Seafood restaurants have taken a backseat to big, expensive steakhouses, as well as Spanish and Mexican fare. Where can one go to enjoy moderately priced fish and shellfish? I am patiently waiting the re-opening of Sansom Street Oyster House, which will be under the direction of original owner Dave Mink and his son, Sam. Bookbinder’s? I don’t think so.
Several months ago, Cousin Carl told me about the delicious bargains at Seafood Unlimited, where he is a regular. He noted the daily happy hour drinks and dishes are among the best deals in town, running 5 p.m. to closing. Most of the specials are $5. Beers on tap are the same price, along with certain wines by the glass. You can buy a bottle of Pinot Grigio for $17.
Edward and I bundled up and walked over to the restaurant located a few blocks from Rittenhouse Square. Settling in at the bar, Edward sipped a martini ($6.50) and I enjoyed a glass of Wente Sauvignon Blanc ($7). We nibbled on oyster crackers with horseradish along with rolls and butter provided by Jon, our friendly barkeep.
Crisp fried calamari ($6) arrived piping hot and was big enough to share. I like to squeeze a bit of lemon on squid but Edward enjoyed the homemade marinara. The crispness of the batter enhanced the tender calamari.
I cannot think of a restaurant that serves a bowl of fresh, steaming mussels for a Lincoln. At Seafood Unlimited, patrons can order them in marinara or a white wine garlic sauce. The mussels were nicely cooked and not a bit scrawny. There must have been at least a dozen in my bowl. I finished them off with ease and dipped bread into the garlic-laced sauce.
Edward likes vegetables as a first course, so we shared an order of steamed baby bok choy ($3.50). I would have liked a bit more pep; garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil would have imparted an Asian flavor. But I sprinkled on salt and pepper and enjoyed the taste of the veggie on its own.
The house salad ($5) consisted of a mid-size mound of mesclun with a scattering of clementine sections. I do not care for fruit in salad, so I saved the sweet winter citrus to eat on its own. Some of the lettuce leaves provided a crispness necessary for a successful salad. A smile came over my face when I saw the small metal cup filled with balsamic vinaigrette. Although I do not usually care for balsamic vinegar, this dressing was fine. Someone had a light touch and it blended well with the olive oil.
We were starting to fill up, but wanted to sample two platters. Edward and I turned to the regular menu and, after deliberating, decided on the fried seafood combination ($18.50). The platter contained crisp fried shrimp, calamari, scallops and white fish, most likely flounder. Platters are accompanied by two sides. French fries and coleslaw tend to be the favorites for those who tuck into this classic fish-house staple.
I ordered jumbo shrimp stuffed with crab imperial ($18.50). It was the only disaster of the evening. The entire platter, from the shrimp to the small baked potato to the mixed vegetables, was cold. The shrimp were not jumbo and too small for that label. Crab imperial is a seasoned, creamy crabmeat I have loved since childhood. Here, it was shredded and tasted as if someone dumped sugar into the mix. I just could not eat it. The platter was removed from our bill.
During dinner Edward sipped a beer called UFO and I went for the Harpoon IPA (both $5) because it is similar to a Belgian wheat beer.
You might think the offerings at Seafood Unlimited are a bit old-fashioned. Still, I think the fact they offer fresh fish and shellfish at reasonable prices has kept this establishment in business for many years, as well as its excellent service. (We did not have to wait long between courses.)
Two tips of the toque to Seafood Unlimited.
270 S. 20th St.