When It’s Seafood You Want, Say Uncle’s
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Here in the islands, we all have that special uncle in our lives who lives for the ocean. That one uncle who would spend hours on the boat pursuing the perfect ahi, aku and bottom fish. Today, Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill, located at the Waterfront at Pier 38, honors those uncles by offering up the freshest of seafoods, sushi and more.
This award-winning establishment opened in 2007, and manager Sean Simpson says customers can expect nothing but the highest quality products. In fact, Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill’s fishing boat “Sea Spray” is actually docked at Pier 38.
“Fishing is an important part of Hawaii’s culture and we really wanted to highlight this in our restaurant,” Simpson says. “We really want to bring Hawaii’s fishing community together and everyone who loves seafood.”
Dining Out recently caught up with Simpson over plates and plates of fresh fish, shrimp, sashimi and poke at the eatery, where he shared exactly why Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill is the absolute mecca for all seafood fanatics.
DO: Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill is a favorite among seafood lovers and everything is served fresh, correct? What is the concept behind the restaurant?
Simpson: Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill was named as a tribute to all of the uncles in everyone’s lives who were always there for us. We want our customers to feel at home here, and also bring back the feel of old Hawaii. People really enjoy the freshness of the seafood here, and we get our fish from the Honolulu fish auction six days a week. Some of our fish is from the Big Island as well, and even as far as Tahiti.
DO: Do you have a special uncle in your life? Is it true that your uncle also owns the restaurant?
Simpson: Yes, my uncle, Bruce Johnson, actually owns the restaurant and he has a great love for the ocean. If you look on the walls, you’ll find actual photos of him and friends of his when he was learning how to fish. Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill also is a subsidiary of Fresh Island Fish, which our family owns. Fresh Island Fish brings in an average of 20,000 pounds of fish per day.
DO: The menu offers various selections of fish and chips, fish tacos, fish sandwiches, salads, fresh fish entrees and more. Can you elaborate on the many delicious creations prepared by executive chef Geoffrey Arakawa?
Simpson: Well, our Fresh Opakapaka ($25.95) is a signature item featuring sauteed opakapaka with fresh mushroom butter sauce, topped with king crab meat. It’s also served with your choice of rice or french fries with tossed salad. Uncle’s Signature Poke Tower ($15.95) is another favorite, with a tower of sashimi-grade poke layered with guacamole and ahi tartar, topped with tobiko on a bed of rice and nori, served with tortilla chips. Check out the daily and weekly specials, too. The daily specials feature certain catches that we receive from the fish auction — we’ve been seeing a lot of opah recently.
DO: Those who love the classics like fresh fish and chips with fries and cole slaw can get it all here, can’t they?
Simpson: Of course! We have fresh Mahi Mahi ($15.95) and Opakapaka ($17.95) battered in Uncle’s special seasonings and deep-fried in zero-trans fat oil. For something a bit different, we also serve Shrimp and Chips ($15.95) accompanied with french fries and homemade cole slaw. We have a bar as well, offering beer, wine and cocktails that go well with these dishes.
DO: For those a bit more health conscious, what would you recommend?
Simpson: Our Seared Sashimi Grade Ahi Salad ($17.95) is a top choice among our customers, as it consists of fresh slices of seared ahi on a bed of mixed greens with Oriental dressing. The Crab-N-Avocado Salad ($15.95) is another healthy option with natural crab meat with romaine lettuce, fresh avocados, cucumbers and tomatoes. We offer sushi Thursday through Sunday nights, and all day on the weekends. Our sushi chef Ernie Gray creates special rolls, such as Hamachi Jalapeno ($19.95) and Poke on the Pier ($17.95). Hamachi Jalapeno presents diners with a roll filled with snow crab, asparagus and yama gobo topped with fresh hamachi, diced jalapeno, yuzu and chili oil. Poke on the Pier is a signature roll with snow crab, avocado and cucumber topped with sashimi grade maguro, fried ogo and kukui poke sauce.
DO: Is there anything on the menu for those non-seafood eaters?
Simpson: Yes, we offer a U.S. Choice New York Cut Striploin ($19.95), sizzling with grilled onions, and our newest item, Uncle’s Backyard BBQ Chicken ($15.95): a broiled all-natural half-a-chicken marinated with fresh ginger, garlic and hoisin sauce, and served with sugar snap peas.
DO: Who is your clientele here?
Simpson: We have a nice combination of both locals and tourists. For the past couple of years it’s been mostly locals, but now many tourists in Waikiki have heard about us and have come to dine here. But we do have a great amount of loyal customers, who we are really grateful for.
DO: What is something special about the restaurant that not many people would be aware of?
Simpson: First off, all of our fish is fresh and my uncle’s company that owns the restaurant, Fresh Island Fish, is the largest seafood distributor in the Islands. I think what people might not be aware of is that whenever you’re getting fresh fish at many of the hotels, grocery stores and restaurants, a lot of times the fish has already come through this building.
DO: How would you describe the atmosphere of the restaurant?
Simpson: It’s definitely casual dining, but because the quality of our fish is high, you can come here and enjoy a really nice meal. We hope to open more locations in the future.
Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill
- Waterfront at Pier 38
- 1135 North Nimitz Highway
- Honolulu, HI 96817
- (808) 275-0063
- Tuesday – Sunday
- 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. (Lunch and dinner)
- 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. (Lunch)