Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Seafood Markets in Howard County

Seafood was a key to this region for centuries, and there are still great options now that seafood has gone global.

For now, I have three options for seafood: The H Mart in Catonsville, the Today's Catch market in Columbia, and Frank's Seafood in the wholesale market in Jessup. They're all good. They all sell fresh fish, and you can find something delicious at each. In the end, I'd suggest that you try the one closest to you and then wander to the others when you have time.
  • The H Mart can't be beat. This is a Korean supermarket with an enormous, recently-renovated fish section in the back. Whole fish. Fillets. Clams. Live crabs. Everything that I ever wanted is laying on the ice at the H Mart, and the prices -- and the high quality -- let me experiment. Last winter, I made an enormous pot of clam chowder because it was a favorite of my friend's fiance. I couldn't afford dozens of clams at even the regular supermarket, but I bought bags at H Mart.
  • Today's Catch is super-convenient for Columbia. The store in the Wilde Lake center near the mall is the smallest of my three, and they may only have a few of each species on display. But the fish is delicious, and the workers are eager to answer questions and help. I loved the "dry" scallops, which were delicious after tasteless scallops that I have bought elsewhere. Also Today's Catch sells frozen fish heads for soup and often sells mixed chunks cut off fillets for about $10/pound -- great for fish tacos and soup.
  • Frank's Seafood was my place for summer crabs. This is a full-scale market inside the wholesale seafood market in Jessup. Whole fish. Fillets on ice. Crab cakes. Huge, special-order lobsters. A bustling location that says the fish flies through their place, and I stood in line at New Years behind dozens of people stocking up on oysters and mussels. They also steam thousands of crabs. They have enormous wheeled cans that they fill with crustaceans and wheel into steaming rooms. They sell everything from jumbos to the "cold" specials (buy a dozen, get a dozen free of the crabs steamed yesterday). This is absolutely worth driving past the prison, then showing the license to get through the market's gates.
If you aren't in the mood to cook, consider the crab cake at Boarman's in Highland or just go for crab cakes at Timbuktu in Hanover just off Rte 100. You can also buy fish if you visit JW Treuth and Sons for steaks and sausages.

This is part of the "What I Learned" series of posts. They're organized in rings. See below to continue on the ring about shopping in Howard County. Or click to switch to the posts about different cuisines or posts about areas and ideas.

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BeerGuy said...

I'm curious to get out and explore these at some point.

When I lived in Florida there was an amazing seafood market there I'd go to on Saturdays and Sundays, AMAZING gulf and bay shrimp, you could see them preparing the various fish in the back room as it arrived, real exciting to get a cut of just the freshest tuna, make some sushi or whatever later.

That is a dearly missed experience, curious if these places can measure up.

So you only need ID at the one place? Because I went by once and I think the sign said something about a $5 entrance charge and said no thanks to that.

HowChow said...

Absolutely. You can get to Frank's by just showing your drivers license. I think the $5 fee is for commercial trucks making deliveries and pickups.

I don't know if any of these places can compete with a market where you can watch them cut the fish. But they're very good and willing (I think) to help if you want something special.

Unknown said...

Today's Catch is *the* place to go for sushi-grade fish. Be sure and ask which fish they have that day for sushi -- it changes (but almost always includes tuna and salmon).

Anonymous said...

Just finished eating some Jumbo crabs from Franks. They are not kidding when the said fall crabs are the best of the season. Hands down, Frank's is the best fish market around. You can pick out your own fish and have it cleaned any way you like for free. They have the largest selection I've ever seen anywhere. And the crabs are fresh steamed and true to size.