You can get seafood just about anywhere in Florida. We are, after all, almost completely surrounded by water.
But a national food website just reported 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 has the best seafood in the Sunshine State. The food at FreshCo “is what seafood dreams are made of,” ETNT writes.
Owner Mario Palazon, who has been in the seafood wholesale business for 20 years, was pleased but surprised by the assessment: “There’s a lot of good seafood in this state,” he says.
Though Palazon had been selling crab cakes and conch fritters wholesale to restaurants from St. Petersburg to Key West, FreshCo the restaurant and market has been open only three years. Palazon said the original idea was to serve sandwiches and soup out of 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, came quickly on board and designed a stand-out menu that highlights 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 comes packed full of seafood.
The pandemic struck just as the 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, opens in the next month.
“I’ve been saying ‘It’s opening next month,’ for two years,” he says ruefully.
Like all restaurant owners, Palazon felt the effects of the pandemic, but the FreshCo team found a silver lining. Long wary of using delivery platforms like Uber Eats and Door Dash, he gave in and adopted them, only to discover the new business model brought him exposure and new customers.
“People who found us on Uber Eats are now coming in to eat in person,” he says. “I hate to say it, because I know how many people lost their businesses. But for us, delivery made us take off.”
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 have it prepared any number of ways: grilled, blackened, fried or jerk style. You can order fish Oscar, with your filet 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 at the moment, he doesn’t always have hogfish, a local favorite.
“Hogfish is one of those things where the price is through the roof right now,” he says. “I don’t buy it. I don’t want to pass that cost to the customer. I only buy it when the price goes down.”
When the restaurant has hogfish, it lets regulars know via its Instagram @freshco_fish. Follow and keep an eye out, but act fast if it’s available: “They wipe us out in minutes,” Palazon says.
FreshCo Fish Market & Grill
Where: 12700 SW 122nd Ave., #113, Miami
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
More information: freshcokeywest.com
This story was originally published April 22, 2022 6:00 AM.