Stella’s satisfies fish-lovers

Kathleen Ambre

The savory salty scent–sweet paprika, basil, and warm saffron–season the air like that of a coastal seaside, contradictory of the snow beneath my feet and the bitter-cold draft seeping through the front door. Ebony-stained hardwoods, dim lighting, terra-cotta brown accents all impart Stella Fish Cafe’s rustic and somewhat other-worldly appeal. The three-story monstrosity of a building is always bustling with hungry customers; the summers draw fun-loving crowds to a casual roof top balcony lit with Christmas lights, and the winter nights grow busy on Crab Lover’s Thursdays and Lobster Lover’s Sundays.

Seafood starters–a little bit of this, a little bit of that–are the best way to go about the menu. The fresh-fried calamari, crisp and flavorful, stays exceptionally true to a classic seafood menu item, while the coconut shrimp–dipped in a spicy pineapple-coconut marmalade–delivers all the sweets with a lemony-citrus kick. Chesapeake Bay crab cakes–rich, buttery, crumbling at the touch–are devoid of fillers of any kind, enriched by a pinch of cayenne and paprika alongside anything-but-fishy mussels soaked in a champagne cream sauce. Priced around $11 to $13 each, a few appetizers satisfy a group of four or five without breaking the budget.

However, if you are in a rather indulgent mood, the Alaskan Red King Crab dinner is a highly-reputable signature entree. As much as a pound and a half, served alongside garlic chive mashed potatoes and stalks of fresh-grilled asparagus, reasons a lofty price. Peaking around $35, “in the mood” must coincide with “willing to pay,” but if you play your cards right there’s no need to be crabby. Drop in on a Thursday and you can get up to a pound of succulent crab legs for under $20.

Same goes for coupon-clipping lobster fanatics. Show up after four on any given Sunday to claim a whole 1 and 1/4 pound lobster for under $20 before the tank clears out. Due to their sweet, buttery and somewhat infamous prestige, I would show up before five–first come, first served.

If you’re not sure which menu item to choose from or if you’re looking for a little bit of everything all in a single order, I recommend Stella’s fish sampler for the undecided. A pairing of grilled salmon, swordfish, and scallops drizzled with signature sauces, this tempting assortment of coastal creole specialties is well worth its $30 trade off.

Hawaiian ahi tuna, swordfish, scottish salmon, mahi mahi, every day’s fresh catch offers an endless variety. Only the freshest, line caught, day-boat fresh are made available and, consequently, this section of the dinner menu varies day-to-day. Just pick you’re 10 oz. fish of choice and settle on one of five homemade sauces. Satisfy fruity-tart cravings with a pineapple, wasabi, or ponzu salsa, or lay it on thick with a creamy creole hollandaise, but you can never go wrong with the lemon basil buerre blanc, a customer favorite.

Consistently making Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine’s top ten for best seafood, best outdoor dining and best overall restaurant according to the metropolitan reader’s poll, there is no doubt that Stella’s Fish Cafe is worthy of all the acclaim. Whether you’re lapping signature sauces by the drop, shucking oyster on the half shell, or cracking and snapping crustaceans by the leg, scrumptious satisfaction can be met by all “gulls” and “buoys” alike.