For the past 25 years, Nick and Peggy Sorise have been proud owners of the Fenton Hotel Tavern & Grille. Formerly named the Fenton Hotel, it was first built when the railroads came to Fenton in 1856. The couple purchased it in 1997 and looking back over the last 25 years, they have seen many changes. Today, they strive to keep the popular dining institution relevant for its customers.
“In 2006, we re-named the restaurant and remodeled,” Nick Sorise shares. “We wanted it to have a more casual feel. Fenton has changed tremendously over the past 25 years and we wanted to meet the needs of our customers.” Gone are the white linen tablecloths, he points out, and the formal dining room and menu offerings are more casual.
The addition of the very popular outdoor patio at the Fenton Tavern & Grille occurred in 2016, which created seating for 40 guests. Other recent updates inside include new planked flooring in the grill room and the private room.
We wanted it to have a more casual feel. Fenton has changed tremendously over the past 25 years and we wanted to meet the needs of our customers.
Sorise admits to going through some challenging times over the years. On Easter Sunday in 2017, a fire tore through the kitchen causing extensive damage. They reopened in September 2017. The shutdown during the pandemic was another challenge, as it was for most businesses. Rising costs and supply issues have been a more recent problem.
What the restaurant is known for is the delicious food. Gradual changes have been made to the menu, including the addition of three more salads. There are also two new potato side dishes, including the yummy Hotel au gratin potatoes with jalapeno. Customers can enjoy a variety of fresh fish on the menu prepared six different ways – sautéed, char-broiled, blackened, cedar planked, pecan-crusted or broiled. “Fresh fish is the heart of our menu,” says Sorise. “Our motto is ‘serve fresh food’. When it’s gone, it’s gone.”
A longtime favorite that has remained on the menu are the fried frog legs, which are served all-you-can-eat on Wednesdays and made from a secret recipe. Other classic favorites include Oysters Rockefeller and baked escargot. “We give our patrons a lot of choices,” states the owner. “Our most popular entree is the lake perch. People just love our lake perch!” Diners also enjoy the rich and creamy shellfish bisque made with lobster, crab and clams.
Sorise is proud of the 40 employees who work hard to provide an enjoyable dining experience for their patrons. “Roger Throneberry has been the head chef for the last 25 years and does a fantastic job!” he exclaims. Derek Clemens, Jr. has been the sous chef for the last five years. “They work like a team back there and Manager Mark Dietrich has done a really great job in such a challenging time.”
The bar, which is managed by Steve Taubitz, is a great place to unwind after a hard day’s work. Something new in the “libations department” is an innovative slushie machine. The flavors change with the season, such as Moscow Mule and Watermelon Diablo. There are 12 draft beers on tap, a nice wine selection and cocktail specials.
During Happy Hour, which is available Monday-Friday from 4-6pm, you will find specials on cocktails, draft beer pints and wine. The Happy Hour menu changes daily and offers a variety of appetizers such as peel & eat shrimp, baked potato skins and warm pretzel bites served with Guinness dip. There is also a variety of Early Bird dinners such as Perch Romano (seared ocean perch encrusted in Romano cheese and topped with a lemon white wine butter sauce). “You don’t have to come here and spend a lot of money,” Sorise says.
The Fenton Hotel Tavern & Grille continues to offer entertainment at the piano bar Wednesday-Saturday. The featured band for September is Bon Dion.
Sorise has enjoyed serving the community over the last 25 years and the most important thing to him is the customers. “The customers have been great!” he exclaims. He is now seeing the kids and grandkids of longtime patrons bringing their families to enjoy a meal. “This is very special to me. They have supported us since day one. We work hard to stay relevant and give our customers what they want.”