Against the Current

In her professional life, Morgan Castillo says she has taken two big leaps of faith. The first was purchasing The Tin Fish Newburgh in 2007, becoming the fourth owner of the coastal-inspired fish joint that originally opened in Newburgh, Indiana, in 2005 at 300 W. Jennings St. The second was moving Tin Fish to a new location in Newburgh at 707 State St. almost one year ago.

The new restaurant offers more space for customers and the kitchen, with open seating areas on the main level and upstairs, a full 18-seat bar, and a fresh, new look designed by Lamar Architecture and Design and contracted to Mominee Design Build. As customers enter Tin Fish, they are welcomed by a floor-to-ceiling pink salt wall that wraps around the stairs leading to the upstairs dining room. On the main level, the dining room is a wide-open space with table seating, bright blue booth seating, counter service like in the previous restaurant, and the bar.

Elements like the menu and casual coastal feel, however, have remained unchanged. Castillo says she has worked hard to keep the heart of everything her patrons have loved about Tin Fish over the last almost 15 years but also elevate some aspects with the creation of the new location.

“We tried to keep it feeling like Tin Fish, so we’re using the same tables, we have chairs that are the same, our logo is the same, and glassware — we have all that,” says Castillo. “But we did make certain changes to take it up one little bit.”

A new feature at Tin Fish is an oyster bar built into the blue and white oceanic bar top. At the previous location, customers had only one option of oyster available (Blue Point oysters), with all the oysters shucked in the kitchen. Now, oysters are always on display at the bar and shucked to order in front of customers. Blue Point oysters are the mainstay, but since reopening, Castillo has brought in about a dozen different oyster varieties.

The classic fish and chips remains the most popular dish with three pieces of flaky cod coated in a cracker meal breading and served with Tin Fish’s hand-seasoned criss-cut fries, house sweet and sour slaw, and tartar sauce made from scratch. Other popular options are the cod fish sandwich or grilled mahi mahi on tacos, sandwiches, platters, or a house salad. Castillo, though, has been surprised with customers’ appetite for raw oysters and more daring dishes.

“People are starting to get adventurous, and that’s really nice,” she says. “We’re seeing a greater interest in enjoying the raw oysters as part of their meal. We make sure we do specials on Fridays and Saturdays, and we’ve been doing some unique stuff. People are just gobbling it up. They’re really enjoying the diversity.”

Over the years, Tin Fish has stayed true to its coastal roots — while not a chain, Newburgh’s Tin Fish is inspired by the family of Tin Fish restaurants started in San Diego — and shaken up Midwestern assumptions about fish, like that it must be fried to taste good. Everything on the menu can be ordered using fresh, grilled fish.

“I had a guy come in yesterday, and he was like, ‘So I can’t do fried food. Is there anything I can eat?’ I replied, ‘Yes, the whole menu,’” says Tin Fish’s General Manager Catherine Travers. “That’s one of the biggest misconceptions.”

Travers first became a loyal customer of Tin Fish when she would go on walks in downtown Newburgh. She would stop in for a blackened salmon taco, glass of wine, and long chat with Castillo. Ten years later, she decided to join the team, coming on as general manager in April last year.

“I saw the amazing things she was doing and wanted to be a part of it,” says Travers. “People are so excited when they walk in and see the place, and I’ve gotten a lot of, ‘It doesn’t even feel like you’re in Newburgh. It kind of feels like you’re somewhere on the coast.’”

While Castillo has been careful to not throw regular customers for a loop in the new location, she does have plans for change in the future. Currently, the restaurant has been testing a brunch menu that will be offered Sunday mornings beginning early this year with items never served before at Tin Fish.
“It’s going to be a mix of classic brunch items and some seafood mixed in, like a surf and turf omelet and crab cakes benedict,” says Castillo. “Another thing is our cocktail selection. We’re working on always making sure we’re having up-to-par cocktails and running a cocktail menu with different items. Those two are our main focus right now.”

At the bar, some of the most popular drink orders are the lemon drop martini and old fashioned. Bartender Tavo Gonzalez has worked to create cocktails that pair well with the fresh seafood menu, selecting drinks to accompany food specials on Fridays and Saturdays. The bar area also offers a few tables where customers can sit and enjoy full table service, rather than ordering at the counter.

“A lot of people still think that Tin Fish is the same thing it used to be, and it isn’t,” says Gonzalez. “Now The Tin Fish has grown when it comes to food and seating. There’s more space, and we want people to know we have a complete full bar so they can come in and enjoy the bar and have a good night and a good dinner.”

Another change on the horizon is a fresh seafood market Castillo plans to open by Ash Wednesday in the corner of Tin Fish’s building. While it won’t be a part of the restaurant, the market will be owned by Castillo and work in collaboration with Tin Fish.

The biggest change she hopes to bring, however, is growth in Newburgh. By opening the restaurant on the corner of State Street and Sharon Road, Tin Fish is pushing the boundaries of downtown Newburgh’s shopping and dining district and putting a foothold farther north. Castillo’s dream is to see that area develop and flourish.

“There’s such an uptick right now in town,” she says. “A lot of things are changing, a lot of things are progressing, and it’s a beautiful sight. We’re just hoping we are a staple and a positive presence here in town and help the town progress to the best it can be.”

Location: 707 State St., Newburgh, IN
Phone: 812-490-7000
Dining Hours: 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
Adult Beverages: Yes
Prices: $15.95-$4.25
Payment: All major credit cards accepted

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