Pier W celebrates 50 years of superior seafood

Since 1965, Pier W in Lakewood has been a seafood destination for special occasions. On May 11th, the restaurant will mark its 50th anniversary and it seems there is no shortage of memories to be shared about the iconic dinner spot on Lake Erie.

“We’re 50 years and still going strong,” says general manager Mark Kawada. “We’re having some of the best years of the restaurant’s history and it’s great to be a part of it, and great to hear the stories.” Only a handful of area restaurants have the bragging rights to 50 years in business, he says.
 
Kawada recalls a man who recently came in for brunch and brought in a Polaroid photo of himself and his prom date from 30 years ago. “That happens all the time here,” he says.
 
Although the world has changed in 50 years, Pier W has kept up with the times while maintaining its commitment to fresh seafood in a beautiful setting. “Back then we didn’t have social media or a ton of websites that review you,” he says. “And people have a fascination with food now. When times were tough and most people pulled back, we didn’t pull back. We have to stay true to who we are and what we make.”
 
What they make is fish that is handled only seven times or less before cooking – the average restaurant serves seafood that has been handled an average of 100 times before it is served – by sourcing it from places like Copper River Salmon in Alaska or tuna over-nighted three times a week from Hawaii.
 
“We get fish in almost every day and when we say we get all of our fish in whole, we get it quicker and we get it fresher,” Kawada explains. “We have a whole cooler with running water and we cut all of our own fish. It does make a difference.”
 
Executive chef Regan Reik is an expert in sustainable seafood, building relationships directly with the fishermen who fish responsibly. The same practices hold true for Pier W’s meat and chicken.
 
The commitment to quality is what has kept Pier W going for five decades. “How we evolved, even in slow times, is we’ll spend the time and money to do it right, because it’s the best,” Kawada says. The restaurant closed for a year about 10 years ago for a $4 million remodel.
 
Yes, a lot of practices have remained the same. “We have the same bouillabaisse recipe we made 50 years ago,” Kawada says. “A lot of things are old school, the same way we did it 50 years ago.”
 
Yet a new generation of regulars come to Pier W every day, as well as folks who have been coming for the past 50 years.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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