Jodi and Brian Harsany of Cosmo's Restaurant and Bar in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Jodi and Brian Harsany of Cosmo's.
The namesake of Cosmo's restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Cosmo's namesake, Cosmo.
By John Mullen
May 24, 2018 - Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) - Brian and Jodi Harsany have built a solid reputation for community involvement in more than 20 years of being in the restaurant business in Orange Beach.
But there’s a really good reason for that, Brian says.
“We’re just very fortunate and happy the locals have been in our favor, the community,” Brian said. “People say ‘you do so much for the community’ and I say because the community does so much for us. If we take care of each other then we’ll all be all right.”
Harsany was relaxing in the bar area of his iconic Cosmo’s restaurant on Canal Road, the flagship of the five restaurants he and Jodi now own in the city. They took over the Ivan-ravished courtyard-type building in 2006 and built it into an icon of the Gulf Coast culinary scene.
“It was empty and a bakery café before that,” Brian said. “It opened just before Ivan. Everybody struggled that winter after Ivan because there was so much destruction. It sat empty from the fall of ’04 until we came in in May of ’06.”
Brian had managed Bayside Grill at Sportsman Marina for more than 10 years in his first job at the beach. He left there to enter a partnership that lasted just seven months.
Chicken Roulade from Cosmo's Restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Brian's favorite, Chicken Roulade.
“When I stepped away from that partnership I didn’t have any plans but took our ideas that we had sort of come up with back off the shelf and started talking about it,” he said. “I had three ladies three straight days say something about this spot. I think there’s something to it when three people who don’t know each other say ‘you ought to go check out that spot.’”
They named their new place after one of their pets, Cosmo, and the restaurant took off. Cars spilled out into the roadsides, grassy areas and even parked across the street to cross busy Canal Road to get at the tasty fare coming out of Cosmo’s kitchen.
The secret to this rousing success?
“I don’t know,” Brian said with a laugh. But he knows how he wants his restaurants to operate and believes it is usually something as simple as doing things right.
“I think we did really well with executing and people knowing that our hours were going to be consistent, our food was going to be consistent and our service would be consistent,” Brian said. “They know what product we give and feel very confident whether or not to recommend it or when they come in themselves they are going to get what they expect.”
He and corporate chef Jack Baker have worked together since the mid-1990s and the recipes they have forged have proved popular and developed loyal followings.
Banana-leaft-wrapped sea bass from Cosmo's Restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Cosmo's banana-leaf-wrapped sea bass.
“Our guests aren't happy if we take any items off the menu,” he said with another laugh. “There are many lunchtime guests we take a menu to just as a courtesy. If a particular server waits on them they just verify they are going to eat their usual and then they go place the order. Some people haven’t deviated in years from what they order here.”
One of the most popular dishes sort of happened by accident. Our Banana-leaf-wrapped fish would vary the, based on what was available.
“A local chef mentioned how he enjoyed the sea bass in banana leaf and it made the list of 100 things to eat in Alabama, before you die.” Brian said. “If we deviated people would get upset about it so now it’s always sea bass.”  It comes rubbed with a special blend of herbs and seasonings, wrapped in banana leaves and baked. It’s served with house rice and lemon garlic asparagus.
But it’s not Brian’s personal favorite. In a world of seafood along the beachfront, he’s just not a big seafood guy.
“It’s not my thing,” he said with a shrug. “I’m not a real big fish guy. I love fishing, I’ve always worked in seafood restaurants. It’s just not my favorite.
“My favorite’s the chicken roulade. It’s a gruyere cheese asparagus rolled up and wrapped in bacon with a sage and leek cream sauce and parmesan risotto.”
Pecan-encrusted redfish from Cosmo's Restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Pecan-encrusted redfish from Cosmo's.
You’ll find plenty of delicious seafood from pecan-encrusted redfish, Cosmo’s famous crab cakes or even Alabama-raised catfish. But if you prefer barnyard fare try Brian’s favorite chicken dish or you can get a tender filet or ribeye cooked to order.
The redfish is encrusted with chopped pecans and Japanese breadcrumbs, lightly sautéed and topped with meuniere sauce. It comes with “dirty” risotto and lemon garlic asparagus. You have the option of adding sautéed crab meat on top.
You’ll find traditional fried seafood of any variety as well as po’ boys and other sandwiches at Cosmo’s. Check out Cosmo’s page on the Orange Beach Community Website.
Cosmo’s also has an extensive sushi menu that’s served all day on Saturday and Sundays and starting at 3 p.m.
In the offseason, a regional menu lets the kitchen stray from the popular menus to offer up some variety for the fall and winter.
Sashimi roll from Cosmo's Restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Cosmo's sashimi sushi roll.
“We have a lot of fun in the fall and the winter running our regional menus because it allows the chefs to really explore some new cuisine,” Brian said. “We have through the years added items to the menu through those regional menus just because of the popularity of them in just a two- to three-week period. One of them being the redfish.”
Back to the community theme, recently they, along with several other businesses on the coast, were involved in the Paw Ball with the Orange Beach Police Department Benevolent Association to raise money for another canine officer. The event at the Perdido Beach Resort raised more than $20,000.
“It was a huge success,” Brian said. “We gave them a check for $20,000. I believe our goal was $16,000 for a new canine. This will make sure that no canine officer has to work extra shifts.”
The Harsanys also own and operate Cobalt at Perdido Pass, GT’s by the Bay also on Canal Road and Luna’s Eat and Drink and BuzzCatz’s Coffee and Sweets in the Cosmo’s courtyard.