PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

April 25, 2014

Neches River Wheelhouse restaurant opens

PORT NECHES — Colorful umbrella topped tables lend a view of a smooth as glass river in an area that once was home to heavy industry.

The break in landscape is offered by the newly opened Neches River Wheelhouse restaurant, located at 720 Lee St. adjacent to Port Neches Riverfront Park in Port Neches.

Walls with roll-up style doors were open as the first official patrons of the business wandered inside and took a seat on Friday. With 30 minutes to opening  the kitchen staff was a bustle of activity while wait staff began serving those first customers who arrived early.

Bonnie Bond of Port Neches and David Reeves of Beaumont chose a table inside the eatery with a view of the river. They ordered seafood gumbo which features shrimp and lump crab meat.

“It’s a beautiful setting. You can see the river all the way to the bridge,” Bond said.

Reeves took a bite from his bowl of gumbo and nodded in agreement.

“The food is excellent,” Reeves said. “I think they’ll do real good during RiverFest.”

Port Neches RiverFest — held at the adjacent park — kicks-off Wednesday and runs through Sunday and features a carnival, musical entertainment, food, vendors and Thunder on the Neches tunnel boat races.

Lance Bradley, one of the eight local investors who decided to take a chance on a parcel of undeveloped riverfront property with the purpose of constructing a restaurant, sat outside at one of the tables, cell phone in hand.

“I think we all believe this turned out better then we expected,” Bradley said. “It has exceeded our expectations.”

The restaurant is modeled off Stingaree, a restaurant located on Crystal Beach. The owners hope that the restaurant’s novelty is its biggest draw for out-of-towners.

Investors worked with city officials and its economic development corporation in obtaining the property which came with stipulations to protect the city’s interest. City leaders as well as the investors hope the newly opened restaurant will be a catalyst for future development along the river.

That thought isn’t lost on General Manager Aron St. Aubin.

“Expectations are high and business will be plentiful,” St. Aubin said. “We’re ready.”

St. Aubin has been in the restaurant and beer business for 27 years and has opened four different restaurants in the area.

“Obviously this is the first leg on the journey toward a boardwalk and development here in Port Neches,” he said. “I’m proud to be the first business on this land.”

The restaurant is currently operating on a limited menu, at least until after RiverFest. Signature dishes include shrimp and grits and the Jolly Roger which is a po’ boy sandwich.

The Neches River Wheelhouse opens daily at 11 a.m. Sunday through Thursday the restaurant closes at 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday they close at midnight.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews

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