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In its old location, as an adjunct to the now-defunct Café Del Mar on Biscayne Boulevard and NE 86th Street in Miami, Ye Olde Boston Fish Market was somewhat visible -- as in, not invisible. It was hard to angle your car into the parking lot, yes. And the storefront was an easy target for crime, true. Two of the reasons then-owners Captain Dan and Chef Pingle Reddy decided to close up shop and move a couple of blocks north to Biscayne and 88th Street. But at least you could find it.
The new digs, which took almost a year to renovate and open, claim the center spot in a teeny-tiny strip mall that is actually harder to see and even more difficult for parking. And if you ask the counterperson to point you in the direction of Pingle Reddy, he might just tell you the chef -- who's held a number of posts in a variety of South Florida dining establishments ranging from the so-so Sundy House in Delray Beach to the regrettable Rodz in South Beach -- is "a myth." Which, it might be said, has far less favorable connotations than something like "legend."
Still the losses are offset by gains: more square footage, in which a couple of tables offer on-site dining options; cleaner and brighter environs, though the nautical décor is somewhat haphazard; and the dubious protection of the Miami Shores Neighborhood Watch, since this market-cum-café is now located within incorporated village limits.
Most of the advantages are reserved for the customer, however. Perhaps in the form of slippery, fried sea scallops so succulent you'd swear they were lobster, or buttery clam chowder that tastes like it was imported from a shack in Maine. Or maybe as a freshly grilled grouper sandwich in which the fish fillet is substantially bigger than the bun.
As the name suggests, in addition to the immensely fresh, familiar local crustaceans like stone crab claws and Everglades specialties such as frog legs, Ye Olde Boston Fish Market features fish and shellfish from northern waters, where Captain Dan skippered yachts for decades. And you can buy them a number of ways: raw, seasoned and prepped, or completely cooked by the chef -- who is actually Captain Dan wearing another hat.
If you opt for the market possibilities and a home-cooked meal, don't plan your menu ahead. Items like Ipswich clams, middle-neck clams, and Boston cod aren't always available, depending on the weather. (One evening the info imparted was that the cold snap up north is so bad the clams were literally being frozen alive. Another time the normally bustling Maine lobster tank housed a single, lonely specimen.)
If you choose the take-out option, be advised that the kitchen has only one deckhand doing the work, so stone crab bisque, smoked fish dip, ceviche, and other large-batch foodstuffs might be still in the simmering, smoking, or marinating process when you want them. In other words, try not to walk in with a predisposed craving. Instead let the sights inspire you. Also note that the market-café functions most efficiently for small orders. Larger ones get filled one dish at a time, leaving the first-born fried shrimp or sautéed mussels to sit and get soggy as they steam up the Styrofoam containers.
In fact the cooked fare is best consumed on the spot, dunked in homemade tartar sauce, washed down with a can of soda, and followed by a slice of brisk, housemade key lime pie.