Logically, the freshest seafood and greatest selection can be found over an hour west where Oregon’s land mass greets the Pacific Ocean. What’s available here when scheduling keeps valley residents at bay?
Local seafood markets and restaurants intend to fill that gap with their variety of fish, shellfish, and other sea creatures.
“This time of year we sell a lot of salmon, prawns, and oysters in the shell that work well for barbecuing,” said Ron Purdy, Fitts Seafood owner.
Fitts, which sells fresh and smoked seafood, also sells various in-house made dips and salads.
Their prepared offerings, which include a crab and artichoke dip, are made by Purdy’s wife Mimi.
“She puts it down on paper after she’s made them a few times, which allows all of us to make them,” Fitts owner Ron Purdy, said.
Currently, the out-of-season fish like wild caught Chinook and coho salmon are frozen whole. Shrimp have arrived from Maine and farmed tilapia and trout are among the selection.
For those seeking the freshest catch, fillets of red snapper, sole, and ling cod are in season. Pink shrimp are expected in April.
Jonathan’s Oyster Bar’s head chef Chris Raybule concurs.
“Pretty soon we’ll be getting fresh salmon. Sturgeon right now is in season, and bay shrimp start up soon,” Raybule said.
Crabs are ‘always’ in season according to Raybule and Fitts has the snapping variety.
“We get whole crabs and keep them in our live tank,” Purdy said.
There are many area restaurants serving up seafood of the cooked and fully prepared variety, and Jonathan’s is the one of the oldest, local establishment having been opened for 31 years downtown.
“Our signature is Cajun food,” Casey Lucas, owner, said. “We have gumbo, jambalaya, and shrimp Diane.”
Inspiration for these menu items comes from the restaurant namesake’s culinary travels.
“Jon [Cunningham] would travel all over the country: San Francisco and Louisiana,” Lucas said. “He brought something to Salem that was lacking at the time.”
Jonathan’s aims far further than the coast, they want to transport their customers as they eat.
“What we bring to Salem is unique because we’re not a chain like so many restaurants are,” he said. “We want people to walk in and feel like they’re in San Francisco or New York.”
The seafood itself, however, comes from local companies. Most of their selection comes from Pacific Seafood with the oysters from Oregon Oyster Farms.
On Jan.21 the restaurant opened its doors at their new location, 136 High St.
“Being here in ‘restaurant row’ in between La Capitale and DaVinci’s is great,” he said. “I think the Salem restaurant scene is building.”
Expanding the inspired flavors to another culture, their official grand re-opening is a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on March 17 with Irish fare and green beers to consume in addition to their everyday menu.