For local businessman Larry O’Connor, providing high-quality seafood and the best cup of coffee are the hallmarks of his adjoining storefronts in Woodstock.
A Tale of Two Businesses
When Larry O’Connor opened his business, he did it for the love of fish. Today, he’s in it for the love of seafood and a great cup of coffee. The former owner of All Seafood in Woodstock now runs Two Tails Market/Eatery and Java Planet Coffee/Internet Café fronting Route 14 and Lake Shore Drive in Woodstock.
Back-to-back businesses, with a hallway connecting the two, allow customers to enjoy both. “On our special nights we fill up both sides,’” O’Connor said, standing in front of freezers filled with crab legs, salmon – even lobster tails from Australia – just a sample of what customers can choose from to take home.
What began as just a fresh seafood market located on Route 47 in-town expanded into a restaurant with a gourmet seafood chef.
“This was all kind of started because we like fish,” O’Connor said. “We like fish and we like good quality fish. After awhile people started requesting that we cook them items.’’
The new location, at 2400 Lake Shore Drive, allowed O’Connor space to build a seafood market/restaurant and a coffee house. "It was a building that needed to be built out,’’ he said.
Unique Taste, Unique Ingredients
The key to quality seafood meals is simple, O’Connor said. It starts with the best fish and ends with proper preparation. “We advise people how to cook items, how to prepare [them],’’ he said.
For the simplest at-home seafood meals, Two Tails Executive Chef Eric Miller prepares Take & Bakes – complete dinners you simply put in your oven. It’s the easiest way for people to have gourmet- style seafood without care, O’Connor said.
“The fish comes out perfect, the veggies come out not soggy but firm,’’ he said of Take & Bakes, like salmon, walleye, scallops, grouper, tilapia or cod. “For people who are a little hesitant about cooking fish this is a no- brainer,” he said.
All-you-can-eat specials offer customers shrimp on Thursday, fish fry on Friday and crab legs on Saturday. Seafood soups are also on the menu, with daily fresh New England Clam Chowder and specials like smoked trout with rice. A lunch menu features sandwiches, including seafood sandwiches like spicy grouper or Shrimp Po’ Boy and the Two Tails Angus Burger, with lunches from around $5 (around $9 with fries or homemade chips).
Every dish is unique and made to perfection, Two Tails manager Dwayne Scott said. When the chef creates a dish, it is a one-of-a-kind treat for diners, he said. “If we create a dish it has a unique taste with unique ingredients,’’ Scott said.
On the market end, special orders for seafood can be made by calling, stopping in or going to www.seafoodbynet.com.
“If you call today there’s an excellent chance we’ll have it tomorrow,’’ O’Connor said.
Two Tails offers a night out with the promise of another quality seafood meal in, Scott said.
“You come in, you can have dinner and choose seafood for the next day,’’ he said. Customers can also walk out with a gourmet cup of coffee.
A Quality Cup O’ Joe
Bethany Wilson knows the names of customers who frequent Java Planet. As manager of the establishment, she makes it her business to make every guest feel at home. “We have a morning group that meets every day,’’ said Wilson, taking a minute to say goodbye to a customer.
With vast space filled with inviting couches and plenty of tables, the café has quickly become a favorite meeting spot for locals and passersby.
“We’re on a highway so we’re easy access,’’ she said. “We get a lot of people from Wisconsin who stop in. It’s just a really nice ambiance – very welcoming. I know what people want even before they walk in the door. We try to make everyone feel welcome.’’
As sure as customers know they’ll get a warm greeting, they also know a good, hand-ground cup of coffee awaits them, she said.
“We’re quality coffee,’’ Wilson said. “We grind it and we hand steam.’’
The coffee comes from Conscious Cup in Crystal Lake, where Wilson used to work. She says she simply loves coffee.
“I have a huge passion for coffee,’’ she said. “I love everything there is to do with coffee and know everything about it. How it tastes really depends on the area [the beans] are grown in. The coffee flavor picks up from the terrain. Customers love the fact that they can ask questions and we can provide the answers.’’
Barista’s Choice coffees, like White Chocolate or Lavender Latte, are Java Planet specials, with the Lavender coffee “like drinking a flower,’’ Wilson said.
Java Planet customers can also sign up to perform at the café on Spirit of the Arts Sundays, with open mic for musicians, poets, comedians, actors, singers and visual artists performing at 2:30 p.m.
With plenty of space for meetings and studying – a magnet for McHenry County College students to gather – Java Planet offers the ``fastest hot spot’’ for internet service in the area, she said. And a drop-off window for high-tech devices is located in the cafe, with an expert from Other World Computing on hand to check-out problems and if needed send them out for repair.
“That’s something else unique we offer,’’ Wilson said.