The love of good food can make people do the strangest things. This is the story of what happened when two aerospace engineers fell head over heels with their favorite market — an unassuming fish shop called Tom’s Seafood & Specialties at 767 South Xenon Court in Lakewood.
Originally opened in September 1998 by Tom Butler, Tom’s has been offering fresh seafood and other specialties for nearly twenty years. When Butler decided to retire last year, the husband-and-wife team of Chad and Tala Carr worried about losing the source of many of their favorite foods. So the Carrs bought the store and took over operations in January.
One of their first orders of business was to remodel and redecorate the store, which now includes a large-screen monitor showing customers a list of products not visible in the fresh case. The store also sells a bevy of pantry items and other packaged goods, many of which are locally made, that enhance the fresh-seafood selection.
Chad works at the store on Fridays and Saturdays, but the rest of the time you’ll find Tala working by herself to showcase their amazing inventory, tend to her customers and take special orders over the phone. Need some live Maine lobsters in a hurry? Tala will fill that order. The Carr's are happy to accommodate requests and can usually fill them with just a day’s notice.
Tom’s Seafood offers a wide array of fresh seafood, most of which has never been frozen. Popular sellers are sushi-grade yellowfin tuna, as well as wild-caught salmon (in season), Alaskan halibut and shellfish.
Tala displayed mastery over her topic as I grilled her with a dozen questions about the seafood, where it comes from and how it is best prepared. (I used to work in a seafood restaurant, so it was apparent she really knew her stuff.) But what impressed me the most is that she is also a rocket scientist.
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Tala says that she and Chad had been regular customers for about ten years before taking over the store. Sharing a love and passion for good food, they are happy to offer many specialty products like Neuske’s bacon, dry-aged beef from Lombardi Brothers, organic produce from Golden West Farms, breads from La Brea Bakery and many more (such as quail and rack of lamb).
The Carrs have continued Tom Butler's tradition of making cioppino, gumbo and New England-style clam chowder in-house; that chowder is loaded with plenty of fresh clams, heavy cream and bacon. Tom’s also offers seafood stocks and dips, all of which are packaged to go, since there's no space to dine in. Breads are par-baked and then frozen, which means you can finish cooking them in your oven at home while you heat up the chowder, so you'll have a crusty sourdough boule in which to serve the soup.
Driving along West Alameda Avenue, you might miss the storefront, which actually faces South Xenon Court. But you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand the appeal of Tom’s Seafood once you're inside the inviting place that offers friendly, knowledgeable service and a great selection of fresh seafood.