Whether you’re fasting with fish on Fridays during Lent or just love some good tail, use this guide to know where and when to buy the choicest pieces.
When to buy
In the mad, mad rush to be eco-friendly, it’s important to consider where your fish came from and when particular species are in season. Check the label or grill your fishmonger for region of origin and method of catch, as some are more sustainable than others.
Common seasonal fish in New York City include:
- January-April: sea bass, striper, mackerel
- May-September: albacore, sockeye, chinook, coho and pink salmon, pollock, haddock, sole, whiting
- October-December: pollock, sole, mackerel
- Year Round: lingcod, flounder, halibut
Terms to know
Wild caught fish are usually captured in a large net that’s dragged through deep water, which can snag other species not ready for harvesting. Industrial wild fishing techniques have contributed to unhealthy conditions in two-thirds of the world’s fish populations, according to scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Farm raised fish are grown in special hatcheries in tanks or special containments set up in rivers or the sea. Many scientists, activists and fishermen argue that farm raising techniques have harmful effects on the ecosystem, including the destruction of coastal habitats and depletion of fish populations.
Line caught fish are captured individually, reducing the amount of out-of-season of undersized fish that are killed. Though more expensive, this is usually the most eco-friendly method of catch.
Where to buy
Before you buy, make sure standard food safety conditions are apparent. Fish should be displayed on beds of fresh ice, belly or skin side down. A strong fishy smell is no red herring, it’s a good reason to suspect your potential dinner may be going bad. Though some species’ eyes turn cloudy in their final throes on the docks, most should be clear and protruding slightly. For more information, visit Fish Watch.
800 Food Center Dr., Hunt’s Point, Bronx, NY
These guys really take the ol’ early bird and worm idea seriously. New Fulton is open from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., Monday through Friday. The only place you’ll get fresher fish is straight off the line. Formerly located at the now-closed South Street Fish Market in Manhattan, this warehouse in the Bronx houses the majority of fish trafficked into the city.
541 9th Ave., Hell’s Kitchen, New York, NY
This local chain’s Hell’s Kitchen location serves fresh fish and crustaceans aplenty at reasonable prices. Open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Grand Central Market, 43rd St. and Lexington Ave., New York, NY
What began with a van and a few tubs of ice back in 1992 has blossomed into one of the cornerstone’s of Grand Central’s food offerings. Wild Edibles offers super fresh, sustainability-minded fish of all stripes, but these eco-conscious cuts come at premium prices.
See your meal in its original form: scales, guts and all, before you buy it in many of these shops. Some of the neighborhood’s most popular fishmongeries include the Bayard Meat Market at 57 Bayard St. and Mulberry Meat Market at 89 Mulberry St.
Outdoor markets aren’t just for produce, fresh flowers and artisan bars of soap. Many have booths well-stocked with sea creatures atop beds of ice. Union Square is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Grand Army Plaza operates Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the northwest corner of Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
30 Gem St., Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY
Be ready to make a splash at Sunday brunch with the in-laws thanks to Fish Fridays at Acme Smoked Fish distributors. With wholesale prices available every Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., you’re sure to bring in a good catch.
203 7th Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY
Park Slope’s market has a wide variety of fish and lobster, but as you might expect from the upscale neighborhood, these fish can be a bit pricey. However, their made-to-go sushi is dirt cheap! Ocean is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
635 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
Williamsburg’s only seafood market is housed in a building resembling a tackle shop, but the strong odors wafting from the door indicate the staff has already taken care of the fishing for you. The place is operated by neighborhood old-timers and the prices are affordable. Open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.