There's a reason you won't find bass on the menu
BY SCOTT CHERRY World Scene Writer
Friday, February 22, 2013
During the hubbub of gathering information and putting together stories for the Bassmaster Classic, this question came up in the newsroom more than once: Why don’t we ever see freshwater bass or crappie on a restaurant menu?
Good question. Calls to restaurants and fish markets didn’t turn up a definitive answer, although one came close when he said “those fish aren’t regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), so we aren’t allowed to sell them; it’s a Tulsa health-code thing.”
A glance at the FDA website showed it does have bass and crappie on its list of fish and seafood available for retail sales, so we turned to Elizabeth Nutt at the Tulsa Health Department to see if she could help. She did.
“I did some research, and a call to the Department of Wildlife turned up some information,” Nutt said. “The wildlife department has regulations that say it is illegal to wild harvest or catch fish and sell to a restaurant. That’s mainly because of chemicals and contaminants that might be present in waters that aren’t regulated.
“However, if you want to raise fish to sell commercially you can. You can buy broodstock and raise it in your own pond, and the pond would have regular inspections by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
“That’s the only way it could be done, so I guess restaurants here just don’t have a source for bass and crappie.”
Perhaps we can’t dine on bass or crappie, but we can find a wide range of fish in area restaurants and fish markets.
Two of the best known are combination restaurants-retail fish markets, White River Fish Market and Bodean Seafood, and no two similar businesses could be less alike.
White River started as a downtown fish market in 1932 and added the restaurant following World War II. In 1965, it moved to its current location, 1708 N. Sheridan Road, in a strip center in an older part of town.
It draws customers from all walks of life, and its menu regularly offers as many as 15 to 20 fish varieties, available fried, broiled, grilled and smoked at reasonable prices. Though fish dominates, White River also is known for its sweet potato pie, buttermilk pie, gumbo and red beans and rice.
Bodean Seafood, 3376 E. 51st St., also started as a fish market in 1968 and didn’t add the restaurant until 1981. Today, it is one of the most elegant fine-dining restaurants in town.
Executive chef Tim Richards features entrees such as hazelnut-crusted halibut, peach-ancho grilled Costa Rican mahi mahi and sesame-crusted Gulf yellow fin tuna on the dinner menu and offers prix fixe chef’s table menus Sunday and Monday nights.
Two other excellent restaurants with smaller retail markets attached to them also are good sources for seafood.
Stonehorse Cafe is located in Utica Square shopping center at 21st Street and Utica Avenue, and Boston Deli is at 6231 E. 61st St. Both are chef-owned and have strong followings.
Bonefish Grill, 4653 W. Kenosha St., Broken Arrow (71st Street just east of Garnett Road), is a seafood restaurant that typically stands above other national chains. It usually has 10 or so seafood entrees, such as grilled Atlantic salmon, Chilean sea bass and rainbow trout, and the managing partner there runs a tight ship.
Two places that specialize in fried catfish can be found on the outskirts of Tulsa. The Fish Shack, 11319 S. Highway 51, is on Oklahoma 51 between Broken Arrow and Coweta. The Lazy Fisherman, 16830 S. Memorial Drive, Bixby, is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday-Saturday and lunch only on Sunday.
For that matter, fans of fried catfish can find it at most barbecue joints and diners in northeast Oklahoma, and most fine-dining restaurants have at least one seafood item on their menus.
Professional angler Jason Christie of Park Hill, considered a favorite among the 53 in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic field, holds one of his snowy day bass caught on the last practice day on the lake Wednesday. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World