There’s a new restaurant in town, and it’s owner Jeremy W. Ganter says his goal is to provide something new, never seen before in the Thousand Islands.
At The Osprey Public House, located alongside Route 12E between Clayton and Cape Vincent, Mr. Ganter said he’s focused on offering fresh, dynamic Southern-inspired food in a clean, bright atmosphere.
Mr. Ganter, who was born and raised in and around Watertown, spent his entire professional life working in restaurants and hospitality, from busser to bartender, server to manager, in New York and Florida. Like many people, especially those working in the restaurant industry, Mr. Ganter’s entire professional life was upended in March of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. hard.
“COVID was terrifying at first,” he said. “And me and my wife didn’t want to be stuck in Orlando, Florida with everything going on.”
Mr. Ganter, his wife and daughter decided to move back to New York, where their families live, and chart a new path forward.
He said he didn’t even plan to get back into the restaurant business when he returned to New York, but after moving into a house nearby, he and his wife kept seeing the vacant building at 8353 County Route 9, where the Osprey Public House is today.
The building has been home to many well-known restaurants over the years, and its most recent iteration, Ray’s Pub and Grub, was closed in 2019. Mr. Ganter said he and his wife decided to look at the building and see what it looked like inside. Once he stepped in through the doors, his vision came to life.
“I was still hesitant until I walked in and looked at the building,” he said. “Then I realized, it was going to take a lot of effort on our part to clean it up.”
Mr. Ganter’s vision called for a redesign of the entire restaurant. Flooring was redone throughout, walls were removed, windows were refinished and the buildings two bathrooms were split into four individual, accessible restrooms. Breaking from the norm, Mr. Ganter followed a farmhouse theme, as opposed to the nautical focus that he said can be found at many local restaurants.
“I started looking around, ideas just came into my head,” he said. “Take this wall out, put a bar in this space, put seating here and here and here. It just kind of snowballed.”
Mr. Ganter interviewed two chefs to run the kitchen, and hired Chef John Robson after he produced a concept menu for the space that he liked. Mr. Ganter and Mr. Robson worked together to create the menu offered today.
“The food is geared towards Southern comfort food, Cajun cuisine,” he said. “Chef John actually spent quite a few years in North Carolina, so he has that Southern style under his belt.”
The Osprey Public House’s menu includes oysters rockefeller and steamed mussels among its appetizers. There are also a variety of sandwiches, crawfish cakes, shrimp and grits, a seared duck entree, and flatbread pizzas. For dessert, you can find classic New Orleans beignets, sweet potato pie and bananas foster.
With his background in bartending, Mr. Ganter said he was excited to craft cocktails with ingredients that haven’t been seen before in the region. On their signature cocktail menu, there’s a rum-based drink that’s smoked with maple wood chips, a gin-forward beverage with house-made strawberry simple syrup, and a classic whiskey cocktail, the Toronto, created in the 1920s.
“In the kitchen, we use fresh, as farm-to-table ingredients as we can get,” Mr. Ganter said. “I do the same thing with the cocktails, farm-to-glass.”
He said he’s inspired by a desire to get people to taste new flavors, new combinations and ingredients they’ve never experienced before.
The restaurant is open year-round, seven days a week. They offer their usual menu from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every weekday, and brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, before reverting to their usual menu until 10 p.m.
The restaurant also features a large private room for parties, and Mr. Ganter said he is interested in offering catering services in the future as well.
“It’s been quite an amazing experience,” he said. “Doing different cuisine, which isn’t really up here, we didn’t know what to expect. But it’s been great, the response has been fantastic and people are really enjoying our food.”