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LV Recommends: Fresh seafood in the Iowa City area


Sushiya in North Liberty, Iowa
Sushiya in North Liberty, Iowa

Though Iowa is far from any ocean, that doesn’t mean we’re lacking in fresh, well-prepared seafood. Whether cooked or raw, the quality of fish and shellfish in Iowa can evoke memories of the sea.

Fabian Seafood

McWane Dairy Queen parking lot
526 S. Riverside Dr., Iowa City

The first time someone told me about the shrimp truck, I was sure she was joking. I mean, why would I believe that there’s a truck that magically appears in the parking lot of a Dairy Queen, once a month, and sells pounds and pounds of wild-caught shrimp, red snapper, oysters and crab out of ice-filled coolers? She wasn’t lying. Beginning each spring and monthly through summer, Fabian Seafood drives a truck full of freshly harvested seafood up from Galveston, Texas, sets up shop at McWane Dairy Queen on Riverside Drive and blesses us all with treats from the deep. To get on their mailing list and receive alerts of their impending arrival, sign up at fabianseafood.com.

 

Clinton Street Social Club
Clinton Street Social Club

Clinton Street Social Club

18 ½ S. Clinton St., Iowa City
clintonstreetsocial.com

Freshly shucked oysters are regularly featured at Clinton Street Social Club and the Motley Cow Cafe. Diners may be skeptical of eating oysters so far from the ocean, but—as any fish monger can tell you—if the oysters are firmly closed before shucking, they’re alive, and, well, it doesn’t get much fresher than “alive.”

Motley Cow Cafe

160 N. Linn St., Iowa City
motleycowcafe.com

The fish specials at the Motley Cow are always seasonally focused, featuring nuanced, interesting sauces and accompaniments that let the fish truly shine. A recent favorite featured halibut with a light pumpernickel crust, served in delicate tomato broth with arbequina olives and watercress; the fish took center stage, and each bite highlighted how fresh it was.

Konomi

843 Quarry Rd. #140, Coralville
www.konomigrill.com

There is also stellar sushi in the Iowa City area. In addition to their intriguing artisanal sake menu, Konomi, at the Iowa River Landing in Coralville, features artfully rendered sushi rolls. Options range from more Westernized treats like the Philly roll (salmon, cream cheese and scallions), to the traditional spider roll, featuring soft-shell crab. They are beautifully presented, well-made and tasty.

Sushiya

745 Community Dr. #A, North Liberty

For nigiri, sashimi and small plates, the newly opened Sushiya, in North Liberty, is as good as any sushi on the coasts, or anywhere, really. I hate to use the adjective “buttery,” as it seems cliché, but I honestly could have mistaken the scallop nigiri for perfectly tempered butter: I held it in my mouth and waited for it to melt. Tuna tataki with ponzu and onion is exquisitely simple, and their tako sunomono—cooked octopus with a light, smoky vinegar dressing and slivers of raw cucumber—is so clean and has such bright, freshly focused flavors, it’s like a Zen koan of tiny brilliance.

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