Swim over to this hidden, old-school gem for some of the many treasures of the sea.
Ocean Fish Market has been hawking fresh seafood and fried fish sandwiches to Downtown denizens for 40 years, and the market’s captain says there are three reasons for his success: location, location, and location.
“There’s no other fish markets around here,” owner Kevin Pak said of his small storefront on Willoughby Street between Bridge and Lawrence streets in the shadow of Downtown’s towers.
Pak’s grandfather opened the small storefront years before nearby MetroTech brought hungry Brooklyn Paper reporters looking for cheap eats.
And the recent building boom in the area has changed the clientele some, but his business is as good as ever.
“We’re doing just fine,” the fishmonger said, cleaning a batch of whiting.
Pak picks up his day’s offering of edible sea creatures from the Fulton Fish Market in the south Bronx every morning at 3 am, selecting an assortment of salmon, shrimp, stripers, and other catches of the day, and ends up slinging about 3,000 pounds of fish every week, he said.
Ocean also serves up all manner of deep-fried deepsea critters, including scallops, flounder, and crab sticks. And it wouldn’t be fish and chips without the chips, so french fries are also on the menu.
Sandwich options include a variety of sea species, but they are all served on regular slices of whole-wheat bread — nothing fancy. The prices are reasonable for the neighborhood — an order of fish and chips runs $6.50 — making it a popular lunch spot for local workers.
Pak says his customers are all very nice, but he does have a favorite type.
“Anybody who spends a lot of money is a good customer,” he said.
April is the busiest time of year for the store, likely owing to Lent, the Catholic practice of abstaining from meat in the weeks before Easter.
Pak renews the store’s lease every 10 years, and the rent crept up a little when he signed the last one three years ago, he said. But he is not feeling the same pressure that has hit other small stores in the neighborhood so hard in the last few years.
A block away on Fulton Mall, increasing rents have helped turn many mom-and-pops shops into national retailers.
But for now, Pak is staying where he is — as long as things remain the same.
“I just want it to stay like this,” he said.
Ocean Fish Market [70 Willoughby St. between Bridge and Lawrence streets in Downtown, (718) 596–0720].