It’s always an educational adventure when you go to lunch with Dr. Science. When it comes to Columbus food options, he knows the good places, the new places, and the remote places tucked away far from the downtown core of which only foodies are aware.
So it was yesterday, when we drove west, out beyond the I-270 outerbelt, to Frank’s Fish and Seafood Market. Our drive was a voyage of discovery of sorts for any seafood lover, because Frank’s turns out to be the primary fish supplier to many Columbus restaurants. Fortunately, it also offers its fresh fish options to the general public, and it has a nice little restaurant and carry-out menu, too.
The fish market part of the operation, with its tubs of fresh fish laid carefully on beds of shaved ice, will remind seafood afficionados of the fishmongers on the east coast. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem in Columbus. Fresh fish is great, but fish doesn’t stay fresh for long — which poses a problem in land-locked Midwestern towns like Columbus. That’s why eating fish at restaurants along the American coastline seems like a revelation in comparison to the pale piscine offerings found here in the heartland.
I didn’t grab one of the iced-down mullets (the fish, not the appalling hairstyle) on display yesterday to conduct a closer examination, but Frank’s offerings looked pretty good to this untrained eye from a freshness standpoint. For one thing, the fish options are limited — which suggests that someone knowledgeable is making good judgments about what is reasonably available — and regional options like walleye are included. Frank’s also has lots of frozen and smoked fish, shellfish, and chowders, as well as a handy wine area.
The restaurant section of Frank’s offers a number of sandwiches, shrimp, oysters, fish and chips, and seafood entrees, as well as what Dr. Science swears is the best gumbo in the Columbus area — and he backed up his words by getting a quart to take home. I got the fried perch, and it was terrific — hot, fresh, and with the flaky mildness that makes perch one of the best eating fishes available. We sat out on the patio on a fine spring day, feeling the sun’s warmth and enjoying the gifts of the sea. I’d go back to Frank’s again.