Plano restaurant Fishmonger’s — beloved for its shrimp tortilla soup, gumbo, seafood with Ponchartrain sauce and bourbon bread pudding — is closing Nov. 27, 2022.
Co-owner Jim Elrod says the restaurant has been busy “like Mardi Gras” in the last week, as regulars began to hear the restaurant would close a few days after Thanksgiving.
Fishmonger’s would have turned 41 years old on Dec. 7, 2022, but co-owners Pattie and Jim Elrod don’t want to wait that long to retire. But also: “Everything has changed” about the restaurant industry since the coronavirus pandemic hit and inflation drove prices up, Jim Elrod says.
“This economy is crazy,” he says. “It’s really difficult to make any money, with labor problems and delivery problems and food costs.”
He gives one example: “Right now, we can’t get iceberg lettuce. Every week, it’s a different thing.”
Their struggle is sad news for Fishmonger’s loyal customers, some who have been visiting the restaurant since 1981. Fishmonger’s has been at three addresses in Plano, all near East Park Boulevard and Central Expressway. For a few years, Fishmonger’s also had a restaurant on Dallas’ Greenville Avenue.
When Fishmonger’s started serving Cajun-inflected seafood in the early ‘80s, Elrod, then age 29, says the Dallas suburbs were not populated with many seafood restaurants other than Red Lobster.
Their gumbo, available with chicken Andouille or seafood, is Pattie Elrod’s grandmother’s recipe. Sadie was Sicilian, and she came to the United States at the port in New Orleans. The Elrods took her gumbo recipe and made it their own, and some consider it to be the best gumbo in Dallas-Fort Worth. In a dive into Dallas Morning News archives, a whopping five writers called attention to it in reviews over the years.
Customers who have lived in D-FW for decades might remember Fishmonger’s all-you-can-eat oysters in the ‘80s and part of the ‘90s. That’s long gone: “Now, it would be $100 to do that,” Elrod says.
He also thinks back to the changes in their well-liked Ponchartrain dish. “It was originally red fish, when that was dirt cheap. Now it’s impossible to get,” he says. They changed the dish to tilapia.
Today, he doesn’t expect to be able to sell the dish at all because the restaurant is out of supplies.
But Elrod isn’t ready to get sentimental about Fishmonger’s just yet.
“I don’t think we ever imagined it would last 41 years. Back when we started all this, it was just a job, something to do,” he says.
As the restaurant winds down, the Elrods ask for patience. The restaurant will be closed on Thanksgiving Day but is expected to remain open all other days until dinnertime on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022 — as long as there’s still food to serve. They’re already running out.
We’ll leave you with a sweet exchange between former News critic Dotty Griffith and a reader in 1987.
Q&A: Dear Dotty: I recently had lunch at Fishmonger’s in Plano. The Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce was absolutely the best. I wonder if they would share their recipe with me? — G.D., Garland.
Fishmonger’s shared the recipe in 1987 and we’ll share it here again during its last week in business. Maybe you should make it this holiday season.
Fishmonger’s Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce
1 long loaf French bread
3 1/2 cups milk
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup raisins
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Whiskey Sauce (recipe follows)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Tear bread into bite-size chunks to make about 4 to 5 cups. Place bread in large mixing bowl and add milk. Set aside and allow bread to absorb milk.
When milk has been absorbed, add sugar, vanilla, raisins, pineapple and eggs. Stir gently until thoroughly incorporated. Pour bread pudding mixture into a well-buttered 9×12-inch baking dish and bake about 45 to 55 minutes, until golden brown on top and crusty around the edges.
Serve warm with Whiskey Sauce ladled over individual servings.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Whiskey sauce: In small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter and 1 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and the juice of 1/4 lemon. Stir over low heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey. Serve warm.
Fishmonger’s Seafood is at 2301 N. Central Expressway (near Park), Plano. It’s expected to close Nov. 27, 2022, or sooner, if they run out of food.