In RI, Monica and Nick Gillespie’s clam shack doubles as Dune Brothers

In a recent wide-ranging interview, the Gillespies told me about the next phase of their business, which includes the opening this summer of a fish market and restaurant on Ives Street in Fox Point (in the former Like No Udder vegan ice cream spot). ).

The market will feature some of Dune Brothers’ usual products, including lobster rolls, fish and chips and their original fish sandwich. But it will also feature a range of dishes they’ll be serving on the restaurant side, which Nick Gillespie says will show off a “sexier Dune Brothers.” The restaurant will be run entirely by Luke Mersfelder, the acclaimed chef who recently helmed the kitchen at Bywater in Warren, RI (and earned a spot as a James Beard Awards semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurant category in America).

Jose Morales, manager of Dune Brothers, says customers shouldn’t forget underutilized species such as seals, sea seals, rock crab, whiting and “squid.”

Mersfelder “has really improved his fishing skills. On the market side, we are very excited to start cutting fish, making sausage and doing things differently,” said Nick Gillespie, who previously worked in fine dining. “Luke is going to make a pretty spectacular tackle box. He has 10 million ideas.”

Luke Mersfelder, the former executive chef at Bywater in Warren, RI, will soon run the fish market and restaurant at Dune Brothers in Providence.Matthew Healey for The Boston Globe

Monica Gillespie said what’s fresh on the market will determine what the restaurant side will serve.

The market will have 18 indoor and 32 outdoor seats with a takeout window, where the couple plans to eventually offer a separate late-night menu. Think: freshly made fish and chips at 11pm

The market also accepts EBT cards. Nick Gillespie explains how this could help Dune Brothers “create a market” for species like rock crab. “A family of four, who doesn’t have a lot of money, could go to the store and buy some stone crab — which is pretty cheap at less than $2 a pound — and have some crab cooked.”

The Fox Point location complements the raw bar they plan to offer at Track 15, Providence’s food hall in the former Union Station building that will open in 2025.

When the Gillespies opened Dune Brothers in 2017, Nick Gillespie said he “never expected to sell 400 pounds of dogfish a week,” but found success by emphasizing sustainable fishing practices and educating the public about several local species. After a while, his customers started asking where they could get the fish served in the fish hut.

That kind of store didn’t exist, so now they’re trying to create it.

“Our goal is to keep Rhode Island seafood in Rhode Island for all the chefs, and then be able to sell Rhode Island seafood out of state so the fishermen can get paid,” he said. “We have a business and need to make money. But there is a bigger mission that keeps us going, and that is what we are completely focused on right now.”

That’s why Morales is also working behind the scenes to build and run the company’s new wholesale seafood division, in an effort to streamline the supply chain to support the local economy.

For example, much of the squid harvested in Rhode Island must leave the country for processing before returning to Rhode Island to be prepared and served in local restaurants. That journey through the global supply chain drives up prices, but the money doesn’t go to the fishermen who caught the squid in the first place, or to the restaurants that use it in dishes.

“We want to help bring Rhode Island seafood to all Rhode Island stores and restaurants, but eventually expand to Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland,” said Morales, who previously worked for corporate seafood houses. “Dune Brothers can be the connector of this concept of ‘pier-to-plate.’”

“And that’s not just good for us. That is good for local fishermen, who deserve a better reward for their catch,” said Morales.

This story first appeared in The Food Club, a free weekly email newsletter about food and dining in Rhode Island. Are you already a member of the club? Check your inbox for more news, recipes and features in the latest newsletter. Are you not a member yet? If you would like to receive it by email every Thursday, You can sign up here.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at [email protected]. follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.

Back To Top