Cheap Eats

Cheap Eats: Seafood

CorrespondentMay 23, 2013 

Hankering for the beach but vacation still several weeks away? No problem. Just set sail for one of these area seafood joints. You won’t get a tan, or even a sea breeze. At two of these eateries, which you’ll find tucked inside seafood markets, you may even find yourself eating in the car.

What you will get is fresh seafood, much of it from North Carolina waters, fried to order and served up at bargain prices.

Saltbox Seafood Joint

608 N. Mangum St., Durham


No website; find it on Facebook.

In a nutshell: As close to a shore setting as you’ll find in these parts: An oyster-shell path leads from the sidewalk to a seafoam-green shack, where you place your order at a walkup window and eat at communal picnic tables. The chalkboards usually list a half-dozen or so N.C. fish and shellfish, which you can get as a sandwich or a plate. Fresh and moist under a light, spicy breading, this is some of the best fried seafood around. No wonder: Owner/chef Ricky Moore is the guy who previously wowed us as the opening chef at GlassHalfull in Carrboro.

Saltwater Seafood & Fry Shack

4 Fenton St., Raleigh


In a nutshell: The location, in the industrial strip lining Capital Boulevard, isn’t exactly what you’d call loaded with coastal charm. Never mind that. All you need to know is that the place is run by members of the Earp family. This shop has a little “fry shack” tucked into one corner of the seafood market. The deep-fried selection covers a wide spectrum from shrimp to flounder to catfish to “bonefish of the day,” all in a classic Calabash-style breader and served in generous portion on a sandwich or platter.

Family members also run Earp’s Seafood on South Saunders, but the two businesses are not related.

Sea Depot

750-G E. Chatham St., Cary


No website; find it on Facebook.

In a nutshell: Long known for its fresh fish and shellfish, this little strip-mall Asian seafood market began frying to order a few years ago. Most of the menu will be familiar to fans of Southern-fried seafood, though the board does list a few items you don’t expect to find at a Calabash-style shack. Fancy an egg roll with that fried catfish platter? Maybe some Tater Tots with your fried oyster sandwich (which, you’ll discover, is served on plain white bread)? This is your place. And if you’re a hushpuppy traditionalist, they’ve got you covered, too.

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