FOOD ROAD TRIP: FISHMONGERS IN DURHAM NORTH CAROLINA
***Well, looks like this place had more problems than just the food. They are now permanently closed--a good thing. This is now going to open in its place--another seafood restaurant! We'll see how it is whenever I get a chance to get back there.***
Hometowns are usually full of restaurant institutions and Durham is no different. Though when you have limited time you don't always get a chance to re-visit on home trips. But there are also a handful of these places that I never even got to when I lived here way back when. Most of that was do to not really caring too much about what I was eating or looking for something new and different. Foodie, after all, is still a newish term. One spot I never made it to was Fishmongers.
It was one of the first restaurants to open in 1983 in downtown near an area of remade tobacco warehouses called Brightleaf Square. It was all part of a revitalization effort for the area that still seems to be going on today. Here it is 32 years later and the place is still serving up seafood to the Bull City and I figured I'd waited long enough to try the place.
The names a dead giveaway for what they do--seafood. That's the one thing about North Carolina, it has an active fishing industry along the coast just a few hours drive away, thus catches of the day make their way inland on a regular basis. And being this is the South I'm going all in and getting it deep fried baby!
It's the three item plate with shrimp, scallops and flounder with french fries and cole slaw. Yes, very Southern, a lot of brown and a small spot of green. I think when I first saw this I thought it was a little darker brown than it probably should have been. The outer crust on all the seafood was a little thick and tad too crispy. I'm gonna say these were on the over fried side. The flounder taste was just a bit off. It tasted a bit too fishy for me--a flavor that even over rode the extra crispy outside. Seems the fish may not have been fresh from that day. The shrimp were on the large side, which was nice, but again, the crust was too much. Same goes for the scallops. Too much crust, too much time in the deep fryer. The fries were dry. Yes, they came out hot, crispy and freshly done but after a few minutes on the table they hardened up from over frying and were pretty much inedible. The slaw was an interesting Southern version with cabbage, mayo and relish. This gave it a sweet flavor, which was bit much for me. I prefer the tad of mayo vinegar version of slaw so I'll just chalk this one up to personal choice as I know there are folks out there who prefer this version. I was also a little bummed no hush puppies came with this. Usually that's a given at any place that serves seafood or barbecue. Here it seems, it was not the case. Actually got no bread at all, another surprise for a Southern restaurant. All this ran me about $22 which is probably just a couple bucks over would probably pay at other non-chain seafood places.
I wasn't really a fan of the place. Usually restaurant institutions hang around because they have something going for them that many people like. Then there are places like this that continue to survive for reasons unbeknownst to the rest of us. They do seem to do a popular oyster bar thing and you could get a dozen for $12, which is kind of a bargain. Not being an oyster person though, it doesn't make me want to go back. Oh well, I guess my 32 year build up to eat here kind of fell flat, but at least know I now this place isn't for me, nor can I recommend it. But hey, I don't live here anymore and next time I visit, I may just stick with the barbecue.