Claws' manager, Chris Felser, has done a lot of explaining this week. The phone rings, Felser picks it up with "Hello, Claws," and the caller asks, "What happened to Ocean's Bounty?"
What happened is that Ocean's Bounty's owners, Gail and Mark Nelson, have retired. But they wanted their little freestanding market to endure. They'd heard good things about Claws, a 2-year-old seafood market in West Sayville, so they contacted Frank Palermo and Chris Meyer, Claws' owners. "It was love at first sight," Palermo said.
That was in late November 2014. Less than three months later, Claws "Northside" opened. "We wanted to be open by Lent," Palermo said, "and we managed to open the day before Ash Wednesday."
At 12 feet, the display case at the St. James shop is less than half the length of the one in West Sayville. Luckily, said Palermo, Felser is a master of fish presentation. "He puts more than one type of fish in each tray to create a kind of collage. Like here -- he's arranged whole red snappers and monkfish as well as filets, and it looks beautiful." On a Lenten Friday, Palermo has 36 different fresh fish in the case, about 10 less than he has in West Sayville. "Over there we've also got mako shark, squid, four types of salmon instead of three. But we can get anything in either store."
Beyond a wide range of fresh fish, Claws has a small selection of prepared foods, lobster rolls ($16.95) and soups to go ($6.95 a pint, $10.95 a quart). Recent offerings: lobster bisque, New England clam chowder, shrimp-corn chowder and an oddly satisfying split pea with mussels.
415 North Country Rd. (Route 25A), St. James