C&S CHOWDER HOUSE
written by JENNIFER COLOSIMO
photos courtesy of JEFF MOORE; GREEN OLIVE MEDIA; ANNA BOOTH
WITH THREE MINI BOWLS OF CLAM CHOWDER UNDER MY NOSE, I picked up my spoon but hesitated. Should I satisfy my curiosity to compare the traditional, creamy version to the hundreds I’ve had before it? Or, slurp unbiased from the rich, red Manhattan-style serving or first sample the light, herby Rhode Island concoction? Honestly, I cannot remember which I tried first or savored most, or if I’ll be able to choose between the trio next time. Luckily, there’s the option to order a sampler of all three. As for the rest of the menu, the guys running this place know a thing or two about creating the perfect recipe from nostalgia, family history and an appreciation for locality. Anything you choose whisks you away to feeling like you’re toes-in-the-sand on Cape Cod.
Co-owners Jon Schwenk and Rich Clark opened Roswell’s C&S Chowder House last year following other successful ventures, C&S Seafood and Oyster House in 2007 and Hugo’s Oyster Bar in 2013. Friends since the ‘90s and business partners for more than a decade, they’re seasoned veterans when it comes to serving seafood. Schwenk, from Long Island, was quite literally raised in the restaurant business by his French-immigrant grandparents. To say he is no stranger to seafood, cream sauces and vegetables in bounty is an understatement. Conversely, Clark was raised in Clayton County and introduced to the world of produce on his grandfather’s farm, eating the things his family grew or bagged on a hunt. Although he wasn’t raised in the business, he has an intrinsic appreciation for how the business runs. Together, Schwenk and Clark run their businesses well.
“If there was ever a good way to tell if you’re going to be good working together, spend every day and all evening with someone,” said Schwenk, who met Clark when they worked together at Brassiere Le Coze. “After a lot of hours together, we both knew we shared the same vision and the way we like to do things. I like things in food that he likes, the kind of service he likes to give.”
That vision offers patrons of Chowder House an experience that is lighter and beachier, but heavily influenced by traditional New England-style fish houses. There’s a unique French spin on the way each dish is curated – think rich beurre blanc sauces, fresh herbs, steamed mussels with cream, lemon juice and shallots – and an overall focus on serving something different.
“When people come in, I want them to see things that they haven’t experienced before,” said Schwenk. “Soft shelled steamer clams from Maine. They’re very fragile and they’re expensive. You see them all over New England, and they’re expensive there as well, but it is not something you see in the South.”
Something else we’re not seeing a lot of is less emphasis on local.
“More important than using locally grown items is for us to use the best product from indigenous areas,” Clark explained. “For example, Bluefin from Maine, lobsters from Maine, black grouper from the Gulf of Mexico, domestic shrimp…”
You’ll also see oysters in abundance, monkfish, scallops, swordfish and clams … lots of clams.
“I want the guests to leave thinking that this was some of the best seafood they have ever had,” Clark said.