Reporting Jay Lloyd
A statue in tribute to the iconic fish monger is part of the lore and legend of Dublin. Molly Malone, cast in bronze and pushing her cart of fin food, along with some cockles and mussels, is a centerpiece of the Irish capital’s upscale shopping district. Molly represents the spirit of those who labor in the world’s fisheries. She is the direct contact with both the people who risk lives to catch the fish and those of us who consume it. So go ahead and offer a tip of the bonnet to some of our region’s most shopped fish mongers. – Jay Lloyd
You want fresh? How about black bass swimming around in a large tank with a butcher behind the counter ready to filet or slice the one you point a finger at? That’s Assi Market for you, a superstore of everything Asian, where prices are more Chinatown than suburban town and the seafood section ranges from the popular to the exotic. There was freshly filleted flounder at $5.99 a pound last week alongside high-grade tuna for home sushi chefs. Check out the cooler behind a sign that says, “Just dead lobsters.” At $2.99 a pound, these crustaceans are a rare find for stir fry dishes.
It’s convenient, and it’s practically on top of a commuter rail hub that connects city and suburban counties. It’s the venerable Reading Terminal Market, and it boasts — not one, but three — amazingly versatile fish mongers. Roam between John Yi Fish Market, Golden Fish Market and Wan’s Seafood. Between the trio are live lobster tanks, live Dungeness crabs, an array of mollusks and a dazzling display of Atlantic and imported fish. Get there early enough to watch the butchers create steaks and filets while browsing colossal shrimp and planning your grand seafood buffet. Just don’t forget to bring a cooler bag.
Until I began hanging around the Chesapeake Bay, this was my go-to place for live crabs by the dozen, by the bushel. Suburbia Seafood goes back so far in Norristown area history that there isn’t a Bubba within 20 miles who hasn’t shopped there. The people who run this place know every fin food cookery trick in the book. They’re forthcoming with advice, and so much fish moves out of here that it has to be fresh. If it’s locally available, Suburbia has it. If you’re not much of a cook but have a seafood craving, Suburbia will cook your seafood up for takeout or you can pull up a chair and eat it right there. While this store is just off Route 202 at Bridgeport, it’s not easy to find — better consult the GPS.
In Delaware and Chester Counties, it’s a case of the fish monger coming to the customers instead of the customers schlepping all the way to the fish monger. As a virtual wagon train of city dwellers moved deeper into the suburbs, business got so booming that Hill’s moved right along with them, opening four locations. The emphasis for more than three decades was on fresh seafood not long out of the sea, but with more demand for prepared food, Hill’s began breading and cooking to fuel intimate dinners or cocktail parties. Tip: The chowders here get rave reviews!
Various Locations in PA & NJ
Wegman’s offers the most dynamic supermarket seafood section imaginable. Ice-packed tables crowd the floor studded with whole halibut from Alaskan waters and razor-toothed monkfish from the Atlantic. There’s farm raised bronzini for Mediterranean cooks and a spread of live oysters, clams, cockles and mussels. Behind the counter are steaks and filets. The scallops are plump and fresh. A live lobster tank is always full and lobsters frequently find themselves on sale for $7 a pound. A separate counter holds a full range of seafood that’s already breaded, crusted or bacon wrapped, ready for cooking without the time-consuming prep work. Wegman’s is a one-stop shop where everything you need is within a quick stroll with the shopping cart.
If it’s locally caught, it probably jumped right off the fishing fleet tied alongside the Lobster House’s dock. A trip to the Jersey Shore for us has always included a cooler and a final stop before hitting the Garden State Parkway at this Jersey fishery landmark. Local flounder, blue fish, sea bass and scallops fill the market display cases. The price for fish caught in New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland waters reflects the short distance from dock to market, but the Lobster House casts a wide net with Maine lobsters, grouper from warmer climes, Chilean sea bass and gulf shrimp. If you can’t wait to dig in, it’s all served up fried, broiled or sautéed next door at the restaurant or, during warmer months, on the deck.