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Longhouse Seafood Market
4288 Dunbar Street
Open seven days a week
Mon-Sat, 10am to 9pm
Sun, 11am to 7pm
As a preface, let me begin by saying that I am not very familiar with the history of this business nor the neighborhood (Dunbar) where its found, so some of this background may need some confirmation. But my understanding is that until recently, the Longhouse Seafood Market was a First Nations-owned and operated fishmonger, popular with those in the know, for its salmon (fresh, smoked, candy, jerky, etc.) along with seafood products (smoked oysters, canned sockeye, and live crab and lobster). I randomly spotted a sign out front while driving by, and decided to stop in for a quick bite, not knowing at all it was formerly known more for its fresh market than as a place to sit down and eat. The afore mentioned sign I saw stated in bold lettering, fresh oven baked halibut & chips, and for two pieces could be had for $14.99 (single piece offering was also available for $9.99). The words “fresh” and “oven baked” got my attention, and at that price, I figured it was going to be a lot better than some joint that deep fries (in nasty old oil that hasn’t been changed in weeks) some frozen product coming out of some mass production plant.
Stepping inside, you immediately notice a few tables in the forefront of the space, which leads to a counter towards the back, with a display case at the far end. When I walked inside, I noticed it was completely empty (both the display case and the seating area). It was then that I had some doubts about what exactly this place was about, as the other fishmonger places I know of in the west side don’t have a cafe-like section for customer seating and are all about just selling fresh seafood to go. Hesitantly, I asked for the halibut & chips offering, found that it was indeed on, paid for my order and sat down to wait.
And wait, and wait, and wait. In the thirty minutes that passed, five other customers had come in. Most were there to pick up some fresh halibut, salmon, etc. One guy came in and got told it would take some time to prepare his order (same thing I asked for) and left instead. Partway through my waiting time, the lone front of shop employee brought out a salad to my table, which was part of the meal. A pleasant tasting, though not overly exciting mixed greens combination, with dried raisins, sunflower seeds, and a simple vinaigrette.
It seemed that my order was taking more time because the fishmonger in the back (incidently, seemed to have French accent, thus led me to believe the Native connection to this place is no longer) was in the process of breaking down some product they had just received. At least that’s the sense I got from listening to the other customers’ conversations with him. In fact, most of the customers that ordered something, stepped outside and said they’d come back later to pick it up, making me think that they were locals living nearby. In one conversation, the man in the back said they had some lobster and offered it up to a customer, not sure if they still have the live tanks this place is said to have had back in the day.
Finally, when my plate was delivered, I was relieved to see that on first glance, it looked pretty good. Nice light golden color, not that ugly dark burnt brown you see with deep fried variations, with an appetizing smokey scent coming from the chips. Skin-on and still soft inside, the chips were very good, though a bit weak on the seasoning. The halibut as soon as I cut into it with my fork, I knew was indeed fresh, flaky and a brilliant white in color, and the meat itself was very flavorful. The outer crust, made with potato flakes, complimented nicely in terms of texture, as well as the side of chips. A few squirts of fresh lemon gave the halibut a further upkick in taste. The garnish of orange I thought was unnecessary though.
Despite the strange feeling of not knowing if this is indeed an eat-in place (on my way out, I briefly saw this simple computer printed sheet that had a name, something like “Sweetwater Cafe”, so perhaps that’s what they are trying to call that part of the business), the long wait time, and the virtually non-existant service for table seated guests, I’d recommend this place for the meal to be had. Fresh, oven baked halibut & chips, doesn’t get much simpler than that, and that is indeed what this place offers, and delivers well.