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Reel Foods Fish Market marks 40 years of fresh fish, far from the ocean

The Treasure Valley might be far from the ocean, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get seafood from far flung places for your table.

Reel Foods Fish Market, Boise’s only fish market, recently celebrated two years in its location on Vista Avenue and 40 years total of doing business in the city. Managing Member Marcus A. Bonilla said although his fish might be a bit more expensive than you would find in the case at a grocery store, the variety and freshness is unique.

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“I work hard to source product that’s never frozen and as little time out of the water as possible,” he said. “One of our main goals is if you’re coming here, you’re coming here to buy a really incredible piece of fish, yes it might cost a couple of dollars more, you might get the freshest piece of fish in the whole state of Idaho.”

The market first operated as a market and seafood restaurant in 1981 near the Boise Public Library at the intersection of Capitol Boulevard and River Street. It was started by Don and Linda Lee Elder, who moved to Boise from Oregon in the late 1970s, according to an obituary.

Bonilla and his family purchased the business in 2015 and eventually moved out of downtown to the Vista Village shopping center once rent was increased, he said. Reel Foods only operates as a market now with no restaurant.

Not your everyday fish

Reel Foods stocks a variety of rare fish you can’t find elsewhere in Boise, like Rockfish from the Pacific Northwest, dungeness crab from Virginia and yellow tail from San Diego. Bonilla said they have shipments of fresh fish coming in from both coasts and the Gulf Coast weekly, including their best selling Ora King Salmon from New Zealand.

Bonilla, a former chef and assistant manager for Lucky Fins, said the market’s goal is to appeal to experienced seafood lovers who specialize in making dishes like sushi at home. He said since he took over, the demand for fish from the store has grown as more people from the coasts move to Idaho and go in search of the seafood they were able to purchase in their old city.

Annie Griep cutting a piece of salmon for customers to purchase at Reel Foods. Margaret Carmel/BoiseDev

He said along with fish they provide recipes and seasonings for customers to go along with their specific seafood they purchased.

To get the fish to Idaho, Bonilla talks directly with buyers about what he would like to order, they catch it and it’s headed to the Gem State within hours. To get some of his specialized shellfish, he works directly with a family-owned farm that harvests on Virginia’s Rappahannock River.

“I tell him what I want, he harvests the oysters, puts them in a sack and they’ll be on a plane in less than an hour from now,” he said. “The oysters are (on their way from) Virginia to Idaho in less than an hour.”

Disclosure: Vista Village shopping center is owned by BoiseDev publisher Don Day’s family. He has no stake in the shopping center business and wasn’t directly involved in the selection of this story.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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