“I don’t eat fish in places that aren’t busy,” says Adam Geringer-Dunn inside Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co., the restaurant and seafood market he opened with his business partner Vincent Milburn in north Brooklyn in 2014. It’s 7 o’clock on a Tuesday night and service is picking up. Two men in overalls walk in and take a seat at the bar. They’re followed by a girl in Converse who says she’s looking for her friend. “Red hair, short,” she says. The hostess takes a glance at the sea of patrons in the single dining room and says she hasn’t see her. The girl stands patiently to the side, her attention now clearly on the fresh fish displayed behind a glass divider.
Though Milburn and Geringer-Dunn became friends while working in the music industry, they’ve always been drawn to fish. Originally from Massachussets, Milburn, a monger who heads the retail portion of Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co., was born into a family with over 130 years in the wholesale seafood business. Geringer-Dunn, the executive chef at the restaurant, has been pescatarian since his teens.
“I was traveling to Manhattan to buy fish,” says Geringer-Dunn of life before his days at Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. “There were all these amazing butchers, bakers and cheese mongers here. Even people making wine and beer. But nobody was touching fish.” Channeling the DIY sensibility that’s become synonymous with new Brooklyn, Milburn and Geringer-Dunn quit their day jobs to begin selling the highest-quality fish they could find.
“We have this guy in Florida who sends us a box of fish twice a week. We don’t know what we’re getting until it shows up.”
With only a year to their name, the pair have already managed to splash into New York City’s competitive dining scene with write-ups from The New York Times, The New Yorker and New York magazine. The menu, always in flux, reflects the seasonal nature of the restaurant. Out of principle, Atlantic cod, which is currently on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, remains absent. “Our fish changes depending on what we get in. We have this guy in Florida who sends us a box of fish twice a week,” says Geringer-Dunn, pointing to several spear-caught hogfish for sale. “We don’t know what we’re getting until it shows up.”
Though Geringer-Dunn is flexible with the fish that goes into dishes, staples like the Maine-style lobster roll and squid-laden, Japan-inspired Tokubetsu rice bowl, consistently shine. But the brightest star on the menu might be the Baja-style fish taco — breaded, fried and topped with lettuce, red cabbage and a savory in-house chipotle mayonnaise.
On this particular night at Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co., the tacos are made with hake, which Geringer-Dunn calls a prime white fish alternative to cod, and perfect for frying. “It’s nice and meaty,” he says. “It stays really moist when you cook it. It’s mild and kind of sweet, but it takes on the other flavors really well.” For home cooks, he advises against using oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or sardines, which can clash with the rest of the flavors going into tacos.
He advises against using oily fish, which can clash the rest of the flavors going into tacos.
“Lots of people don’t do tacos well,” he says. “They use things like mango salsa, which is too sweet and overpowering.” To preserve the integrity of the fish, the kitchen here champions simplicity: grilled corn tortillas (which they source fresh from a neighboring factory in Bushwick); well-seasoned white fish, fried, which gives body and anchors the taco; crunchy slaw, for texture; and topped with a Mexican hot sauce or chipotle mayonnaise.
“We knew if we’re going to tacos, we’d need to do them properly,” says Geringer-Dunn as a taco order makes its way from the prep station to the bar, where the girl in Converse is now sitting with her friend drinking rosé offered on tap. The pair look longingly as the plate lands in front of a tattooed couple next to them. There is chatter by the door, where a throng of patrons noticed too. The general consensus is that the Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. is doing just fine.
Baja Fish Tacos with Citrus Slaw and Chipotle Mayo
Makes four tacos
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 small red cabbage, cored and sliced thin (4 ounces)
1/2 small green cabbage, cored and sliced thin (4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chipotle sauce
2 quarts peanut oil
1/2 pound sustainably sourced mild white fish (such as hake or pollock), cut into four 2-ounce fingers
4 corn tortillas, warmed or lightly grilled
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 limes, wedged
1. For fish marinade: combine canola oil with lemon juice, one tablespoon of lime juice, Old Bay, chili powder and garlic powder in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
2. Citrus cabbage slaw: combine red & green cabbage, one tablespoon of kosher salt and the remaining lime juice in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes then strain off any excess liquid and discard. Set aside.
3. Chipotle mayonnaise: combine mayonnaise and chipotle sauce in a medium bowl and whisk until homogenous. Set aside.
4. Heat peanut oil in a deep fryer, Dutch oven, or large wok to 350°F.
5. Transfer fish pieces to bowl with marinade and turn to coat thoroughly. Working one piece at a time, lift fish, let excess marinade drip off, then transfer to bowl with flour. Toss to coat. Lift carefully with tongs or dry fingers and slowly lower into hot oil. Repeat with remaining fish.
6. Fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides (about 3 minutes total). Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt.
7. Divide tortillas, top each with shredded citrus cabbage, one piece of fish, chipotle mayo and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.