Hooked on Caplinger’s Fresh Catch
Indy’s top-tier restaurants have made good strides in showing that a landlocked state like Indiana can serve up fresh and flavorful seafood—in many cases just as good as what you might find near coastal waters. But our local markets haven’t exactly kept pace. Finding that fresh escolar for the grill or those littleneck clams for your seafood chowder can be a challenge. For over a decade, the 56th Street Fish Market was the go-to place for hard-to-find and special-order seafood, but it hit a financial snag and closed up shop in 2007—to the disappointment of its longtime fans and the city’s seafood-loving home cooks.
Late last year, father-and-son duo Nick and Andrew Caplinger, former owners of the 56th Street Fish Market, along with Andrew’s wife, Courtney, reopened what they’re calling Caplinger’s Fresh Catch Seafood Market (7460 N. Shadeland Ave., 317-288-7293) in a cozy and colorfully appointed strip-mall storefront on Shadeland, and their seafood offerings are better than ever. Beyond fresh cuts of tuna, salmon, and more unusual fish, the Caplingers stock their counters with giant scallops, shrimp, and clams, as well as a selection of smoked fish, caviar, condiments, and gourmet products. They even offer Indiana perch from Bell Farms in Redkey, Indiana, as well as a tank of live Indiana-farmed shrimp.
Just as exciting as the fresh fish options are the baskets of tasty fried fish sandwiches and other seafood specialties. Top billing goes to the generous “lobsta” roll—a buttery split-top roll piled with lightly dressed lobster salad. A meaty crab cake compares with some of the better around town, especially when served on a hearty freshly baked bun from Roll With It Bakery in Irvington. The big bargain on the menu, however, has to be the Caplinger’s Special, a battered filet of basa—a flaky Vietnamese catfish—with all the trimmings, which rings up at a very affordable $4.99. Sides include a fairly standard mac ’n’ cheese, smoky greens, and some of the crispiest hush puppies around. And clam chowder is rich and comforting with plenty of flavorful bits of clams and hunks of tender potato. Even desserts are made in house, though “Aunt Gina’s” vanilla cheesecake was a little fluffy and could have used a bit more tang. We left wondering what the key lime pie might be like, but mostly we dreamed of working our way down the list of whiting, perch, and cod sandwiches—or stopping back for some smoked-trout salad, just one of the many homemade offerings from a family-owned shop that’s a welcome addition to Indy’s seafood scene.
Photos by Terry Kirts and Julia Spalding