Matt Mixter has done the market research for his soon-to-open seafood shop, Wixter Market (2110 W. Division St., 312-248-2800). “People don’t like the way it smells,” he says. “They don’t like sloppy, smelly fish markets or counters. They’re afraid of cooking it.”
The market, named as a portmanteau of Mixter and Wicker, as in Park, will specialize in super-frozen, sashimi-grade fish, using methods Mixter developed from knowledge acquired while buying fish wholesale for the Highland Park–based seafood company Mazzetta. Most grocery-store fish have been frozen before you buy them, he says, and the never-frozen fish are 6 to 12 days out of the water. At Wixter, “everything we sell has been harvested, cut into portions, and flash-frozen at -18 degrees Celsius within three days,” he says. “Most of the super-frozen product is super-frozen is within 24 hours, 72 hours at most.”
Tuna, for example, turns from deep pink to brown after about four days, unless it has been treated with carbon monoxide to artificially maintain its color. Wixter will sell still-pink, no-CO tuna, vacuum-sealed and super-frozen near where it left the water.
A super-frozen fish carries a few advantages over fresh. After thawing, it can be eaten raw. Because it can be transported by boat instead of plane, its carbon footprint is smaller. And it doesn’t smell fishy.
Mixter says he doesn’t know of any other store in Chicago that sells super-frozen fish. He says, “We’ve gotten a lot of support in the industry”—i.e., a warm welcome.