When we started Big Jones, the top consideration was how to build a menu focused on sustainable ingredients and humane farming practices, and still remain an affordable neighborhood spot. We knew from the beginning that seafood would be a huge issue for us, because of its integral place in the Southern culinary landscape. Even as we were in the early planning stages, red snapper, grouper, and swordfish were widely publicized as bad choices, and they are bad choices, usually, because of the way they are fished. Just a few years ago, American gulf coast grouper and snapper fisheries were in a horrible tailspin. Farm raised shrimp wasn’t an option for us, given the horrible destruction it wrecks on coastal mangroves and their critical habitats for all kinds of life.
An early tool for us was the Shedd Aquarium’s Rite Bite Wallet Card which is an indispensable starter guide for the seafood enthusiast. We found wild-caught American Gulf of Mexico shrimp out of the Texas coast, a “yellow light” choice for our shrimp, planning on more research. Same with our blue crab – we’ll only use American Blue Crab, at least somewhat comfortable that the fisheries are being managed in a sustainable way. Our catfish is closed-loop system raised in Mississippi or Alabama, green light. American, hand-harvested or farm-raised oysters, green light, check. For fin fish, we do our best to select fish that comes from sustainable fisheries – Alaska has done a great job, and the south coast of the US is catching onto their practices, which is great news for us.
None of this is possible without the right partners on the supply side. Our primary fish supplier, Fortune Fish, has demonstrated a commitment to a more sustainable future for our oceans, rivers, and lakes, helping us bring you cooperative-based Louisiana crawfish and Ponchartrain blue crab, the only certified sustainable blue crab by the Marine Stewardship Council.
We still have a lot to learn about sustainable seafood, and work with Shedd Aquarium’s Rite Bite program as a partner restaurant! Please stay tuned as we share more stories from good people who are doing the right thing for our rivers, lakes, and oceans.