Tastemakers 2017: Ian Holmes of Coastal Local Seafood
Why He's a TastemakerIan Holmes is the go-to seafood guy for many of the city's best restaurants, including The Sycamore, La Tavola, Skillet, the recently closed Alana's and A&R Creative Group restaurants such as Hoof Hearted Brewery & Kitchen. As more chefs favor sustainable, farm-to-table methods, Holmes is helping them do “pier-to-plate.” While many restaurants are OK with a B product as long as it's consistently available, Coastal Local caters to chef-driven restaurants that want A+ quality and are nimble enough to roll with whatever's fresh that day.
The Accidental EntrepreneurAfter driving a delivery truck for another company and seeing seafood stored in a warehouse for days, Holmes realized there had to be a better way. Four years later, Holmes still has no warehouse. He talks directly with the guys on the docks—think big beards and heavy Boston accents—to get the day's haul. Within 12 hours, Holmes is backing his truck up to theirs in a Columbus parking lot and delivering to top kitchens around town. About 90 percent of his seafood comes from the North Atlantic, but Coastal Local also gets Ohio trout, Lake Erie walleye, Gulf shrimp from Louisiana and snapper from Florida.
What the Chefs Say“First of all, he's the nicest guy,” La Tavola's Rick Lopez says. “Second, his product and prices are superior. He talks directly to the people catching the fish.” When ordering for the weekend, Lopez asks, “What's the freshest thing you got?” That becomes chalkboard specials such as yellowfin tuna with roasted tomato pesto, oven-baked clams with pancetta or monkfish fra diavolo.
Most Underrated CatchDayboat cod. “Cod gets a bad rap,” Holmes says. “But if you get it fresh, you don't need to batter and fry it.” The mild whitefish is a perennial favorite at La Tavola. Lopez does it simply with tomatoes, capers and olives or a saffron-orange butter.
Do Oysters Like a Pro“My rule of thumb is whichever coast you're closer to, order those,” Holmes says. Another tip, based on a recent tasting event that paired oysters with everything from wine to bourbon? Skip trendy rosé and sip a glass of Champagne. (Given that Holmes is a pretty unpretentious dude, we're definitely trying this soon.)
What's NextHolmes is writing a business plan for an oyster bar of his own—“something tiny in an old brick building with a little bit of character,” he says. Expect craft beer, maybe some lobster rolls. But don't expect inflated prices. “A buck-a-shuck is not unreasonable,” he says.
Previous gigs: Local musician, seafood delivery truck driver
Must-have ingredient: Lemon
Go-to drink: Bourbon
Favorite dinner spots in Columbus: The Sycamore and La Tavola
Favorite oyster: Connecticut Bluepoints