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Feb 22, 2006 09:08 PM

Why are Boston fish markets lame?

  • c

Why is seafood so lame in Boston?

I'm watching "Good Eats" on FoodTV (about flatfish) and see that a Whole Foods market somewhere in the US has a larger and fresher selection of fish than anything I've seen here.

Why do most all markets here only carry the usual fish and shellfish, and why does it look 5 days old?

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  1. Which fish markets have you tried.
    I suggest:
    Captain Mardens , wellesley
    Quarterdeck, Maynard
    Wulf's, Brookline

    1. My favorite place to buy fish:
      New Deal Fish Market
      622 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA
      Hours: Mon 3pm-7pm, Tue-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat 9:30-6:30, Closed Sunday

      A great fish market. Also, another place to try is Courthouse Fish Market, a little further down Cambridge St.

      8 Replies
      1. re: turtl_girl

        new deal good place sushi quality fish love it

        1. re: porkbelly
          A Fish Called Wanda

          I'll third the New Deal suggestion. As long as you stay away from regular supermarkets, Boston has outstanding fish. Try New Deal in east cambridge, Captain Marden's in wellesley, or Fresh pond seafood. All Whole Foods have good fish too, but unfortunately, they don't do the best job scaling, gutting, filleting, etc.


          1. re: A Fish Called Wanda

            I have been exceedingly unhappy with freshness at the Fresh Pond Whole Foods. Don't even bother anymore, although the display invariably looks good.

            Fresh pond seafood is somewhat expensive, but always fresh and perfectly cut.

            1. re: A Fish Called Wanda

              Regular supermarkets can be a good source for some local seafood. I know the MarketBasket chain buys all it's Haddock and other local seafood products from local fish mongers that buy fresh in the morning, and deliver to the supermarket the same day. And I can get Haddock cheaper from MarketBasket than I can from the local fish store that distributes to the local MarketBasket, with the same fish. But if I want BlueFin, or Winter Flounder, I'll order it from my local fish monger.

              1. re: A Fish Called Wanda

                I have been very disappointed with freshness at Whole Foods in general. With the exception of the oysters, I have never had anything from the fish department that wasn't questionable in some way.

                Last time I went into the Woburn location, I picked up some mussels. I asked about the harvest date and I was surprised to hear they were already 10 days out of the water! The guy told me they just got them from the distributor that day and it should be fine - they always carry them that way. I was skeptical but took them anyway. When I took the bag out of my cart 10 minutes later, the reek of ammonia was practically overwhelming (I didn't buy them).

                Seriously - never again. Screw Whole Foods.

                1. re: lisa13

                  Joining the "bad seafood at WF" club. I have gotten more bad seafood from this location over the years and swear off it every time. A year or so goes by and I try again and every time something goes wrong. Last month it was bad littlenecks. Yes, I can get my money back but it's really a pain to have to go back every time. And it is actually every time.

                  I do agree the Boston seafood market situation is kind of lame- to have only 5 decent fish stores to serve a city and suburbs the size of Boston is pretty sad.

                  1. re: Scruffy The Cat

                    I' ve had to get my $ back from crappy fish at Alewife WF.

            2. re: turtl_girl

              Yeah this is *the* place to go to for fish.

            3. I buy most of my seafood at the Brighton Whole Foods Market, and it's just fine. The staff really know their fish, too.

              2 Replies
              1. re: FoonFan

                I concur about the Brighton Whole Foods. Having lived in Pittsburgh I know of the "Strip" Seafood place (named Wooleys by the way) which was previously mentioned. The prices weren't that great and though they had a nice selection of live stock a majority of their product was previously frozen and over priced.

                While living in Pittsbergh I prefered to frequent the Whole Foods there.

                Tam and Jones at Whole Foods Brighton, as well as the other guys, truly know their stuff.


                1. re: FoonFan

                  I also have always been satified with the seafood I buy at Whole Foods in Brighton. They seem to always reasonable quality specimens of what I am looking for.

