When I was growing up, I rarely ate seafood. It seems when my mother was pregnant with my little brother she had gotten nauseated while eating a fish dish. After that, she couldn’t stand the smell or taste of fish. So, needless to say, we never had it at home. I suppose we were basically deprived of developing a taste for a food staple that much of the world enjoyed daily.
The only time we ever got to eat it was when my grandparents had an occasional fish fry in their backyard or when we got to “eat out” at a seafood restaurant when we were on vacation at the beach. Then we ate fried flounder, which was so light and crispy, it tasted a lot like chicken. I thought all fish was supposed to taste like chicken!
Over the years, I learned to make a few seafood dishes that didn’t taste like chicken. However, when we moved to Topsail Island, I decided it was high time I learned to cook the fresh delicacies that were available in our local waters. What deliciousness was swimming out there in the deep blue sea that I needed to discover?
Fresh seafood was another level of goodness I wanted to experience. The problem was, I didn’t want to catch and clean the fish myself. Instant gratification was what I was looking for. Finding a fresh fish market that did all the work for me was what I needed! I starting asking the locals where they got their fresh catches.
My sister-in-law, Kelly and my cousin Linda (who have both lived here longer than me) told me about their favorite one: Surf City Crab Seafood Market. I remember the first time I went with Kelly. It was in the Surf City Strip, before you left the island to cross over the swing bridge. There was a restaurant in front of the market called the Crab Pot. She told me that they were two separate businesses. The seafood market was behind the restaurant, right on the dock. It wasn’t a fancy place but immediately I was smitten with fish charm, if there is such a thing. We bought some crab cakes and shrimp and I remember it being so wonderfully fresh when we cooked it all up, I knew I had to go back for more!
I began to drive down to Surf City to the market each time I wanted to have fish or shrimp for dinner. It spoiled me when it came to flounder and grouper. I had prepared dishes cooked with these seafood from the grocery stores and as far as taste and consistency were concerned, there was no comparison. Surf City Crab Seafood Market became my “go to” seafood heaven!
A few weeks ago I visited just to take some pictures and see what was up. The manager, Richard (Worm) Murgo, happened to be there and I asked him a few questions about his fabulous dock-side seafood market.
Me: Who owns this market and how many years has it been here?
Worm: (I know his name may sound odd to you but he said everyone called him that. Really.) “Adrian Kugatow started the Surf City Crab and Seafood Market twenty-two years ago as a place that sold crab and shrimp. Now we have a good selection of local fish, too.”
I must tell you that Worm didn’t have a lot to say to me because at the time he was cleaning and filleting catfish that had just come off the dock from the Cape Fear River. There was a huge crate of the largest catfish l had ever seen in my life. One after another, he would lift them out of the ice and expertly begin filleting them. I took a picture of him with the largest one.
The guys working the counter were friendly and opened up their enormous coolers to show me what they had available that day. There were whole and filleted versions of many of the varieties: flounder, grouper, snapper, red drum, spotted seatrout, striped bass, mahi mahi, salmon, tuna, mackerel, jumbo, large and medium sized shrimp and probably more offerings. I just can’t recall them all. The selection was fresh, colorful, beautiful and local!
There was a big, white, grease board on the back wall with the daily prices of all the fish. I’ve since checked around to compare them with other local groceries and markets and I don’t think you can beat their prices anywhere.
Now that I consider myself a local, I’d like to encourage anyone vacationing down here to try to cook up some of our local delights. I’m sure the guys behind the counter can suggest how to cook each variety and you’ll not be disappointed.
Last week I was at my local grocery store trying to figure out what I was going to make for dinner. An elderly gentlemen saw me standing at the meager seafood section in the meat department, staring at the poor selection. He asked if I was planning on buying that “crap” to cook for dinner. I couldn’t believe he asked me that but I said, “Well, I really want seafood for dinner and as I look at this, I wonder if it would be worth my while to drive down to Surf City Crab Seafood Market for something really good.” He gave me a knowing look and said, “Yeah, I think it would totally be worth it.”
The locals know what they’re talking about!
Surf City Crab Seafood Market is located on the sound side at:
508 Roland Ave.
Surf City, NC 28445