Now if you live or grew up in a Southeast coastal community, then this is going to be nostalgic. The low country is known for its fresh seafood mainly shrimp, crabs, local fish, and oysters. Where do the locals get all that goodness without their own boat and gear to get it themselves? Their local fish market. These unassuming and modest buildings serve the freshest seafood and are typically the first stop to prepare for a down home low country boil. Today, I’m talking about Savannah Fresh Catch Seafood in particular.
Husband and wife duo, Dexter & Shannon Meeks, own this market and have been in the fishing business for decades. For them, this is a family affair. Dexter’s father first brought him out on the boat. It was all love from there. Fast forward, and he has his own brick and mortar location employing an eclectic group of foodies and providing locals with same-day seafood. All week, he gasses up the boat to check his traps. They reel in over 200 crabs each morning returning to the store to prepare for the lunch and dinner rushes.
His staff have come to know the regulars and can offer the best tips on how to prepare your fish. I’m definitely going back to get the recipe for shrimp alfredo and stir fry from Slim. When they’re not stirring the pot, you can catch them around Savannah performing rap/indie fusion. “I graduated from SCAD, left Savannah, moved to Detroit to pursue my audio career, life happened, years later, I decided to come back to this city. Now, I’m working with a great group of guys who love music and cooking delicious seafood,” said one of his employees. They know what they’re doing and love doing it.
Being a country gal, my eyes immediately zeroed in on the catfish, shrimp, and blue crab claws. You can buy fresh to cook at home, request it to be cooked (fried, grilled, or steamed) right there, order from their combo menu, or pick up some prepared crab stew, low country rice, or seafood salad. That’s why people love a good seafood market. There is so much to choose from plus they cook it on the spot. Most people walking in seemed to order ahead opting for the steamed crabs, low country boil, or a fish fry combo. Everything looked great, but I came for the crab.
Back in lil’ ole Camden county, I used to beg my uncle to take me crabbing. Early in the morning before it got to hot and when the tide was right, we’d drive down to the bridge down the road overlooking the marsh, add bait to the nets and traps, then lower them down into the murky water securing the ends to a weight. Being a kid, I always was anxious and wanted to pull the traps up too quickly. Pull them up to quickly, and watch your crab or fish slide right on out. We’d return home with about 15-20 crabs and maybe a few fish. (I caught a flounder in a net one time believe it or not!) The family would gather to enjoy our spoils with melted garlic butter at the ready… Alright, back to the food.
Dexter hooked me up with about 10 steamed crabs, garlic and house dressing slathered snow crab clusters, and a cup of that specialty crab rice. The rice was fragrant with Old Bay and Cajun spices and blue crab meat mixed in. The thing about blue crab is that it has a very distinct taste. It’s the crab version of gamey and still has the flaky sweetness associated with shellfish. The clusters were unique, because I never thought to combine italian-style dressing with seafood other than maybe a shrimp or salmon salad. Let’s just say it’s something you need to try!
The star of the show was clearly the crabs. If you’ve never eaten crabs at home, just know that it’s an ordeal. You’ve got to get your newspapers spread out to catch any loose shell, juice, and meat. You better make sure to divvy up the crabs to avoid any fights over the last one, especially the one with the two big claws that you were eyeing. Wipes are recommended, but make sure you use a strong detergent to wash the fishiness off your hands afterwards. Oh and there’s no touching your phone unless you want to wash that too. Once your set up is ready, you must begin the tedious task of mining for the meat. It’s all worth it though. I couldn’t film or photograph myself, but I will be sure to do a tutorial for deshelling crabs if you’re interested! This was a very sentimental meal for me. There’s just something about sitting down to get your hands messy, drinking a couple of beers, and enjoying this coastal classic. Maybe that’s what keeps us coming back to eat more.
Catch Savannah’s Fresh Catch Seafood at 1201 Habersham Street downtown. Get your foodie fix by following us on Instagram @thefoodiefeaturesavannah!