For chief fishmonger Jon Alexis, the building of TJ's new location in the Shops of Highland Park has been a labor of love and the culmination of all the years he's been running his family's business. "This is what I've always wanted TJ's to become," Alexis says.
The concept behind this new TJ's location is simple: Choose your seafood and they'll grill it up how you like or expertly pack it up for you to take home and cook later. The decor inside is just as easygoing, with wood-grain tiled floors, raw wood and sea glass accents, lots of high-gloss white plus nautical art.
Alexis has handpicked former Flippin' Out chef Scott Hoffner as TJ's executive chef and general manager, as well as chef Andrew Kelley to function as market manager.
TJ's Seafood Market and Grill occupies part of the former Talbot's space, between NOSH and Carbone's, making it a triple threat for lunch or dinner. Add La Duni down the way and there's hardly a need to go anywhere else. Possibly ever.
An icebox full of fresh seafood, from salmon to shellfish to octopus, calamari and caviar stretches almost the full width of the space, with a fresh lobster tank on one end. Customers order on one side and pay on the other, and the menus are printed up each day and change with the tides, if you will.
Drinks are available, of course, along with a selection of items to bring home and use to prepare with your fish. Consider it your own personal mise en place; flavored spice mixes and breadcrumbs, slaw, mirin (rice wine), miso paste and more allow you to play chef at home.
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The "Charcuterie of the Sea" ($17) is a glorious platter filled with smoked white fish mousse, smoked halibut, hickory and alder wood smoked salmon, pastrami-style lox, shrimp with dill as well as accompaniments like grated egg whites, yolks and red onion, plus two creamy sauces and thick slices of bread. It's great to share with friends -- or eat for lunch, if you're me. Other menu highlights include a Connecticut style lobster roll ($22), San Diego-style fish tacos ($14-19) and a Maryland jumbo lump crab cake ($21). You can also customize a Caesar or house salad with grilled fish of your choice at market price.
TJ's Seafood Market and Grill is located in the Shops of Highland Park, at 4212 Oak Lawn Ave.