On a slow day, Jimmy Cantu likes to experiment in the kitchen of Pier 36 Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar, the Gulf Coast seafood restaurant he opened in Richmond more than 10 years ago.
“I like playing in the kitchen,” Cantu said. “I’ll get back there and cook lunch and maybe try different things [to] create new items.”
However, that does not happen often as Cantu usually is too busy running his restaurant to experiment much anymore—a state of affairs he is happy to experience.
“We have been very fortunate [because] we have a loyal customer base,” Cantu said. “Sales have been steadily building every year, some years better than others—although we are always looking to make ourselves better and improve.”
Pier 36 offers an upscale, casual atmosphere with classic Gulf Coast seafood, such as Gulf fish and shrimp, domestic catfish and local crab meat, as well as a full bar and happy hour specials Monday through Friday. Photos of best catches from customers line the walls of the nautical-themed eatery, which has become a staple in the community. Cantu said he knows most of his customers and meets new ones as the Richmond area grows.
“I’m born and raised in Richmond, so I guess I’m kind of the hometown boy,” Cantu said. “But as the area grows, obviously lots of new people move [here.] Richmond has changed and grown by leaps and bounds—we are just trying to grow with the area.”
From a business perspective, Cantu said managing labor and his employees is one of the biggest challenges he has faced.
“Labor is probably the biggest issue in any small business, especially one that’s so labor intensive as a restaurant,” Cantu said. “I depend on a lot of people. There’s a lot [of] moving parts, there’s a lot of personalities, everybody’s motivated differently. Trying to create a team that all [has] the same goal in mind and get them behind you and your business and your passion [is a challenge.]”
Cantu said Pier 36’s best-selling dish is the seafood platter because it has a little bit of everything. His personal favorite is the shrimp Isabella, a grilled shrimp dish covered with white wine sauce he named after his daughter.
Even with management staff, Cantu said he still works full time, although lately he has been taking more time off to spend with his daughter before she goes to college. Cantu said in another five years, he expects to open a second location in Fulshear or Cinco Ranch.
“I stand behind what I do because I have so many friends and family and people that I know in the area,” Cantu said. “We are here to serve and we try to do our best to take care of the local people and to support the local economy.”
Pier 36 Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar
1410 E. Hwy. 90A Ste. 200, Richmond
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., closed Sundays