Before Garrett Petters agreed to partner with chef Eric Morris on a new restaurant in New Albany, he had two conditions.
“As long as you are open to changing the concept and the name,” Petters recalled saying in a recent interview.
Morris, who opened Gospel Bird on Main Street in New Albany, originally planned to open a restaurant called Concrete Jungle about a block away at 324 E. Main St. Concrete Jungle was slated to be a street food restaurant that featured African, Asian and American cuisine.
Now, however, the building is under construction to become Hull or Highwater, a moderately priced seafood restaurant and bar.
Petters, who has long had a passion for seafood, said Morris offered him a stake in the business just as he was expecting to accept a job at a new restaurant opening in Louisville, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to focus on seafood once Morris agreed to his terms.
Seafood’s “a niche that’s not really here,” he said.
While Louisville’s restaurant boom gets lots of spotlight, New Albany (and Jeffersonville) have built up their own strong culinary scenes. New Albany has Brooklyn and the Butcher (which Petters helped open), Floyd County Brewing Co., Taco Steve, Dragon King’s Daughter, Israel’s Delicias De Mexico Gourmet, and Gospel Bird, among others.
“New Albany has treated us really well,” Morris said. “Here a lot of people don’t want to leave New Albany, and they really stay close to town and support local.”
Morris described Hull or Highwater as chef-driven but “approachable, affordable and fun.” Prices will be lower than those at Gospel Bird, which range from $5 for an appetizer to more than $20 for some entrees.
The menu will feature items such as low-country boils, a variety of raw oysters, po’ boys, fish and chips, hush puppies and a catch of the day. On the bar side, Hull or Highwater will serve frozen cocktails as well as buckets of domestic and regional craft beers.
Petters said they want to promote responsibility farmed fish and be able to let customers know where the fish on the menu came from.
Morris estimated that the restaurant is no more than 40 days from opening. On Wednesday, construction workers were squaring up the kitchen before equipment can be moved in.
Building owner Steve Resch — who also owns the Gospel Bird building, among numerous others — is investing in the building renovations, Morris said. Hull or Highwater also received a $50,000 small business loan from the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County that will help pay for equipment.
The inside is small and will be filled with two-top tables that can be pushed together for larger dining parties. A mural will cover the interior wall and play into the nautical theme. Petters said they also are hoping to get some boat parts as well.
Most of the seating will be outside on the rooftop bar and on the patio, part of which they hope to enclose during winter. Hull or Highwater is expected to seat around 160 total between its indoor and outdoor dining areas.
Hull or Highwater will open at 4 p.m. for dinner seven days a week and will likely open for lunch in the future as well, Morris said.