Gainesville restaurant serves superior seafood with unique twists
Sometimes, after all the customers have left for the day, and the sounds of the busy restaurant are replaced with quiet, Ryan Pell looks around and is still amazed at all she and her husband have been able to accomplish. “All the properties we looked at, the business plan we wrote, and the challenges of the first few weeks after we opened… it’s both surreal and gratifying to look at where we are now compared to where we started,” she says.
Although Out of the Blue is one of the newest dining experiences at Virginia Gateway in Gainesville, it was created by a couple with more than their share of experience in this field. Owners Danny and Ryan Pell opened this modern seafood restaurant as a way of building upon the legacy both their families created many years ago.
Danny’s childhood included learning alongside his father, and then eventually beginning his own career in the business. He began as a commercial fisherman, then moved to being a seafood wholesaler and managing his father’s crabhouse.
Although her great-grandmother passed away when Ryan was very young, Ryan grew up hearing stories about the adventures of operating a restaurant as a woman in the 1960s. This was rare in those days, so Ryan finds inspiration in the fact that women in her family have pursued uncharacteristic careers for their times.
While the character and experience to run a restaurant runs in the family, the Pell couple are most motivated by their children. Both Danny and Ryan desire to show them how hard work, education, discipline, and determination can transform your life in significant ways.
“It’s all about timing,” Ryan says of all the details that just fell into place to make this dream – 10 years in the making at the time – into a reality. The Pells lived in Bristow for a decade and moved to Gainesville almost two years ago. They frequented Virginia Gateway a few times weekly through the years and one day as she was driving past, Ryan saw a sign in front of the former Mimi’s Cafe stating it was available. She immediately called Danny and within a week, they were in the building looking at it for their business. “We are thrilled to be able to do this right here in our own community,” Ryan explains. The space already had a great working structure, so once they officially took possession of the building, it was all about making the vision come to life.
The decor of Out of the Blue is anything but cliche. The corrugated metal walls and the metal chairs and stools are accented by pops of navy blue and hints of anchors and rope. In seeking to create their own identity, Ryan worked with a great contractor who she says put up with her “let’s try this” or “that doesn’t work so we have to change it” decorating technique. The work in progress seemed like a “living, breathing being” she says, so each piece that was put into place provided further inspiration to the rest of the design. The concept was to incorporate what already existed in the space and then make it their own, while ensuring their desire for a comfortable yet energetic atmosphere to enjoy a relaxing dining experience. The result is the perfect combination of modern, farmhouse, and coastal, and truly fits the menu and unique offerings enjoyed here.
Between the Pells, general manager Justin Perroots, and kitchen manager Ralph Green, the team brings over 75 years of experience handling seafood and in-depth knowledge about bringing the freshest, highest quality products to customers. The menu was carefully thought out, and sometimes called for creating multiple versions of a dish until they got it right.
Appetizers range from chicken and shrimp quesadillas, to wings, scallops, oysters, calamari, crab dip, and steamed mussels. The raw bar includes colossal shrimp cocktail, ahi tuna tartare, fresh clams and oysters, ceviche, and seared sesame ahi tuna, as well as the “Family of the Sea.” This grand collection allows seafood lovers to enjoy many of their favorites in one meal.
Fish lovers can enjoy the catch of the day, flounder or salmon, snow crab legs, and steamed blue crabs. Even those without Maryland roots can appreciate the sheer size of the crabs, and generous helping of crab spices. There is no industry standard for crab sizing, Ryan says, but at Out of the Blue, the standard colossal crab size is approximately 7 1/4 inches and up, from shell point to shell point.
If this doesn’t have your mouth watering, take a look at the Crab Cake Bomb pictured. Not only is the crab cake large and seasoned perfectly, it is accompanied by a unique twist of mango salsa with a choice of two sides. This particular dish was Danny’s vision of a 100 percent jumbo lump crabmeat cake with little to no filler. Ryan says it took 25 to 30 prototypes for him to proclaim, “We did it!”
Colossal shrimp, fried oysters, king crabs, lobster, snow crabs, and soft shell crabs round out the dinner menu, but don’t worry – there are also “out of the shell” entrees available. Castaway chicken, filet mignon, and pasta entrees satisfy the appetites of non-seafood eaters. And even young diners can choose their own fish and chips, shrimp basket or more traditional kid menu items.
Be sure to also take a look at the extensive drinks menu to discover a possible new favorite. Ryan’s suggestion is the Out of the Blue Dirty Martini, which is Ketel One vodka with a splash of olive brine, served with three crabmeat stuffed olives and an Old Bay rim. Along with several beer offerings, wine, scotches, whiskeys, cordials, and sparkling champagne are available.
Also, Out of the Blue has partnered with another local company, MurLarkey Distilled Spirits, to offer specialty cocktails using MurLarkey’s high quality, locally sourced, handmade whiskey, vodka, and gin. The Out of the Blue Colada mixes coconut cream and pineapple with a choice of mango, pineapple, strawberry, or blueberry infused MurLarkey vodka.
When asked what in particular people should know about Out of the Blue, Ryan’s response was that the owners and operators truly care about their community. Out of the Blue is invested in the success of other businesses and the experience of their guests. Beyond anything else Out of the Blue offers, the Pells are committed to providing a relaxing and positive experience to all those who visit. They also seek to give back to others by hosting special events like Military Appreciation days. Spring nights on the patio, off site catering events, and private in-house events are also fun ways the community can enjoy Out of the Blue.
On July 17th, Out of the Blue celebrated its one-year anniversary. There are sure to be more celebrations, so do try this unique dining experience right here in our community. Specials include All You Can Eat Blue Crabs for $39.95 and $2 Bud Light drafts all day, every day, so what are you waiting for? Out of the Blue is located at 5005 Wellington Road, Gainesville.