty of opportunity for growth, and we like to promote from within — that’s one of our philosophies,” added Rovinske. “‘Fins fam for life.’ That’s the motto.”
Fins Ale House & Raw Bar is located at 33544 Market Place, south of Bethany Beach. The restaurant is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner and will stay open year-round. For more information, visit their website at www.finsrawbar.com or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/finsalehousebethany, or call the restaurant at (302) 539-3467.