Text and photos by Monique LaBorde
I’ve visited Saltbox Seafood Joint three times in the past year, but I only recently made it there in time to eat. Saltbox opens at 11am and cooks seafood until they run out, which is usually around 5 p.m. On a busy day, Saltbox can run out of their seafood supply after the lunch rush.
Every morning for three years, the small stand in Durham’s Little Five Points neighborhood has been receiving a fresh delivery of Carolina seafood. Their seasonal seafood comes straight from the coast of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. After chef Ricky Moore gets his daily seafood delivery, he sets the prices and writes that day’s menu on the chalkboard outside the order window. Saltbox regulars wait in line, chatting and licking their lips.
I ordered the whiting; it came bone-in and head on. The moist white meat was steaming when I cracked it open down the middle. I squeezed lemon over the fish and abandoned my fork.
“Yeah, we usually run out,” Ricky Moore, the owner and chef tells me.
“That’s just the way we have to do it. We don’t have any storage,” he tells me, gesturing to the two industrial refrigerators in the small kitchen.
Every inch of the kitchen counter space is being used as a prep station. As I wait to order, the kitchen runs out of salmon. Chef Ricky erases it from the chalkboard, writing blue fish in its place. Chef Ricky oversees everything at Saltbox from placing supply orders to plating fish for over 300 orders in a day.
At the end of my meal, I sucked on the bones from my fish. The other costumers around me were unfazed by the wait; they’re enjoying the summer sun. Saltbox achieves its easygoing success by executing the simplest food with the highest quality. Saltbox isn’t cheap food or fast food; but it’s an unmatched quality of seafood in Durham. An important aspect in Saltbox’s success is its welcoming, talkative environment. It is equally nourishing to support one of Durham’s most talented entrepreneurs and chefs.