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@Work: Angry Nate's

Oct. 12, 2007 — Angry Nate's, an informal waterfront seafood house, joins the pantheon of places to go on Christiansted's boardwalk.
Housed in the Holger Danske Best Western Hotel, Nate's is the latest creation of west end restaurateurs Chris Stone and Brian Mika, owners of Aqua West, the casual dining spot above Turtle's Deli on Frederiksted's Strand Street. After almost two successful years there, they've developed a loyal following among their local, snowbird and seasonal tourist clientele.
"When Anton and Eva Doos, who run the hotel, told us this space might be available, we jumped at the chance," Stone says. "Anton runs the culinary program at (St. Croix) Educational Complex, and Chef Mika has been very happy with some of the culinary program students he's hired. They're great people. It's a perfect location on the boardwalk in a venerable and successful hotel."
Stone has been busy since April with renovations to the restaurant and its kitchen. He put down terrazzo tile throughout the dining room, restored the slate tiles around the old bar and repainted the interior a warm yellow in keeping with many of the old buildings in town.
"The terrazzo has a timeless appeal and a simple, comfortable elegance that suits almost any space, I think," Stone says. "Also, we're really happy to be displaying the work of several local artists. Barbara Gilardi is hanging some of her fantastical watery scenes and mocko jumbies, Glenn McBeath has several works hanging and several really nice stained-glass pieces from William and Lisa Kuntz of Sparkling Waters Glassworks hang in the windows as enormous suncatchers. They are all for sale, and if other artists want to do the same, come on down and show us what you have."
The place has a kind of a dual personality, Stone says. On the one hand, it's inviting and elegant, and the service is being run by very experienced fine-dining professionals. On the other, it's a tropical seafood and drinking house with a very irreverent tone.
"As you look in the warmly lit door and windows onto the boardwalk at night, and see linen napkins and clothes on the tables, the art on the walls and in the windows, you'd think, 'This is an expensive fine-dining establishment,'" Stone says. "And you can absolutely have a wonderful meal with attentive service with us. But we are going to try to keep more affordable than many places on the island and we want you to come and relax on the water with a drink and a bite after work, too."
In keeping with the casual, nautical side to the place, Stone has procured a small replica of a colonial-era cast-iron cannon.
"You better believe it works, too," Stone says. "We're going to announce the beginning of happy hour every afternoon at four with a bang."
In keeping with the location and theme, there will be a lot of seafood.
"We're located right there on the docks, where charter fishing boats bring in their hauls daily," Mika says. "So the fresh fish of the day will be heavily dependent on that. On the menu we're going to feature a mix of some really traditional seafood house fare like broiled or fried fresh catch of the day, old-school shrimp cocktail and standards like that, along with trendier, more creative cuisine like wasabi crusted tuna, blackstrap mahi and the like."
Mika believes the key to good food is good ingredients, and the best quality is usually found closest to home.
"I like to use fresh local produce whenever possible," Mika says. "Several places here are growing very nice stuff that will enhance anyone's menu. I need sources that are very, very reliable, though, and that can be an obstacle to overcome sometimes. Hopefully more farmers will follow the lead of Southgate Farms and Creque Farm with very high-quality, fresh local produce."
The two are starting gently with a soft opening to work out all the kinks. Then there will likely be a grand opening.
They are looking for solid restaurant professionals, and they encourage anyone with good credentials to stop in.
"As we get established, work out the kinks and build up the staff with good people, we plan ultimately to serve three meals a day, seven days a week, so the hotel guests and everyone else needing an early or a late bite always have a place to go," Stone says. The restaurant's affiliation with a successful, consistently busy hotel works well for both restaurant and hotel, he says.
"We're also the closest place outside of Seaborne's seaplane," Stone says. "We'd like to encourage folks waiting for the seaplane to pop over for a quick bite or beverage, too. Out the Seaborne gates, step onto the boardwalk and we're the closest restaurant just a few steps up on the right. You can watch the game on TV instead of watching your fellow passengers wait."
Natives of Williamsburg, Va., Stone and Mika have known each other since high school and worked in the restaurant business together going back to their teenage years in the 1980s. Despite living thousands of miles apart for the ensuing two decades, they kept in touch over the intervening years. Brian pursued a culinary career and Stone worked in finance, becoming a venture capitalist and restaurateur after coming to St. Croix.
Mika came to the Virgin Islands first, arriving on St. Croix about five years ago. Williamsburg is a place fueled by historical tourism, with restaurants and hotels the obvious place for a young man to look to make a living. But in '91, seeking a new direction, Mika decided to pursue culinary arts seriously as a vocation. With a little saved up waiting tables and a lot of student loans, he moved to Hyde Park, N.Y., to attend the Culinary Institute of America, the premier U.S. school for chefs. Since graduating in 1993, Mika has worked in some of the best kitchens in the country, including the five-star and five-diamond Inn at Little Washington under celebrity chef Patrick O'Connell.
"O'Connell was inspirational to me," Mika says. "He started on a shoestring way out in the Virginia countryside, and on the basis of good-tasting, creative food and a strong focus on the guest's happiness, he drew people out of the city to him. It's a great example of, ‘If you build it, they will come.'"
After his stint at the Inn at Little Washington, Mika worked as executing — or sous-chef — at fine-dining establishments in New Orleans, West Palm Beach, New York and on cruise ships in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
He has opened restaurants for others more than once, including the Mahogany Room at Carambola here on St. Croix. Stone came to St. Croix to visit Mika in 2005. Liking what he found here, he left his career in finance, packed up and moved to the island in April 2006.
"It's a cliche, I know, but to live here and make a living by having a good time every day is living in paradise," Stone says.
