CATSKILL — Flood or fire, a popular village restaurant keeps landing on its feet.
Frank Guido’s Port of Call, at 7 Main St. in Catskill, has partially reopened after a freak fire disabled its kitchen before Memorial Day weekend.
Port of Call shuttered before lunchtime on May 25 after firefighters from the Twin Counties extinguished a blaze that started in a wall behind the kitchen stove.
“It’s going to be a while before we get the main kitchen going and fully back to operation,” Guido said, noting the damaged custom-made hood and walk-in cooler, smoke-damage repair, discarded inventory and other rebuilding tasks. “These things just don’t happen overnight.”
In the meantime, Guido is setting up a temporary kitchen under a tent outside, with a limited menu that includes barbecue, clams, oysters, non-steamed lobsters and shrimp. The full bar and dining room are open.
“We don’t even have French fries,” Guido said. “We made a nice tomato and cucumber salad and macaroni salad. We still have the view, food and service and we lowered our prices because of the inconvenience.”
The restaurant, which has a Memorial Day to Labor Day season, took a hit on missed holiday crowds.
“I was concerned with my staff,” Guido said. “The fire put 33 people out of work going into the busy time of the year.”
All employees are now back to work with no layoffs, running food from outdoor tents into the dining room, he said.
The restaurant has been operating as Port of Call for 10 years under the ownership of Frank Guido and his son, Mark.
“We had two devastating floods,” Guido said. “After Irene we had to knock the whole building down; then we were hit by Sandy. We were worried about floods — and then there’s a fire.”
Guido thanked the Catskill Fire Company, which arrived within five minutes of the report on May 25, he said.
Catskill Fire Department Assistant Chief Patrick McCulloch was on nozzle duty that day to extinguish the fire, he said Tuesday. The fire wasn’t visible from the outside but after prying apart the sheetrock, a ball of fire poured out, he said.
After an investigation, McCulloch and the Greene County Fire Investigation Team found the fire sparked when heat from the fryers smoldered behind the wall near the cooking line.
“It was very strange,” McCulloch said Tuesday. “I’ve never encountered a fire happening like this. The radiant heat was just high enough for embers to smolder behind the wall.”
In the morning when staff turned on the fans, the air fueled a perfect storm.
“It was unintentional,” McCulloch said, adding that, fortunately for the renters living in apartments above the restaurant, the fire didn’t ignite when the place was closed for the night. “They had everything to prevent it from happening but it just happened.”