                2. Fresh Pond Seafood near the Alewife double rotary in Cambridge is good.

                  Did it occur to you that a market being featured on a national food show might make their display look a bit more spiffy for the occasion? I wonder if they have that spread every day...

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: newhound

                    Try Turner's in Melsose. In addition to its restaurant, one can purchase fresh seafood to prepare at home.

                    1. re: Seamus

                      While I like Turner's, its selection is very limited in the market. Just a couple of miles down Lebanon St, in Maplewood Square, is Fisherman's Fleet, which does a gangbuster wholesale business but also has a retail business there except at the beginning of the week.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        I shop at both- but Fishermans Fleet can nbe very helpful on special orders. My SIL has great luck there for seven fishes on New Years Eve.

                      2. re: Seamus

                        Has anyone tried the fish from any of the markets in Chinatown? Many are swimming live in tanks, and others look pretty fresh when i've ventured in. Admittedly, I'm far from a fish expert, but I'd like to hear other's opinions. Sometimes it seems like the ethnic markets have more interesting varieties of good produce... Maybe that extends to fish?

                        1. re: FullBelly

                          While I haven't tried the fish in Chinatown, I just visited the Super 88 in Brighton (or Allston?) and bought some salmon steaks for something like $4.29 a lb. I am extremely fussy about fish - these were divine. Going back for more, when I can - they have a huge selection of fish, including lots I never heard of before.

                          Decided to buy there because the fish looked good & healthy, and there was NO fishy smell - something that makes me run in the other direction. They had the live fish, too - but that makes me run, too (that's a whole 'nuther story - I have two veggie kids, so some of their influence has rubbed off on me - not enough though, I guess!)

                          1. re: threedogs

                            Always ask to smell the fish there. While I have bought fresh fish, i also had to throw some scxallops away several weeks ago, they were horrible. I'm returning a pound of shrimp I bought there yesterday, the stench on opening the bag convincex me to go no further. It pays to be careful there.

                            1. re: galleygirl

                              Thank you so much for the heads up on their fish! Coming in from Lynn, I wouldn't be too happy to have to return something.

                          2. re: FullBelly

                            Fish from the Chinese markets can be quite good, as it's the stuff I grew up on. My parents, being first generation immigration, were extremely pick about their seafood, and ate a lot of it. The difference in shopping habits allowed them to browse the markets daily or every 2-3 days to shop for food for meals. They would buy whatever was fresh and a good deal, not necessarily approaching a store with a fish in mind. There came be some great finds there, but not everything is always top quality. I remember my mom finding everything from squid, crab, flounder to sea bass, and many other varieties I can't name in English.

                      3. I have to agree its kind of lame. Not becuase there's not an abundance of fish, its just always the same fish. Tuna, Salmon, Cod, some trout and maybe a red snapper, that's always the only thing you can find. But is that b/c the fish monger is not interested, or b/c that is all they can sell. I find the same for meats, great tenderloins and porterhouses, but try and find some funky cuts of meat and you have to drive all over. I just don't think most people are that adventursome from a culinary standpoint in this town, present company excluded of course. My 2 cent's. Wolfs in Brookline is my standby, not great, but at least you can get non-cod, salmon, tuna cuts.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: redwine

                          The chicken-egg issue is interesting. One marker of a better stocked fishmonger is whether it has arctic char in season (it's farmed in subarctic ponds (many artificial), so you cannot get it in the months when the ponds are iced up). I love char, and it does not present some of the environmental issues of large-scale sea farming of salmon. And I think it tastes better than farmed salmon. And wild Pacific salmon that has been previously frozen (as opposed to merely kept on ice) is not worth eating for me -- I find the compromise to texture and moisture too much.

                          Another good marker of quality is whether you can get skate on the wing, and that it has been bled properly (also an issue with shark-type seafood and bluefish).

                          And that you can get *dry* sea scallops.

                          Very fresh sardines in season are also a good sign.

                          Does anyone know who carries genuine local bay scallops in season?

                          1. re: Karl S

                            James Hook and Savenors both had the local scallops this season. This year, they went for about $30/lb.