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Oct. 12, 2007 -- Angry Nate's, an informal waterfront seafood house, joins the pantheon of places to go on Christiansted's boardwalk.
Housed in the Holger Danske Best Western Hotel, Nate's is the latest creation of west end restaurateurs Chris Stone and Brian Mika, owners of Aqua West, the casual dining spot above Turtle's Deli on Frederiksted's Strand Street. After almost two successful years there, they've developed a loyal following among their local, snowbird and seasonal tourist clientele.
"When Anton and Eva Doos, who run the hotel, told us this space might be available, we jumped at the chance," Stone says. "Anton runs the culinary program at (St. Croix) Educational Complex, and Chef Mika has been very happy with some of the culinary program students he's hired. They're great people. It's a perfect location on the boardwalk in a venerable and successful hotel."
Stone has been busy since April with renovations to the restaurant and its kitchen. He put down terrazzo tile throughout the dining room, restored the slate tiles around the old bar and repainted the interior a warm yellow in keeping with many of the old buildings in town.
"The terrazzo has a timeless appeal and a simple, comfortable elegance that suits almost any space, I think," Stone says. "Also, we're really happy to be displaying the work of several local artists. Barbara Gilardi is hanging some of her fantastical watery scenes and mocko jumbies, Glenn McBeath has several works hanging and several really nice stained-glass pieces from William and Lisa Kuntz of Sparkling Waters Glassworks hang in the windows as enormous suncatchers. They are all for sale, and if other artists want to do the same, come on down and show us what you have."
The place has a kind of a dual personality, Stone says. On the one hand, it's inviting and elegant, and the service is being run by very experienced fine-dining professionals. On the other, it's a tropical seafood and drinking house with a very irreverent tone.
"As you look in the warmly lit door and windows onto the boardwalk at night, and see linen napkins and clothes on the tables, the art on the walls and in the windows, you'd think, 'This is an expensive fine-dining establishment,'" Stone says. "And you can absolutely have a wonderful meal with attentive service with us. But we are going to try to keep more affordable than many places on the island and we want you to come and relax on the water with a drink and a bite after work, too."
In keeping with the casual, nautical side to the place, Stone has procured a small replica of a colonial-era cast-iron cannon.
"You better believe it works, too," Stone says. "We're going to announce the beginning of happy hour every afternoon at four with a bang."
In keeping with the location and theme, there will be a lot of seafood.
"We're located right there on the docks, where charter fishing boats bring in their hauls daily," Mika says. "So the fresh fish of the day will be heavily dependent on that. On the menu we're going to feature a mix of some really traditional seafood house fare like broiled or fried fresh catch of the day, old-school shrimp cocktail and standards like that, along with trendier, more creative cuisine like wasabi crusted tuna, blackstrap mahi and the like."
Mika believes the key to good food is good ingredients, and the best quality is usually found closest to home.
"I like to use fresh local produce whenever possible," Mika says. "Several places here are growing very nice stuff that will enhance anyone's menu. I need sources that are very, very reliable, though, and that can be an obstacle to overcome sometimes. Hopefully more farmers will follow the lead of Southgate Farms and Creque Farm with very high-quality, fresh local produce."
The two are starting gently with a soft opening to work out all the kinks. Then there will likely be a grand opening.
They are looking for solid restaurant professionals, and they encourage anyone with good credentials to stop in.
"As we get established, work out the kinks and build up the staff with good people, we plan ultimately to serve three meals a day, seven days a week, so the hotel guests and everyone else needing an early or a late bite always have a place to go," Stone says. The restaurant's affiliation with a successful, consistently busy hotel works well for both restaurant and hotel, he says.
"We're also the closest place outside of Seaborne's seaplane," Stone says. "We'd like to encourage folks waiting for the seaplane to pop over for a quick bite or beverage, too. Out the Seaborne gates, step onto the boardwalk and we're the closest restaurant just a few steps up on the right. You can watch the game on TV instead of watching your fellow passengers wait."
Natives of Williamsburg, Va., Stone and Mika have known each other since high school and worked in the restaurant business together going back to their teenage years in the 1980s. Despite living thousands of miles apart for the ensuing two decades, they kept in touch over the intervening years. Brian pursued a culinary career and Stone worked in finance, becoming a venture capitalist and restaurateur after coming to St. Croix.
Mika came to the Virgin Islands first, arriving on St. Croix about five years ago. Williamsburg is a place fueled by historical tourism, with restaurants and hotels the obvious place for a young man to look to make a living. But in '91, seeking a new direction, Mika decided to pursue culinary arts seriously as a vocation. With a little saved up waiting tables and a lot of student loans, he moved to Hyde Park, N.Y., to attend the Culinary Institute of America, the premier U.S. school for chefs. Since graduating in 1993, Mika has worked in some of the best kitchens in the country, including the five-star and five-diamond Inn at Little Washington under celebrity chef Patrick O'Connell.
"O'Connell was inspirational to me," Mika says. "He started on a shoestring way out in the Virginia countryside, and on the basis of good-tasting, creative food and a strong focus on the guest's happiness, he drew people out of the city to him. It's a great example of, ‘If you build it, they will come.'"
After his stint at the Inn at Little Washington, Mika worked as executing -- or sous-chef -- at fine-dining establishments in New Orleans, West Palm Beach, New York and on cruise ships in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
He has opened restaurants for others more than once, including the Mahogany Room at Carambola here on St. Croix. Stone came to St. Croix to visit Mika in 2005. Liking what he found here, he left his career in finance, packed up and moved to the island in April 2006.
"It's a cliche, I know, but to live here and make a living by having a good time every day is living in paradise," Stone says.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.