Gayle Christopher

At full-service fishmongers, you can shop, sample, or even ship it home.

1. Pike Place Fish Market, Seattle, Washington
Now that New York's Fulton Fish Market has moved from itslongtime Manhattan home to a warehouselike building in the Bronx,Pike Place can claim undisputed status as the nation's mostcolorful seafood market. It's also the most fun. The fish fly here,hurled through the air by employees. So do the jokes, though theshop is serious about its seafood and will ship almost everythingit sells for next-day delivery. Other attractions at the 9-acrePike Place Market include Washington wines and the originalStarbucks; 800/542-7732 or pikeplacefish.com.

2. Browne Trading Company, Portland, Maine
This old, family-run business has acquired some recent dazzlethrough its association with such celebrity chefs as Daniel Bouludof New York City's Daniel restaurant. The market offers a widerange of caviars, plus smoked seafood, fish from around the world,and the usual favorites―lobster, cod, clams, and the like.Patrons can shop via phone or online. Or they can do what manychefs prefer: Head to Merrill's Wharf in the Old Port area ofPortland and pick out what looks most appealing; 800/944-7848 or browne-trading.com.

3. Joe Patti's Seafood Co., Pensacola, Florida
Since its 1931 beginnings on Joe and Anna Patti's back porch,this seafood shop has grown into a sprawling waterfrontinstitution. Joe Patti's has changed with the times, addingdelectable extras such as a sushi bar and Anna Patti's AmangiariGourmet Shop, plus online ordering and overnight shipping. Still,the huge selection of terrific seafood remains its primary appeal.The extended Patti family runs the place with an emphasis onneighborly service; 800/500-9929 or joepattis.com.

4. Lexington Market, Baltimore, Maryland
Some call it the home of the world's best crab cakes. At therisk of starting an argument, we're inclined to agree. LexingtonMarket, like the rest of downtown Baltimore, has seen palmier dayssince its founding in 1782. But it retains an undeniable energy asdiverse cuisines jostle for attention; 410/685-6169 or lexingtonmarket.com.

Among the market's six seafood purveyors, Faidley Seafood standsout for its legendary lump crab cakes, best enjoyed immediately,while standing at the worn counters. For those forced by geographyinto delayed gratification, Faidley's ships; 410/727-4898 or faidleyscrabcakes.com.

5. Sun Fat Seafood Co., San Francisco, California
Sun Fat, in the Mission District, draws raves for its helpfulemployees. They patiently explain not only what's what, but alsohow to cook it. They'll even cut up your choices for you;415/282-9339.

Honorable mention goes to Ferry Plaza Seafood, in the FerryBuilding Marketplace. Though the seafood selection is limited, theviews of San Francisco Bay are expansive; 415/274-2561 or ferryplazaseafood.com.6. Keys Fisheries Market and Marina, Marathon, Florida
This market-restaurant-marina supplies spiny lobsters, stonecrab claws, and other Florida Keys-centricdelicacies―including, of course, Key lime pie. Its customersinclude the famous Joe's Stone Crab restaurant in Miami Beach. Boththe shop and the online store feature a favorite local concoction:a Lobster Reuben sandwich; 866/743-4353 or keysfisheries.com.

7. Fisherman's Express, Anchorage, Alaska
This market, founded and operated by a former commercial crabfisherman, specializes in Alaskan king crab. It also sells suchother Alaskan specialties as halibut cheeks―all wild, notfarm-raised. Browsers can visit the shop in downtown Anchorage oron the Web site, which includes photo galleries depictingfearsome-looking crabs and the unbelievably harsh conditions thatcrabbers endure to harvest them; 888/926-3474 or fishermansexpress.com.

8. B & A Seafood, Port Isabel, Texas
B & A specializes in fish and shellfish straight from theGulf of Mexico―again, wild rather than farm-raised. The nameof the Web site, freshtexasshrimp.com, hints at the biggest seller,especially to vacationers enjoying South Padre Island and othernearby resort areas. For those who are too hungry to wait, or whoprefer to let someone else do the cooking, B & A recentlyopened the Harbor View Restaurant. The company also ships; call956/943-2461 or visit freshtexasshrimp.com.

9. Lighthouse Deli & Fish Company, South Beach, Oregon
Lighthouse Deli sits just south of the elegant arches of theYaquina Bay Bridge, which connects to Newport. The deli rose toprominence in 1994, when Portland's Oregonian newspaper declared it the purveyor of the bestfish-and-chips on the Oregon coast. In 2001, Coastal Living included it in our annual roundup of greatseafood dives. In addition to being a great casual restaurant,this slightly ramshackle place also sells a great selection oflocally caught seafood, both on premises and through the Web site.The name comes from the Yaquina Bay and Yaquina Head lighthouses,each practically within swimming distance; 866/816-7716 or lighthousedeli.com.

10. Empire Fish, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Wisconsin restaurants have long depended on Empire Fish,which has been selling seafood since 1913. The retail store letsconsumers choose from the same fish, shellfish, and other goodiesthat are available to chefs. The selection spans both Great Lakeswaters and distant seas. Unfortunately for those who don't live inMilwaukee, you have to visit the store. Empire Fish does not ship;414/259-1330 or empirefish.com.

(published April 2006)

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