2005_03_food_rawbar.jpgFish is one of those spots that we've walked past a million times over the five years it has been open, but somehow have never made it in. We've even made a mental note -- oooh, local seafood joint... looks good...should stop by soon -- but somehow didn't make it. Until last week, when we finally pulled ourselves together to go in and see what Fish was all about. A few things to know about Fish right off the bat: first, owner Edward Taylor also owns Down East, Fish's exclusive seafood distributor. This gives Fish some of the best and freshest seafood around. Second, Fish is a neighborhood joint. Despite the tourist crowd that may wander in on the weekends due to its Bleecker Street location, during the week the place is quiet, low-key, and heavy on the regulars. In fact, a great deal of the menu was influenced by the customers and neighborhood chefs; on it you'll find Kenny's Bleecker Street Burger (beef from Ottomanelli, across the street), and Scallops Dave's Way (Dave Pasternack of Bistro du Vent and Esca).

Fish takes their nautical theme to heart, with pictures of fisherman decorating the walls and a copy of Moby Dick above the raw bar, and each table is equipped with a shaker of sea salt and a tin of Old Bay seasoning. The bar was graced with two types of tabasco and bowls of peanuts, which made us quickly determine that the bar was the place for us to dine. We were instantly welcomed by Todd Mitchell, the manager and bartender, who was our guide through the menu. We took his suggestions and were on our way.

Todd got us started in classic style, with glasses of prosecco to accompany our foray into the raw bar offerings ($16 per person). The prosecco was the perfect match for the raw bar, as the crisp acidity of the prosecco tamed the brininess, yet brought out the sweetness of the oysters. We had a variety of fantastically fresh East and West Coast oysters, along with two types of clams and super-humongous shrimp.

We continued our gastronomical journey with the soups, tasting both the lobster bisque and the seafood gumbo ($6/cup; $7/bowl). The seafood gumbo had a nice spicy kick to it, but the bisque was clearly the winner in this round. Topped with a healthy dose of sherry (Mmmm...oloroso goodness), it was boozy and creamy without being heavy.

2005_03_food_angels.jpgMoving on through the appetizers, we encountered the Angels on Horseback ($9), or as we like to refer to them, party in our mouths. Let us explain...imagine a magical place where the most succulent oysters are hugged by double smoked Ottomanelli bacon...where horseradish flows like the nile into a sea of cocktail sauce...oh, if we close our eyes we can almost bring ourselves back.

2005_03_food_friedoysters.jpgJust in case we hadn't gotten our fill of oysters at this point, we dove in to the fried oysters ($9), topped with seaweed salad and drizzled with a soy ginger sauce, dressing them up a bit. We capped off our trip down the appetizer list with the Spinney Creek steamers -- clams steamed in Pabst Blue Ribbon and jalapenos, which left a broth so tasty that we had to get extra bread to mop it up. At this point, we really didn't have room for any of the entrees, but we plan on coming back to taste some of them -- one of our dining companions spoke very highly of the horseradish salmon, and another diner we met raved about the Pot o' Bass, a Chilean Sea Bass braised with potatoes, tomatoes, onion and white wine.

Not only is Fish comfortable and relaxing, with Aaron Neville and Elvis playing in the background, but it's easy on the wallet, as there are some fantastic bargains to be found. If you're only in the mood for a drink, their happy hour special, offered every day between 12 and 7 pm, gets you $1.50 Pabst Blue Ribbons, or a glass of their house red or house white (Banrock Station Merlot or Chardonnay) for $2. Happy hour also brings their salmon special: eight ounces of salmon with a salad for $8. Their "Red, White, and Blue" oyster special has to be one of the best bargains in the city -- six blue point oysters or six clams on the half shell with either a Pabst Blue Ribbon or a glass of the house red or white for a mere $8. That alone is a reason to stop by the next time you're strolling down Bleecker Street. If you'd prefer to cook your own, Fish will sell you their seafood at retail prices, but Gothamist prefers to come back, grab a few happy hour specials, and hang out at our new local seafood joint.

Fish, 280 Bleecker Street at Jones Street, 212-727-2879
Appetizers, $6-$14; sandwiches $8-$18; entrees $13-$36

co-written by Tamara Lover