Tucked in a strip mall off Atlantic Boulevard is The Fish Company. Visitors are greeted by jaunty blue and white patio umbrellas and neon in the windows proclaiming “Restaurant” and “Oyster Bar.” Inside, the restaurant is accented with glass tile and blue walls. A curvy, sinuous bar snakes its way down the left side of the restaurant, ending at a station of fresh oysters, crabs and shrimp. Walls are embellished with seaside pictures, and, towards the quiet back of the place, modern art from distinctive local artist Enrique Mora.
“A lot of people are surprised to hear that we not a corporate restaurant and are locally owned by people who have lived at the Beaches for years,” says General Manager Samantha Johnson. That misconception might be due to the excellent branding within the restaurant and the slick decor. Owners Bill and Ann Pinner have lived at the beaches for over 30 years. Since growing up in Chicago working at a hotdog stand, Bill Pinner has worked in the food industry. He says that it’s something he’s always been naturally drawn to and that he’s always intended to own a restaurant.
“We’re still getting people coming in who didn’t even know we were here, even though it’s been eight years,” says Johnson. The year they opened in 2007 was a good year, and then the economy tanked. They eked though until 2010, when business picked up again. Johnson says that lately their lunch business during the week has been steadily growing, but it’s the oysters that really bring the crowds in. Owner and Chef Bill Pinner believes they may sell the most Florida oysters on the First Coast. The numbers are certainly impressive. They’ve often been known to sell as many as 80,000 oysters in a week. All day on Tuesdays they run a $5.99 special for a dozen oysters, but they also offer the same deal from 2-7pm as part of Happy Hour and for the all-day happy hour on Sundays.
Pinner says they work hard to buy local seafood. The grouper, flounder and triggerfish always come from local waters. Not everything is available locally, but freshness is key, so none of their fish are ever frozen, and they get daily deliveries of seafood. Serving fresh seafood simply is their raison d’ětre. “We serve the freshest fish and we don’t steal the flavor with complicated preparation,” says Pinner. “We let the fish speak for themselves.” Pinner’s knowledge of fish comes from his time at the Marina Restaurant (attached to the Safe Harbor Fish Market) for 5 years.
Local sourcing on their menu isn’t just limited to fish. Their romaine lettuces, microgreens, and some of their squashes come from local grower Barnyard Farms. Menu items are a mix of East Coast preparations and Southern items, especially when it comes to side items, like hush puppies. Those with a hankering for perfectly fried shrimp might also want to order the Fish Company’s fried shrimp. Pinner’s time as executive Chef at Ragtime (1986-2002) really shows in their blackened fish preparation. They make the seasoning themselves and there’s a great balance of heat and flavor. If you’re craving crawfish, The Fish Company also provides on that front. Fresh and prepared unelaborately, their crawfish are some of the best I’ve come across on the First Coast.
As for alcohol, they’ve got a full bar with some craft beer on the menu, including a local tap that rotates every month. Thursdays they have a wine special with $2 house wines (includes Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and White Zinfandel) all day.