By SUSAN ERICSON
With 40-plus years of fishmongering and cooking, 20 of which have been spent at this restaurant, owner Ruddy Field is serious about bringing his customers simple cuisine from briny depths and fresh water lakes. Landlubbers need not apply.
Guileless in decor, with a website apparently from the dawn of the browser era, Navesink Fishery feels like your grandma’s living room, with seasonal and holiday bric-a-brac, including a colorfully lit Christmas tree. We’re told that the pennants on the wall behind the retail counter are from the colleges that Field’s employees have attended.
In terms of food, the place offers straightforward, New England-style fare. Fish is sourced by Field and brought in daily from the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. You won’t find boxes of pre-breaded, frozen food in his kitchen.
Open for lunch only four days a week, midday is a great time to sit down to a fresh-made seafood meal here, because dinner time can be pretty hectic, especially on weekends. The lunch menu is strictly seafood-oriented, unless you take advantage of the single chicken breast sandwich option. It offers fried or broiled fish as a sandwich on your choice of bread or roll, as well as lobster salad and shrimp salad sandwiches. Large platters of seafood range from the typical fried or broiled flounder to broiled rainbow trout.
PieHole started with a cup of velvety smooth corn chowder flecked liberally with bits of crab and served with a bowl of Olde Cape Cod Oyster Crackers. This could have been a light lunch in itself.
That fun oxymoron, “colossal shrimp,” applies to the platter we ordered. A shrimp lover’s dream, the plate was brimming with succulent crustaceans coated in fine bread crumbs, then fried to a juicy but delicate brittleness.
Sides are prepared as well as the main event, displaying long-time experience in the kitchen. French fries, crackling on the outside and creamy on the inside, were hard to stop eating, and the accompanying coleslaw had just the right amount of vinegary tartness. At $12.95, this is a filling lunch and a big treat.
The dinner menu adds a list of daily specials without the glitz and glam of modern gastronomy. What we find here is seafood that has a deja vu comfortingly familiar deliciousness to it.
Navesink Fishery, located in what used to be the A&P shopping center at Highway 36 and Valley Drive, is open for lunch from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Dinner and retail hours can be found here. The restaurant is BYOB.