A friend in Gearhart who I trade “Have you eaten here yet?” information with recently made a strong case for a new place called South Bay Wild Fish House in Astoria.
“Everything is wild caught,” he said. “You’ve got to try the tacos.”
I don’t get to Astoria anywhere near as often as I’d like; Astoria, in my opinion, is a perfect city because it’s close, it has a scenic waterfront, and there are sea lions. It is also alive and vibrant with a happening and diverse food scene, unique shops, and enough bars, brew pubs, coffee houses, and galleries to support a burgeoning population of artists, young entrepreneurs, and young professionals.
South Bay Wild, Inc. is one of the newer businesses to stake a claim in Astoria. They are a small, family owned and operated commercial fishing vessel, harvesting and marketing high quality sustainable seafood using the triple bottom line approach; when the boat’s not in the water, you can find it parked at the West End Moorage Basin. The restaurant and market where they sell their bounty is located at 262 9th Street, Astoria, just off Commercial Street. There’s a sign outside that says Fish House. You can’t miss it.
Mr. Sax and I started with the crab cake appetizer, two meaty crab cakes accompanied by a small load of fresh arugula and red pepper salad that was plenty to share. I am fussy about my crab cakes and these did not disappoint.
I was sorely tempted to sample one of the daily specials, that day poached Willapa Bay oysters or steamer clams, but I remembered my Gearhart pal’s suggestion and ordered the fish tacos, which came three to a plate. Each taco was maximally stuffed with delicately fried rockfish, a tangy slaw, and avocado sauce.
Mr. Sax and I could have easily shared one order, the portions were so generous. I’m pretty sure our server was Tiffani Seitz, who owns the restaurant with her fisherman poet husband, Rob. In addition to his life as a commercial fisherman, he’s a regular participant in the Astoria Fisherpoets Gathering, and this September will be traveling to New Bedford, Massachusetts, to headline at the Working Waterfront Festival.
OK, back to the eats. We also ordered beers. I had a Fort George City of Dreams pale ale, which arrived with a frosted glass. Then our server urged us to try the bread pudding. Who says no to bread pudding?
Is it weird to say I almost licked the plate?
I learned from South Bay Wild’s website that 90% of seafood harvested in the United States is exported, and we import 80% of what we consume. Those numbers seem crazy. Who wouldn’t prefer to eat what’s caught a few miles from home?
If you aspire to prepare your fresh caught wild fish at home, the Seitz’s are happy to share their favorite recipes. On the website are recipes for Wild Lingcod Chowder, as well as easy directions how to make your own fish stock. For those interested in a weight-reducing heart healthy diet, check out the steamed petrale sole with uncooked tomato sauce, or simple poached sole; cheese lovers won’t be able to resist the gorgonzola baked lingcod. The recipe for their “Rockin’ Fish Tacos” with Morro Bay avocado sauce is on the site. The secret is marinating the fish for 20 minutes in the refrigerator before cooking it in a chili powder, cumin, ground cayenne red pepper and garlic mixture. Yum.
South Bay Wild Fish House has a full bar upstairs. We went for lunch.
Next time I want dinner.