BROOKLYN — California sustainable seafood chain Slapfish wants to open its first New York City eatery within the next year amid a larger push into the region — starting with a pop-up dinner in South Williamsburg this week.
Chef Andrew Gruel, who started Slapfish as a food truck in Huntington Beach, has opened seven outposts of the fast-casual seafood restaurant over the course of a few years. The New Jersey native is now looking to expand, with plans to open more than 50 eateries in the tri-state area.
Slapfish's menu of items like chowder fries and fish tacos will be standard across the country, but Gruel's goal of using sustainable and well-managed seafood means that East Coast menus will feature fish from the Atlantic instead of the Pacific.
Eventually, Gruel wants Slapfish to be as ubiquitous as chains like Chipotle, he said.
"[Slapfish] really makes seafood sexy again," he said. "It’s our goal to get people to eat more seafood."
The company is working on franchising deals in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with the hope of opening multiple spots at once in the next few years.
Gruel did not yet have a location picked out for a potential New York City spot, which he wants to debut in the next year.
In the near term, Slapfish will continue hosting pop-up dinners in the city to get people acquainted with its food.
The Loosie's Kitchen pop-up menu includes tuna salad and vegetable crudite, fries smothered in clam chowder and bacon, a lobster burger, a squid dish and fish tacos.
All the seafood comes via a partnership with Sea to Table, a company that connects local fishermen to chefs.
Tickets to the Tuesday pop-up cost $70, but individual menu items at regular Slapfish locations will have lower pricetags, Gruel said.
Most options cost between $8 and $14 and are intended to buck the "white tablecloth seafood norm," he said.
"It's pretty scaleable. That's why we're ambitious and ready to get into New York," Gruel said. "We're really redefining casual seafood."