Thankfully I was able to get some much needed time off from work. This allowed me the opportunity to be with my dad as he continues his battle with cancer. He's still fighting strong even though we received rather disheartening news at his last checkup. We continue to pray and trust in the One who can do all things. Before heading back to my nine-to-five, though, MJ and I had a couple of days to hang out and hit up a couple of restaurants around town, one of which was Quality Seafood Market. Now maybe I was just feeling nostalgic, thinking about the days when my dad was working down at the Houston ship channel and he would take me out for seafood, but in any case, I'm thankful that we ended up here.
As the bright neon sign outside the restaurant proudly declares, Quality Seafood has been around since 1938. This definitely isn't one of your typical hip and trendy new Austin eateries...and I'm ok with that. In fact, I rather enjoyed the comfortable atmosphere and wide open dining area. And I loved seeing the mix of people at the restaurant. From bikers to businessmen, from construction workers to the elderly...the lure of good food and its ability to cross boundaries...beautiful.
After skimming over the vast menu, I knew I wouldn't be able to contain myself. As the restaurant was starting to fill due to the lunchtime rush, MJ scampered off to grab us a table and entrusted me with the ordering (insert fist pump and celebratory dance here). She highly approved of the first two plates - raw Gulf oysters and peel 'n' eat shrimp. The oysters were HUGE! They were moist and supple and had a clean, mildly salty flavor. The shrimp were no less spectacular. Firm, meaty and dense, MJ couldn't help but devour these tasty crustaceans with a deft quickness. I peeled. She ate. I had no complaints, however, because we had one more plate of food to go...
Much to MJ's horror, I ordered a dinner plate of fried goodness - two fried Texas catfish fillets, a side of fried okra, and a side of hushpuppies. Isn't this how you're supposed to do it at a seafood place? Is it just me?
I would've preferred a more golden fried color as their menu suggests (our plate was more on the brown side), but the batter/crust wasn't heavy or overly greasy. The catfish pieces were flaky, milky white, and (like the oysters) had a clean, fresh flavor. The okra was pretty standard, but even the wife couldn't resist snagging a couple of the hushpuppies. With a nice corn flavor and a hint of spice, these fried spheres didn't last long on my plate. But MJ had had enough. After finishing the first catfish fillet, she begged me to pack the second one to-go. I actually had to bargain with her so that I could eat it while it was still piping hot. I sacrificed ⅔ of my okra for the second fillet. I think I came out on top as I thoroughly enjoyed dunking my catfish into their homemade tartar sauce. My only regret - I wish I had noticed the bottles of hot sauce at the end of the table before I had finished my meal. Oh well...now I know for next time.
Quality Seafood Market is a casual, no-frills type of joint where you can get solid seafood at a reasonable price. The staff is friendly and the service is quick. The market side of the establishment continues to provide fresh seafood to a number of restaurants around town as it has been doing for ¾ of a century now. As intrigued as I was by the alligator sausage they had in the freezer case, MJ went with the more practical fresh catfish fillets. Could MJ be cooking something up for a future recipe? I guess you'll just have to wait and see.