The Original Mr. Fish

August 2010
Written By: 
Denise Mullen
Photographs by: 
Paul Mehaffey

The Original Mr. Fish is back, bringing fresh seafood, personable service, and maybe the best fish tacos this side of Baha

These days, I, for one, feel compelled to stick close to home for seafood.

Thank goodness The Original Mr. Fish is back in town.

Long-time fishmonger and international seafood consultant Theodore “Ted” Hammerman has teamed up with daughter Sheina to re-open his signature, no-frills fish house, serving up fresh catch that first passes tough scrutiny and takes its final rest in the icy domains of the Mr. Fish Seafood Market, literally two doors up from the restaurant.

Like the Mr. Fish of the 1990s in downtown Myrtle Beach, the new corner location at North Kings Highway and 34th Avenue North is utilitarian with about forty seats, a single restroom at the hindmost corner of the kitchen, and plastic cutlery.

No pretenses here: You snag a table when one comes available and try to keep out of the way of a steady stream of to-go orders and hungry diners.

My husband and I thought of dining al fresco, but only one table inside was open at the time, and we soon felt lucky, on that hellishly humid night, not to be one of those leaning up against their vehicles, waiting for a seat. An extended family of twelve on vacation sat boarding-house fashion along one wall, passing along combo baskets for all to taste while the opposite corner made new best friends of Australian patrons and a golf-obsessed retiree.

Once a trio of people at the cash register left, we were able to get a clear view of the erasable board of specials for the night. The Australians were raving about their shellfish, so we decided that the Boom Boom Crab appetizer would be the perfect start to our dinner.

Laid out on crisp spears of romaine lettuce, three flash-fried, soft-shell crabs arrived, drizzled with a creamy mayo sauce that “boomed” with a secret mix of spices. We could have made a whole meal of it, the crab so sweet and delicate that it defied ever having been plucked from briny environs.

I wanted to move on to blue crab cocktail fingers and maybe sautéed clams with penne pasta, but decided instead to take cues from the house specialty items. After all, house specials become so for a reason.
While waiting for our entrées of fish tacos with mahi-mahi and shrimp ’n’ grits, I watched as Ted walked a huge platter of oysters on the half-shell from the market, stopping at an outdoor table to take up a shucking knife and show a frustrated little boy how to expertly break open the steamed blue crab he was struggling with. The child beamed with the kind of delight that’s usually reserved for unwrapping gifts from Santa.

My fish tacos were served with sides of black beans, salsa, and sour cream—none of which were needed. The simply sautéed mahi-mahi with onions and green peppers was delicious, moist and meaty, reiterating what mahi-mahi is really supposed to taste like. The fish made its bed in a pair of soft tacos lined with melted cheddar and homemade rémoulade.

A steamy, wide-brimmed bowl of shrimp ’n’ grits soon followed. In the classic style of this former “poor man’s supper,” a creamy Mornay-esque sauce with cheddar and Monterrey Jack was folded into grits, which gave them a hearty depth, topped with flawless shrimp. I believe my husband inhaled the whole dish.

Pardon the pun, but we were hooked.

We had to taste Mr. Fish’s homemade sauces. Instead of dessert we ordered a sampler platter of rare ahi tuna, escarole slightly blackened with a hit of caramelized brown sugar, and sautéed salmon hailing from the shores of Scotland.

I alternated dipping ahi slices into the blackberry wasabi and “Lisa Sauce,” a soy and citrus delight, reserving the lemon-dill for the filets. But what we soon discovered is that all three types of seafood tasted wonderful with any of the sauces, whether it be the sweet heat of the wasabi, salty citrus of the soy, or the milky coolness of lemon-dill.

It may sound ironic, but the deal-breaker with seafood is that it should never smell or taste “fishy.” As Sheina pointed out, “Fish is very unforgiving. It’s not at all like meat. If anything is wrong with it, your palate will know right away.”

For the freshest, real deal in seafood, Mr. Fish is a catch.