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Deep Sea worth a lunch stop in Charlotte

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/17/14/09/1mzAHZ.Em.138.jpeg|421
    - HELEN SCHWAB
    Blackened snapper with mango salsa.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/17/14/10/wzGjC.Em.138.jpeg|237
    - HELEN SCHWAB
    Grilled tuna with avocado and sriracha aioli.

Deep Sea Seafood Company sells fish. But from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, you can get lunch, too, and it’s worth a stop.

The place is a little storefront in a strip mall out Monroe Road, south of Sardis, and is essentially a big glass case with fresh fish, with a line of cafe tables and chairs opposite it.

Owners Larry and Tracy Mesiti email out the fish lineup and lunch menu each day. There’s usually an entree, several sandwiches of various influences, fish tacos and an entree salad. There might be salmon BLTs or po’ boys, using the usual shellfish or sometimes the less-usual, like alligator sausage.

Prices run about $6 to $10. Soups, from a spicy Portuguese fish stew to New England and Manhattan clam chowders, start at about $4 (cup), $6 (pint) and $11 (quart).

“At first we were trying to do more things,” says Larry Mesiti, “and people were reluctant to try new things. But as people have gotten to trust that our food is really consistent,” they’ve ordered more widely. Seafood lasagna took a few days to sell the first time they made it, and sold out in a day the second time.

Blackened snapper with mango salsa was simply enormous, a thick and perfectly cooked fillet with enough seasoning to pick up the kick, but not enough to make you gasp. I’d have liked a finer chop and a few more ingredients in the salsa, but the sweetness worked well with this simple fish. Also sizable, and excellent, was a grilled tuna sandwich, the fish still bright pink inside and some ripe avocado and sriracha aioli livening up the whole, on a generous bun.

Tuna tacos boasted a lot of meat, chunked and blackened, on flour tortillas, with plenty of red onion and more mango. These needed some moisture, but had good flavor. Only the steak fries – not quite cooked through, though quite brown – disappointed. Go for the slaw instead.

Vintage black-and-white photos involving fish and the catching thereof dot the wainscoted little space.

“I started looking at fish paraphernalia and thought, ‘That’s not me.’ I’m not a hokey person,” says Mesiti. He especially likes the image of “two older gentlemen holding up a salmon – and they’re enjoying life. … That’s what I want it to be.”

Larry had been director of operations for restaurants in Manhattan (after working as a fishmonger in New Jersey in his youth) but wanted to move somewhere less expensive, and ended up in Charlotte about a year ago. Tracy, who’s never cooked professionally, does it here. “My wife calls me The Reluctant Restaurateur,” he says. “I just want to sell fish.”

You order at the counter, the better to peruse the day’s available-to-cook-yourself offerings. One day’s catch (all fresh): N.C. flounder, rainbow trout, king mackerel and bluefish, along with Scottish salmon, Chilean sea bass, grouper, Alaskan halibut, corvina and cod; plus Gulf shrimp, Maryland oysters, New Bedford sea scallops, snow crab clusters and cherrystone clams. These come from area wholesalers from Charleston to Boston, he says.

Deep Sea Seafood Market: 10020 Monroe Road; 704-849-0029; deepseamarket.com . The market is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays, to 5 Saturdays.

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