You can get seafood just about anywhere in Florida. We are, after all, almost entirely surrounded by water.
But a national food website just announced that you’ll find the best seafood in a landlocked neighborhood at a small, unassuming market and restaurant in Kendall.
Just west of the Florida Turnpike is FreshCo Fish Market & Grill, a family-run business that Eat This, Not That says offers the best seafood in the Sunshine State. The food at FreshCo “is what seafood dreams are made of,” writes ETNT.
Owner Mario Palazon, who has been in the wholesale seafood business for 20 years, was pleased but surprised by the assessment: “There’s a lot of good seafood in this state,” he says.
Although Palazon has wholesaled crab cakes and conch fritters to restaurants from St. Petersburg to Key West, FreshCo, the restaurant and market has only been open for three years. Palazon said the original idea was to serve sandwiches and soup in the small space (it seats about 40 people).
But his son Marko, a chef who has worked in Key West, New York and aboard private yachts, soon came aboard and crafted a remarkable menu that showcases Caribbean, Peruvian and Jamaican fusion. One example is the Junkanoo paella, one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, which has what Palazon calls a “Jamaican flavor” and is loaded with seafood.
The pandemic hit just as year-old FreshCo planned to open its second location in West Kendall, a move that had to be postponed. Palazon says he hopes the new restaurant, which will be larger and more traditional than the original, will open next month.
“I’ve been saying ‘it opens next month’ for two years,” he says sadly.
Like all restaurateurs, Palazon has felt the effects of the pandemic, but the FreshCo team has found a silver lining. Long wary of using delivery platforms like Uber Eats and Door Dash, he gave in and embraced them, only to find the new business model brought him visibility and new customers.
“People who found us on Uber Eats are now coming to eat in person,” he says. “I hate to say it, because I know how many people have lost their business. But for us, the delivery got us off the ground.
For Palazon, what makes FreshCo unique is the fact that diners can stand at the counter and choose their fish – say, grouper or mahi or salmon or tuna – and prepare it a number of ways: grilled, blackened, fried or jerk-style. You can order Oscar fish, with your fillet of choice smothered in crab. The chefs, all trained by Marko Palazon, are flexible.
Eat This, Not That urges diners to try the hogfish platter, but Palazon warns that right now he doesn’t always have hogfish, a local favorite, on hand.
“Hogfish is one of those things where the price is through the roof right now,” he says. “I’m not buying it. I don’t want to pass that cost on to the customer. I only buy it when the price drops.
When the restaurant has hogfish, it lets regulars know via its Instagram @freshco_fish. Follow and keep an eye out, but act fast if available: “They wipe us out in minutes,” Palazon says.
FreshCo Fish & Grill Market
Or: 12700 SW 122nd Avenue, #113, Miami
Hours: 11am-9pm Sunday to Thursday; 11am-10pm Friday and Saturday
More information: freshcokeywest.com