So I show up at TJ’s at 4:00 last Thursday—the last day of validity of the $50 Groupon that I had scored for $25 and had been taped to my fridge for several months—and the place was an absolute mob scene. Naturally. This is my penance for waiting until the 11th hour. Point taken. Luckily, I’m hardwired to not mind waiting. In this case (as in most) patience paid off, and I emerged an hour later with a mother lode of scallops, shrimp, and salmon. I just told co-owner Jon Alexis, who was working the counter like an ace, to package me up a $65 medley of whatever was left in the case.
As he meted out my order, he told me that they had sold $150,000 worth of Groupons on their one-day offering. Great news for TJ’s, but not such good news for the 4-foot tall bubbie in front of me who had to stand in line for 40 minutes to pick up her passover gefilte fish, fish heads, and bones—and who didn’t seem to understand what all the hub-bub was about. But, to Jon’s credit, he was as adept at appeasing her as he was in telegraphing the fact that to the rest of us that everyone would have to wait their turn. No one skipped the line; no one got special treatment.
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On that first night, I seared the scallops – magical.
On the second night, I seared the salmon – astonishing.
Tonight, I’ve got my sights set on that shrimp. (Shell-on. Jon said those would have more flavor.)
Turns out my so-so attitude toward home-cooked seafood was completely misplaced. It wasn’t that I’d been traumatized by a mother who baked canned tuna fish and served it with ketchup. It wasn’t because I didn’t like seafood. It was because, for decades I’d never once bought GOOD seafood. I couldn’t have messed up these scallops and salmon if I’d tried. I am not exaggerating when I say that each was buttery, silky, and flavorful in ways that I’ve had yet to have in a restaurant.
As we waited in line, someone asked when TJ’s was going to offer another Groupon. Jon’s answer: “As soon as every one of you comes back as a regular customer.”
Well played, Mr. Alexis.
(editor’s note: As always, I was completely undercover. Just your regular Jane Q. Public out to cash in her Groupon.)