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Front Page - Friday, March 24, 2023

Fresh fish for lunch? Chattanooga Seafood has it

The Shrimp Po’ Boy off the Saturday lunch menu at Chattanooga Seafood Company. - Photographs provided

A text message that changed my plans for Saturday arrived Friday.

“Join Chattanooga Seafood Company tomorrow from noon to 3 p.m. for our carry out lunch service. We’ll have our wildly popular Tunastrami, our Smoked Salmon Tartine and our Shrimp Po’ Boy.”

The message went on to urge its recipients to come early to beat the crowd.

They didn’t have to text me twice. There was already a Shrimp Po’ Boy in my future.

Chattanooga Seafood Company has been a semiregular stop for me since I wrote about the shop in August. To review, proprietor T.J. Jones and his staff sell an impressive variety of seafood that’s harvested from eastern and western coastal waters and delivered post haste to his business.

As you’re reading this, a boat off the coast of Hawaii might be pulling a squirming tuna out of the salty waters that could be on a plate in your dining room within 36 hours.

Chattanooga Seafood Company also prepares and sells a number of items from which you can build a meal. From clam chowder and Chatty Crabby Patties to mac-and-cheese and Chatt Town Twice Baked Spuds, there are several grab-and-go options for dining at home.

But the shop has never sold something you could grab and go eat in your car – until now.

Launching a lunch service makes sense considering how popular Jones’ establishment has become. It was also impossible to resist, given his passion for making great seafood accessible to landlubbers like me.

As instructed, I arrived at the Dayton Boulevard shop a few minutes before noon. To my mild dismay, several customers had arrived even earlier and beat me to the counter.

“No sweat,” I said to another concerned luncher. “They should have enough shrimp on hand for the first wave of Po’ Boys.”

Sensing my concern, a young staffer pointed me to the dry erase menu board and assured me everything scribbled on it was delicious.

At the top of the list of lunch specials sat the Tunastrami, an $18 hoagie consisting of house pastrami rub, horseradish aioli and sauteed onions. Maybe if I wasn’t in the mood for a Po’ Boy, I thought.

Next on the menu was the Smoked Salmon Tartine, a $15 toasted wonder that comes topped with herb cream cheese, fried capers and pickled red onions. I had to Google “tartine,” and while it sounded delicious, I was on a mission.

That brings me to the Po’ Boy, which sounded too good to be true. Plump and juicy fried shrimp coated with a light and perfectly seasoned batter, housemade Old Boy slaw, housemade tartar sauce and tomato slices.

At least, that’s what I imagined it would be as I waited to place my order, and then as I waited for my order to appear in the window by the kitchen, and then as I waited for someone to bring it to me.

As I was checking out, the cashier was looking anxiously at the even longer line that had formed behind me. “I hope there’s enough shrimp left for me to get one of these,” she said.

I thought that was a good sign.

To my consumptive pleasure, the Po’ Boy was everything I imagined it would be. From the shrimp to the toppings, it met every expectation Chattanooga Seafood Company has earned.

My only quibble was that the hoagie either wasn’t toasted or was barely singed. It was hard to tell. I’d really like a little buttery crunch the next time I bite into one.

That said, the Po’ Boy might not be on the menu the next time I visit Chattanooga Seafood Company for lunch. Remember what I said about the shop’s impressive variety of offerings? That will hold true for their lunch menu, too.

While Jones and company also featured their Tunastrami the previous Saturday – which was their first to feature a lunch menu – the other items on the menu included the Crawfish Salad Roll (chilled crawfish, rémoulade, cayenne pepper and slaw) and the Fried Flounder Sammy (crispy panko crust, tartar sauce, lettuce, tomato and onion).

What did other patrons say after their first experience grabbing lunch at Chattanooga Seafood Company? Ryan visited the shop’s Facebook page to call the Tunastrami “off the chain,” while Pattie raved that the Fried Flounder was “delicious!!!” (Those are her exclamation points, not mine.)

If you don’t make it downtown or to Red Bank on Saturdays, Jones says he’ll expand the service to additional days if there’s enough interest. Judging by the size of the line ahead and behind me during my visit, I believe there’s plenty of interest.

There might even be a shrimp swimming in the waters off the South Atlantic coast that’s destined to end up in a hoagie on a Friday afternoon in Chattanooga. I just hope the roll is toasted.