Story & photos by Patrick Alexander
Oregon Coast TODAY
Anyone dining at The Deep End Café cannot help but notice the large portrait of a man with a steely gaze keeping silent vigil at the end of the bar. That is Johnny Crowe, aka: Deep Sea John, a man who never got into deep water without a plan.
That’s a philosophy shared by owner Charlotte Boxer, who manages the restaurant with the same strategic vision that she has brought to her more-than-40-year career in commercial real estate lending.
“When I told my friends I was opening a restaurant at my age, they told me I was going off the deep end,” she said.
But for Boxer, the move was a return home. She grew up around restaurants, helping out in her parents’ establishment from the age of 13 until she went off to college, where she waited tables to help pay tuition.
For years, while working her way up the corporate ladder, Boxer scoured antique stores for nautical-themed dishes, chandeliers and other fixtures that fitted her vision of the restaurant she knew she would one day own.
And it was on one of these antiquing trips that Boxer was introduced to Crowe and his wife, Patty — who shared a passion for everything nautical and the life of the restaurateur.
The couple went on to mentor Boxer on how to run a restaurant as she set about remodeling the former Quimby’s building, which sits across the street from the Newport Performing Arts Center, just yards from the Pacific Ocean.
Crowe also lent his woodworking skills to the effort, crafting a set of distinctive tables from ships’ hatch doors and fashioning a glass-topped bar to display a wealth of treasures from Boxer’s beachcombing trips.
The nautical theme runs throughout the restaurant, with a series of marine murals from Lincoln City artist Donna Seeto alongside historical pieces, such as a sign for the Sea Rock brand of crabmeat that used to be canned nearby.
“It’s important for me to have a fun kind of light-hearted visual in the restaurant along with the food,” Boxer said.
Throughout the whole process of renovating, opening and running a restaurant, Boxer has continued to work at her Portland bank three days a week in order to balance the books.
That financial stability has paid off, with The Deep End Café retaining all the core staff members who were on board when it opened in December 2013.
Among those is chef and kitchen manager Felipe Reyes, who presides over a menu that leans heavily toward fresh seafood but also features a range of burgers, salads and pasta dishes.
“We are proud of our fresh ingredients,” Boxer said. We make our soups, salad dressings and sauces from scratch. When possible, we buy our fish from our commercial fishing fleet here.”
The restaurant sources grain-fed, hormone-free meat from a farm outside Eugene and buys produce from the Newport Farmers Market, with kitchen staff even making their own chips from Yukon Gold potatoes.
When it comes to bestsellers, the starter is a toss up between the lightly breaded calamari, the fresh Manilla steamer clams and the West Coast oysters.
For the main course, though, there is no competition — the crab and shrimp macaroni cheese wins hands down.
And dessert options include the house specialty, a marionberry cobbler made from scratch with fresh berries.
“We have people tell us that they’ve had marionberry cobbler at literally hundreds of restaurants and ours is one of the best,” Boxer said.
A full bar offers a wide range of wine, spirits and craft beers, with several draft taps set aside exclusively for beers from Pelican Brewing.
Through her bank, Boxer financed several of the Pelican’s projects in Pacific City and, in doing so, became close friends with Pelican owners Jeff Schons and Mary Jones, who were happy to pass on a few tips as Boxer began her own enterprise.
“They were instrumental in mentoring me in the early days,” she said “As you can imagine, it’s a very steep learning curve.”
In tackling the task, Boxer has used the same management strategy that has served her so well in the banking world — hiring good staff and empowering them to do their jobs. While Reyes takes care of the kitchen, dining room manager Tiffany Fanning makes sure all guests feel welcome, from couples to families and even dogs, who are seated al fresco on the pet-friendly patio.
One day, Boxer said, she will leave the banking behind and live at the coast full time but until then she looks forward to every day she gets to spend at The Deep End Café.
“I am the happiest when I am here at my restaurant,” she said.
The Deep End Café is located at 740 W. Olive Street in Newport and is open from 11 am to 8 pm Wednesday to Thursday; 11 am to 9 pm on Friday and Saturday; and 11 am to 8 pm on Sunday for fall and winter hours.