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[Austin] Quality Seafood


Kent Wang
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Quality Seafood is a wholesaler, fishmonger, restaurant and oyster bar. I go there at least once a week. Next to Central Market, it is my favorite food destination in Austin. I'm on a first-name basis with most of the staff and the owner, Paul Huntsberger. I've organized two trips with the UT cooking club to Quality Seafood where we have dinner and then go on a brief tour of the place and learn a little about fishmongering.

Wholesale

Mr. Huntsberger tells me that the store derives most of their revenue from their wholesale operations. They move several thousand pounds of fish a week and supply many local restaurants. Speaking with some local chefs, I've learned that most rely upon Quality Seafood as a second-line distributor, that they can get fresher fish from other distributors but if orders fall through, they'll go to Quality Seafood. I don't mean to disparage the quality of their fish, as I'm sure there are many other factors that also come into play when it comes to choosing distributors. Eddie V's, a well-respected high-end seafood restaurant, for example, orders most of their fish from Quality Seafood.

Retail

The retail counter offers about half the selection that Central Market does but most items are about $2-3 per pound cheaper. They also offer a perpetual coupon on their website. My favorite is their sushi-grade Atlantic salmon ($7/lb), which I find, on the average, to be the freshest available from any retailer in Austin. In my experience, buying earlier in the day helps a lot. They also sell sushi-grade tuna (~$15/lb) and tuna chunks (~$8/lb).

Restaurant

The menu is Southern-style, things like po-boys, gumbo, blackened fish, fried catfish. I've had nearly every dish they offer.

By far, my favorite are the soups. The seafood gumbo is chock full of fish, scallops and shrimp; it easily has twice as much meat as any other gumbo I've ever had. The soup itself is also very thick and can be had without any rice, though rice is offered on the side. Though I haven't had gumbo in New Orleans, I'd have to say that this is the best gumbo I've ever had. The crawfish etoufee is my second favorite and similarly chock full of crawfish tails. My guess is that they're able to offer a pint of so much seafood for only $5.90 because they are wholesalers and can get even cheaper prices than other restaurants. There is also a large rotation of soups du jour. My favorites are the lobster bisque, seafood and artichoke cream soup, and crab and shrimp gumbo.

As far as the dinner items go, like the fried items and blackened fish, they all present good value but are not particularly stand out. Everything is cooked to the proper doneness, not like would you might expect from non-seafood oriented restaurants.

The shrimp and sealeg salads are also worthy of mention. Both are aggressively seasoned. The small shrimp is remarkably tender, not at all rubbery like so many other shrimp salads.

Oyster Bar

I was there in the summer when the bar was opened. Live Oak Pilzner on tap, lots of bar foods. A dozen oysters on the half shell are only $6.95 -- one of the lowest prices in the nation, as I have found.

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Calamari is the most tender in town, even higher-end restaurants like Vespaio can't always get the deep-frying time right; it also helps that each squid ring is a bit larger than average. The batter is unremarkable; Vespaio still has them beat on that front.

All the other appetizers meet expectations. The only ones to be avoided are the Clam Strips and Crawfish Tails. The morsels are just too small and you end up eating mostly batter.

Summary

Any one of Quality Seafood's businesses is attractive enough for me to visit on its own, but when I can get a pint of Live Oak, a dozen oysters, soup, dinner and fish to take home under one roof, the combination is just too amazing to pass up!

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  • 2 months later...

Quality Seafood has now added steamed clams in a garlic broth and steamed mussels in a cumin-heavy broth. Both broths are expertly Cajun-seasoned. $7.99 for 24 of either the clams or mussels. 12-clam plates are available too.

Seafood tacos have also been added to the menu though I have not had a chance to try those yet.

Next time I'm going for the bivalve grand slam: steamed clams, steamed mussels, raw oysters and fried scallops!

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How were the raw oysters at Quality Seafood? I've been going there for a few years now for things like halibut and wild salmon in season, sometimes tuna, and they offer a great value compared to CM and WF, although their selection is obviously limited. I haven't seen raw oysters in the shell for sale though, and I would love to buy some to take home and eat.

BTW, the staff there is really great...friendly, helpful, and they remember you! I've referred many friends there.

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How were the raw oysters at Quality Seafood?  I've been going there for a few years now for things like halibut and wild salmon in season, sometimes tuna, and they offer a great value compared to CM and WF, although their selection is obviously limited.  I haven't seen raw oysters in the shell for sale though, and I would love to buy some to take home and eat.

They're sold at the bar, that new thingie they built in the middle of the store about 9 months ago. Dunno if they'll shuck and bag the oysters for you, I believe they're meant to be consumed right away.

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  • 11 months later...
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