By Tyler Hall, JustTulsa.com
When the town of Dawson was annexed in 1949, Tulsa absorbed over 3,500 new residents and 2.5 square miles of land. Dawson’s reputation as a tough, industrial community hasn’t changed much since then, but people still come from all over the metro to eat at one special place that is located in the area where Dawson once was: White River Fish Market.
White River operated successfully for many years in Downtown Tulsa, but was eventually relocated just north of Pine and Sheridan — right next to the airport.
Craving a little seafood on a recent Saturday, I stopped in for lunch, sampled a few dinner platters, and took a few pictures. Enjoy!
One thing that White River Fish Market is known for is the freshness of the food that they sell. With fish and seafood, that is extremely important. I don’t think I need to explain why anything less than fresh isn’t acceptable in the seafood business, but you don’t have to worry about it here. Fresh-caught fish of all types are flown in from all over the map, then make the short trek from the airport to the display cooler in the store.
You can expect to have a bit of a line if you show up in the middle of a lunch or dinner rush. The line does move quickly, but I’m the type that prefers to show up a little before or after the rush.
The menu itself is impressive, with everything from catfish to rainbow trout to orange roughy available fried, broiled, or grilled. The options don’t stop at those more common offerings, though; you can also have halibut, mahi mahi, swordfish, and sea bass — just to name a few. All of their dinners come with hush puppies and two sides.
Sometimes you just want to try more than one thing, so as a friend and I often do, we ordered two dinners that we were both interested in trying and shared both of them. On this particular visit, I ordered a broiled red snapper dinner with a side of red beans and rice and he ordered the seafood platter with red beans and rice, too. Although it always strikes me as a little funny when a restaurant is known for their sides, late owner Garry Cozby made sure that the sides he offered would be just as memorable as the seafood that they were popular for. This does not go unnoticed at White River.
Although I totally believe that I would enjoy any of the other sides here, I always get the red beans and rice. This stuff is what cajun dreams are made of. Though not listed as a side on their menu, you can order the red beans and rice as a substitution for the two sides you get with any dinner. If you want to just order a stand-alone red beans and rice, it’s just $3, which I would gladly pay any day.
While catfish is something you can eat just about anywhere in this part of the country, I can’t think of any place I’ve ever enjoyed it as much as I have when we ordered the seafood platter here. The flavor was brought out even more by their cocktail sauce and house-made tartar sauce, but it would be just as tasty without either. The breading that they fry their fish in is seasoned perfectly, which is crucial since overdoing it would simply mask the quality of the fish.
Stuffed crab is something that is usually a reflection of the restaurant selling it, since it’s a cooked mix of ingredients selected by the chef. There were no surprises when I had my first bite of their stuffed crab: perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, no complaints at all.
This meal included fried scallops, too, which I’d never had before. They obviously have the whole seafood taste, but they were much more of a buttery, creamy experience than the other items in the dish. The two hush puppies that are included with every meal were awesome. I love how their cornmeal breading has just enough pepper in it to make you say, “Wow! That has a little bit of a bite to it.”
I love fried fish just as much as the next person, but for some reason broiled fish sounded better on this trip.
I went for the broiled red snapper fillets this time, and I was not disappointed one bit. As a matter of fact, if you’re the kind of person who hears seafood being talked up but you still can’t really get into it, this is the dinner to try. A little melted butter drizzled over a fillet, followed by some fresh lemon juice squeezed onto it will make you a believer. Red Snapper is a leaner, firmer fish, but it was still quite moist, well-seasoned, and skin-on style is great. On top of all of this, it seems like the portion size for this dinner was ridiculously large.
I’ve been to White River dozens of times in the last thirty or so years, but I’m a little crushed that I’d never had their broiled fish until my most recent trip. Okay — that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but that broiled red snapper was mindblowing. I can’t wait to eat that again.
We didn’t go for a slice of one of their store-made pies on this trip, but we were in agreement that we’d definitely have to try a slice of that chocolate pie on the next trip. I mean, seriously: look at those chocolate ribbons.
Residents of Broken Arrow will be happy to hear that White River Fish Market just announced the planned installation of a second store at 71st and Lynn Lane. That store will no doubt become a destination restaurant for Tulsans, too. This business has an incredibly loyal following of diners — many who have eaten at White River for their entire lives.
Having a new location in the eastern part of the metro should only build that following, as White River Fish Market has proven that they’re doing what every restaurant needs to do to succeed: sell a product with unmatched quality and deliver it quickly, consistently, and without gimmicks.
White River Fish Market
1708 N. Sheridan Road
Open 11am-8pm Monday thru Saturday
When Tyler Hall isn’t writing about fun things to do in Tulsa, you can find him out in the middle of the woods building a cabin, canoeing on Ranch Creek, or exploring Oklahoma state parks with his wife and daughter. His creative inspiration comes from a supportive family and a desire to show other Oklahomans things that they can enjoy, but may not know about yet.