Welcome to the new world, fish fans: You’re suddenly swimming in seafood markets, with more on the way.
If you’ve shopped for food in Charlotte long enough, you know the lack of fish markets was a common lament. For years, you usually had two options: Supermarkets, with mostly previously frozen or prepackaged fish, or international markets, where there are tanks of live fish but ordering can be intimidating.
“I was surprised there were no fish shops and no butchers,” says Larry Mesiti, the owner of Deep Sea Seafood Market, who moved here from New Jersey. He changed that by opening his own shop in 2013.
In Birkdale Village, newcomer Tyrian Blue opens this weekend (find details on Facebook) and seafood dealer Michael LaVecchia is making plans to open a new retail shop in Dilworth later this summer, to replace his original Meat & Fish Co. that was in 7th Street Public Market.
To test the waters, we strolled through three local shops this week. While prices are higher than supermarkets, you also get more information on where (and just as importantly, when) your fish was caught.
Bill Ryan, owner of Clean Catch, is coming up on his fifth anniversary in August, making him the old-timer now in fish shops.
His model – pristine fish at premium prices – seems to be working.
“We have a diverse clientele who know amazing fish,” he says.
Like a high-end jewelry store, Clean Catch doesn’t display prices. Instead, there’s a big board listing where he gets his catch, flown in overnight from locations as far as New Zealand.
“Our model runs a little differently,” he says. “We don’t do the local thing.”
Prices ranged from $38.99 for U-8 dry-pack scallops (U means “under,” so that’s less than 8 per pound) to $45.99 for Copper River salmon.
Carolina Fish Market
In the Cedar Walk shopping area in Ballantyne, it’s tough to spot Carolina Fish Market, around the corner from Cast Iron Waffles. That should get easier soon: The small shop is moving to a larger space nearby and opening a second location, in the SouthPark area near Original Pancake House, in six to eight weeks.
In the meantime, Carolina definitely does the local thing, promising all East Coast wild-caught fish.
A price check turned up East Coast grouper for $18.99 a pound, N.C. flounder for $19.99, and shrimp from Charleston and Top Sail for $13.99.
Deep Sea Seafood Market
Deep Sea Seafood Market has made its name for both fish and prepared food. The small market includes lunch, with housemade sandwiches and soups (including stunningly good New England clam chowder, $3.99 a cup).
Mesiti gets fish from the coast if he can, but casts his net wider, too.
“I get it from wherever it’s best,” he says.
Prices ranged from $22.99 for U-10 dry scallops and $13.99 to $16.99 for wild-caught Gulf shrimp.
One of his most popular sellers is Scottish salmon, for $16.99 a pound.
“We tend to like the Scottish better (than wild),” he says. “It’s more buttery tasting. The wild salmon tends to be drier and meatier.”
See what we mean about information? That could catch on.