Fearless Fish Market Makes Local Seafood Species More Accessible
The Providence market stocks local species of whole fish as well as filets, shellfish, squid, cooking ingredients and more.
If you’ve never roasted a whole fish in the oven, it’s about time you try it. There’s a new fish market on the West Side of Providence, Fearless Fish Market, and it specializes in selling whole fish, including scup, blackback flounder, mackerel, John Dory and Acadian redfish. Owner Stu Meltzer also stocks whole squid and filets of fluke, John Dory, Monkfish, hake, salmon and more as well as salmon and tuna poke, local oysters from Rhode Island bay and pond growers and Narragansett Bay littlenecks.
“I love talking about fish and helping to educate people. That’s the idea behind Fearless Fish, helping people increase their confidence in buying fish, cooking fish and trying new things,” Meltzer says. “Already we’ve seen it working. We have had a lot of people come in who have never cooked a whole fish before.”
Meltzer even provides easy instructions for said task, which is so simple it doesn’t even require a recipe. Simply stuff the cleaned and gutted fish with lemon slices and fresh parsley, coat it in extra virgin olive oil with salt and pepper and roast it in the oven at 375 degrees for fifteen minutes for every one-inch of thickness. It should be cooked to 145 degrees. I tried it with two whole scup and the results were delicious.
“The reason why that whole roast tastes so good is because you get that fat and collagen from the bones and it gets in the meat and it’s harder to overcook,” Meltzer says.
The fishmonger says Fearless Fish was two years in the making as he narrowed down choices for the location between Boston and Providence. He worked in other fish markets for nearly two years, including New Deal Fish Market and The Fishmonger, both in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Kyler’s Catch Seafood Market in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He also spent time working at fish wholesaler and distributor Fortune Fish Company in Chicago while attending Northwestern’s business school, and spent time at Pangea Shellfish in Duxbury, Massachusetts. He had a brief career change to the design world in Boston, where he met his wife, Rose Manning, and then decided to return to seafood.
“Ultimately, I decided on retail because I knew how good the quality can be on the wholesale side of things, and the experience at the counter in retail wasn’t living up to that quality,” Meltzer says. “I thought there was opportunity to do better.”
Meltzer settled on Providence for the Fearless Fish location, because his wife is from Point Judith, and it gave the couple an opportunity to move closer to her home. He also saw the huge potential in the city’s burgeoning food scene.
“I absolutely love Providence. I thought this is perfect. It’s so much easier to live here than Boston. It’s much more affordable, it has great restaurants and creative energy,” Meltzer says. “On top of that, there’s excitement around food here, and it’s the Ocean State. For a fish market, I was like this is the place. This is where we’re going to do it.”
Every day, Fearless Fish announces on social media its list of available seafood from the usual suspects of smoked salmon, fluke, scup and redfish to the more uncommon uni, razor clams and sand crabs. He also sells whole squid, called “dirty squid,” while spilling a few squid secrets that this writer never knew.
“A lot of squid might be caught here, frozen, and then sent to China for processing, and then frozen again and sent back,” Meltzer says. “We sell fresh squid or a squid that is once frozen [dirty] and we thaw it here and clean it, and the quality difference is amazing.”
Meltzer works with local oyster farmers and the Ocean State Shellfish Cooperative that deliver shellfish, and he secures other seafood from dealers who source directly from fishermen. On the day we visited, Andrade’s Catch of Bristol dropped off Narragansett Bay littlenecks dug that day by local quahoggers, and a bushel of sand crabs.
The goal is to buy seafood from dealers that source directly from fishing boats. “Buying directly from fishermen is not so easy for economic reasons,” Meltzer says, explaining how the fishermen would have to package, sell and deliver their own fish for that direct experience, so it makes sense to work with dealers. “We try to be as close to that connection as we can.”
Not only does the market stock the star of the show, but it also has cooking supplies and cookbooks on hand for making your favorite fish dishes, including sushi. Shelves of panko crumbs, fish stock, Kewpie Mayo, ginger, onion, lemons and more help shoppers create restaurant-quality meals at home. The fish market has only been open for two weeks, and the response has already been positive.
“People are saying, thank you for being here, and that’s really exciting,” Meltzer says.
425 West Fountain St., Providence, 401-415-8905, fearlessfishmarket.com