Just because you're stuck in the city on a hot summer weekend, doesn’t mean you can’t live it up and keep it clean. If you're looking for some beach town vibes in the big city, we suggest you go check out Crave Fishbar, at one of their two locations. (945 2nd Ave or 428 Amsterdam Ave). We love this place because they’re dedicated to good eats, and sustainability. (And also because they have the best oyster happy hour in the city). We recently sat down with our friend Jason Steinthal, one of the co-owners of Crave Fishbar, to get a better understanding of what this restaurant is all about.
How would you describe Crave Fishbar to a newcomer?
We like to describe ourselves as neighborhood fine dining. Our menu is made up of creative seafood dishes that pull from lots of different pantries. Thai, Mexican, Italian, lots of different flavors going on which is nice. We also boast what I consider to be the best oyster happy hour in the city. At our #oystergram Happy Hour, ever oyster on our menu is a buck a piece, and usually around a dozen different varieties. (Most other places just sell dollar blue points.) As a neighborhood restaurant, we try to emphasize the customer experience and connecting with our guests. I like to say we're a restaurant that it's good to build a relationship with. We take great care of our regulars and as the menu changes and evolves, they get to try new things maybe they haven't tasted before.
Why is sustainability so important to you guys?
As a champion of seafood, sustainability and traceability are of paramount importance. There are so many bad practices with the fishing and seafood industry out there that we feel the need to help inform consumers about what not to eat while also getting credit for doing things the right way and only supporting sustainable practices. We partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and their Seafood Watch program about three years ago and they've done so much to help in terms of training our front of house staff and certifying our menu as sustainable by their standards. (They also have a great app that helps consumers make better choices.) But the health of our oceans is in serious jeopardy, so we do whatever we can to raise awareness on all sorts of different issues. A lot of people think farmed seafood equals bad seafood and bad practice. But there are lots of aquaculture projects that are net positive for oceans. Additionally, there are all these species that are being fished into extinction while there are so many lesser known varieties of fish that are plentiful and delicious.
What are some steps that you take in order to stay sustainable and eco-friendly?
We've partnered with the Billion Oyster Project as they try to reseed New York Harbor with oyster beds in order to clean the water. Oysters are natural filterers, so they are aiming to put [billions of oysters back into the harbor in the coming years]. So we donate our empty oyster shells to them which they come by and collect every few days to use as a kind of substrate on which to spawn new oysters. Between our two locations, I think we donated about twelve tons of oyster shells in the last year that otherwise would have been trashed. And now it's going back into the NY Harbor to help clean it, so that's pretty cool.
What is your advice to me if I want to get the most out of my experience at your restaurant?
Trust your server, take their advice. We train our staff well, they're the experts on what to order and how to have a great time. Start out with some oyster shooters or oyster picklebacks and just go from there. Maybe show up at the tail end of happy hour and grab a dozen dollar oysters and [then] do dinner.
What are your favorite dishes/drinks?
Lobster Curry is the jam for me. It's a pound and a quarter lobster de-shelled served in this amazing thai style red curry. Rich, flavorful, made with coconut milk and lobster stock. It's just so good, you can't stop eating it. Finish with a homemade chocolate chip cookie and ice cream, you can't leave without having one.
Sea's the Day!
Written by: David Robinowitz