Fresno, CA

The best catch is always fresh when it comes to seafood

Mark-John Clifford
Fishing BoatsUnsplash

It's hard for me to write about finding and being served fresh seafood living in Fresno.

Since coming here from back east, where fresh meant one hour off the docks in some cases and others maybe 2 hours at the latest, the closet I get to fresh in Fresno is maybe three to four hours off the dock.

When we moved to Boston and as a kid, on Friday nights, my Mom and Grandmother would send me to the fishing docks with a few bucks to buy fresh lobsters as the lobster boats come in.

We're talking lobsters so fresh they hadn't even banded the claws yet. I could pick the ones I wanted, and the lobsterman would throw a price out there. He didn't weigh them or even care about the weight or size. If you were there at the right time, you would get what you wanted for cheap.

Try doing that now. I bet it wouldn't happen around here.

The closest I have found to fresh east coast seafood is at the docks in San Francisco or the coast in Monterey or around there. I'm sure it's the same down in LA, but I haven't ventured that way yet for seafood.

Living in Fresno, we're, of course, at a disadvantage. The closest seafood from a dock is from one of the lakes around Fresno, and that would be something freshwater.

I prefer ocean or saltwater seafood any day of the week. I don't know what it is about saltwater fish, but the taste is fresher, full of flavor, and downright delectable.

When I moved to Fresno, I learned quickly not to expect too much from the seafood places in town. Even when it came to Christmas Eve, and I would cook the Sicilian feast of the seven fishes for the family, I had issues getting the seafood I needed, especially fresh seafood.

Of course, there's frozen at markets like Von's, Save Mart, some local fish markets which offered some fresh choices, and Costco, which had fresh crab, lobster, shrimp, and scallops at Christmas time, but only then, and only in limited quantities.

The difference between fresh and frozen is night and day, as you well know, but if you've never been one of the lucky ones to have fresh seafood immediately off the docks, it's something you need to taste. There's nothing better.

All of this leads us to these two reviews—one of a fast-food seafood chain that calls Olive Graden an Italian restaurant. The other is a local seafood restaurant with fresh seafood most of the time on ice for you to check out.

Red Lobster
Red Lobster Ultimate FeastRed Lobster

People love Red Lobster. They love the food, the prices, the service, and the convenience of their locations. They could have a spot in Death Valley, and that place would be packed. People tend to believe their hype that they have fresh seafood. I don't get it, but I've talked with friends who believe Red Lobster is the best seafood restaurant like they believe Olive Garden is the best Italian. No wonder I'm bald.

I can understand liking a place like Red Lobster for their prices, locations, and service, which I must admit the one time I went there it was excellent, but when it comes to fresh, if you believe frozen is fresh, you win.

I don't think even the Red Lobster in Boston near the harbor or the one in Connecticut near the waterfront serves fresh seafood or ever will. It isn't in the cards for a restaurant like that to serve fresh. Frozen in the name of the game, and people love it.

If people like it, they will come. If Red Lobster is happy and the customers are satisfied, then why change a good thing?

Red Lobster has their rolls. Olive Garden has their garlic rolls. It's all about the offerings that go along with the main dish. People will overlook freshness when there are rolls and more rolls.

In the end, it's fast food at its seafood best. It's better than tuna, I guess but far from eating fresh sea or bay scallops.

If you're a fan of Red Lobster, that's okay. It's about what tastes good to you.

Pismo's Coastal Grill
Shrimp at Pismo's Coastal GrillVirtual Restaurant Concierge

Before I get into their seafood assortment, I thought I would review something I wrote about Pismo's when I reviewed their red chowder. I mentioned Pismo's red chowder in that review, and I noticed today in their menu they are now calling it spicy red chowder, and they have Rhode Island clear chowder. I'll be going there soon to check that one out.

Back to fish

Pismo's has a good list of fresh seafood on its menu. They also have an in-house seafood store, so you can purchase the exact fish you dined on to take home and cook it your way. Now that's pretty fresh.

They have halibut, mahi-mahi, salmon, and swordfish, which is a favorite of mine, and their's was excellent when I did have it.

I'm fussy about seafood. I like seafood as long it isn't too fishy. I know that sounds nuts, but that's how I am. I was never a seafood person, but give me a baked stuffed lobster or bacon-wrapped scallops, and I'm okay with that fresh seafood smell.

I have heard from friends who swear by Pismo's that the halibut is to die for. Tender, flaky, and fresh. Seasoned to perfection and exceptionally grilled.

It isn't as easy as you think to grill fish and cook it right. I've been there and have had my fish returned over the fish being over grilled or under grilled when working at my uncle's restaurant. I can still hear my uncle screaming that I ruined the fish.

Fish is tender and should be treated that way, The chefs at Pismo's go above and beyond in grilling their fish. Each time I've had fish and chips there, I couldn't believe how tender the fish was. Never mind how fresh it was. The batter was not overpowering and had just the right crispiness to it. Net greasy, and it didn't taste fried. It almost had a baked consistency, but it was fried. Now that's excellent cooking skills. I admire that.

The only grilled fish I had there was the swordfish, and that's a difficult fish to cook. It can be oily and very fishy. When I had it as Pismo's, it wasn't oily at all, and whatever they did in back to tamper the fishiness worked like a charm.

If you go there, make sure to try the swordfish if it's fresh. It isn't the day's catch, then wait for another time when it is fresh that day.

As for the halibut, my friends say it is always fresh. I can't attest to that, but I believe them, so give it a try and let me know.

Finally, back to the chowder. I am a huge fan of Rhode Island chowder. I don't know if the chef at Pismo's is from Rhode Island or has Rhode Island ties, but I plan to find out. Now all they need are clam cakes.

A 2lb baked stuffed lobster from back aast to drool over
2lb Baked Stuffed LobsterBay Pointe Waterfront Restaurant

Buon Apetito

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Patti, my wife, and I write about life here in Fresno, California, and the Central Valley. We especially enjoy writing reviews about restaurants we've dined at, along with the food that is served. From time to time, we also write about and share recipes that we are fond of and hope you'll try them and let us know your thoughts. We are not traditional food critics. We don't have to worry about restaurants making unique dishes for us. We're just the average customer going in to dine, and then we write reviews.

Fresno, CA

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