Photography by Kathy Tran.

On the wall of the recently opened Fish City Grill at Preston-Royal hang 12 orange life preservers. 

They’re not an unexpected choice of décor for a seafood restaurant, but they have a deeper meaning. Twelve people were in the restaurant when the tornado blew through our neighborhood in 2019. 

The storm made a direct hit on Fish City Grill, which was closed for two years and three months. 

“Customers would always be calling and asking, are we going to reopen? Yes. When are you going to reopen? And we’d give them the best guess that we could,” says Bill Bayne, the restaurant co-founder. 

Those questions were always followed by another inquiring about whether specific team members would be there. Many of them returned when the restaurant reopened in January. 

Bayne and his wife, Lovett, started their restaurant chain in 1995 with Half Shells in Snider Plaza. Five years later, the first Fish City Grill opened in Flower Mound. The second Fish City Grill opened four years later at Preston-Royal. 

“The Preston-Royal location is a location we’ve been looking at for years, just hoping for an opportunity to come along,” he says. 

For Bayne, working in restaurants was a way to help offset expenses while a student at West Texas State University. He waited tables, tended bar and as a senior, he was manager of an Amarillo seafood restaurant. 

A little later, he was general manager of Nate’s Seafood in Addison. That’s where he met Lovett. He hired her as a waitress.

“Lovett has been my partner, and is a partner in every sense of the word, all along as far as the creation of the company and helping it get to where it is,” Bayne says. She retired a few years ago as the “director of happiness,” and during her stint, was leading staff training and was a key player in the construction and design of the restaurants. 

The Preston-Royal location was the most profitable and had the highest sales among all Fish City Grill restaurants before it was demolished. Now that it’s back, Bayne says it has already become a popular watering hole for our neighborhood. 

Located in a space a few doors down from the original, it’s just big enough to accommodate a few more tables.

The new restaurant has a free-standing bar, a change from the last iteration, which had one anchored to the wall. Also, the space has more of a coastal feel but keeps the dark woods and bricks from the original store. 

“I think we’ve done a good job of, had you been a customer of that restaurant, you would walk in and feel comfortable recognizing some of the touch points and some of the colors, but also appreciate that it’s been updated and there’s new things to look at,” he says.

One of those things is a mural painted by local artist Nataliya Plambeck, who has been working with the Baynes since 2016. 

Loyal customers will also see the chalkboard on which the restaurant staff writes daily and monthly specials. Chalkboard items account for around 30% of each store’s sales.

On the regular menu, neighbors will find traditional seafood dishes such as shrimp and grits, fish and chips, fish tacos, garlic-caper grilled salmon and more. 

The most popular appetizer is oyster nachos, which feature fried oysters, chipotle tartar sauce and fresh pico de gallo.

“It’s a unique appetizer that’s kind of become what we’ve been known for because it’s not only unusual but it’s extremely good,” Bayne says.

In earlier years, the menu was developed by Bayne and kitchen staff. They later hired a corporate chef and occasionally work with consulting chefs. The person who’s leading menu development now used to be the manager at the Preston-Royal store. 

Margaritas are the best-selling drinks, but the restaurant also offers a selection of local craft beers, wines and handmade cocktails, familiar concoctions with Fish City Grill’s spin.  

All of it is priced so neighbors can afford to dine there two or three times each week.

Fish City Grill works to ensure quality and consistency in food and service, as many restaurants do. But Bayne says what sets the restaurant apart is the way team members treat each other, customers and vendors.  

“We truly believe in that. We think our customers feel it. Our team members certainly feel it,” Bayne says. “For whatever that’s worth, that is our secret sauce, and that’s what we focus on. If we get that part right, it makes it easier for everything else to fall in place.”

Fish City Grill, 10720 Preston Road, 469.620.3474

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.