A pearl of a Northern California restaurant, Tony’s Seafood, returns on March 1 after renovations — more of them than originally foreseen — under the management of Hog Island Oyster Company. Hog Island took over the Marshall, CA business in spring 2017 and ran the restaurant as it was for the summer, then kicked renovations into high gear during fall and winter 2018. Now a new menu and revitalized space await Tony’s regulars and newcomers alike.
The history: Croatian immigrant fisherman Anton Konatich opened Tony’s in 1948. Over the years, it grew famous for barbecued oysters — some says Tony’s even invented the dish.
“Everybody who’s lived out here has been to Tony’s over the years,” says John Finger, co-owner of Hog Island Oyster Company, whose farm is nearby. “It has a certain place for us.” When Tony’s third-generation proprietors approached Hog Island seeking a buyer, “we almost had to do it,” says Finger.
But after decades perched just over the water at 18863 Highway 1, Tony’s building “needed a lot of TLC.” Inside, the restaurant’s original wood panelling is still in place, but refurbished. Meanwhile, new windows and insulation ensure that “in a storm, it’s a much more comfortable place to be [than it was].”
Finger and his Hog Island co-owner Terry Sawyer, two Marine biologists, started planting their Pacific oysters in 1983, later opening a picnic area and bar for shucking and grilling them at their Marshall Farm (up the road from Tony’s) in 1989. They’ve since expanded to restaurants, with one in the Ferry Building in 2003, and one in Napa’s Oxbow Public Market in 2008.
Tony’s will give the Hog Island team a chance to serve items they don’t elsewhere, like fish and chips, a Dungeness crab roll, and a Stemple Creek burger. A sample menu from chef Matt Shapiro (Wise Sons, Walzerwerk, Schmidt’s) is below.
Of course, “oysters are still gonna be a big part of what we do,” including the barbecue variety. Tony’s “BBQ’d oysters” with house-made sauce and garlic butter are served four per order for $16. To drink, the bar stocks a selection of beer and wine from California and beyond.
Another snazzy feature of the new restaurant: Tony’s back room, previously given over to its grill, is now open for seating (the grill has been moved to the kitchen). There’s added space for bout 25, which can be rented for events in conjunction with a backyard seating area for indoor-outdoor dining.
Starting March, 1 Tony’s hours are Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., with more days and hours to come.