Billy’s Seafood Company
Billy Grant has been in New Brunswick seafood his entire adult life.
He got his start at 17, cutting fish at Lord’s Lobster, the beloved former seafood stall in the Saint John City Market. In 1993, after 15 years at Lord’s, he went out on his own. For 30 years, he’s been the name and smiling face behind the fish counter at Billy’s Seafood Company, his stylish, cozy restaurant and market at the head of the Saint John City Market, just a few minutes’ walk from the city’s bustling waterfront.
Billy was serving local long before it was one of the biggest movements in the culinary world. When he opened in 1993, “there weren’t really foodies back then,” he says. But his clients have always valued the quality and freshness of his Atlantic seafood.
While Billy mans the fish counter, Tom Robertson, who became Billy’s executive chef in November 2021, runs the kitchen, turning its trademark briny ingredients into deliciously inventive dishes that prioritize the freshest ingredients from land and sea.
“Fresh is a big word for me,” Tom says.
When it comes to seafood, fresh and local are practically synonymous, and patrons from near and far flock to Billy’s to enjoy it. On days when a cruise ship is in port, passengers line up around the block for lobster dinners and other seafood specialties that are a key component of the Maritime experience.
“They want big-ticket items from our cold water here in Atlantic Canada,” Billy says.
His lobster comes from Alma, as do his scallops. He gets his salmon and halibut from the Bay of Fundy. His smoked salmon comes from Stewart’s Village Mart in Pennfield, N.B. Along with some relatively large-scale local seafood suppliers, his list of contacts includes single-person and family operations.
“Some are just a small business,” Billy says. “They have their boat and their commercial license.”
Many of his products arrive the day they were harvested, including the shelled clams he uses in his fried clams and chips, which come from Charlotte County, N.B.
Along with Billy’s fish and seafood suppliers, Tom has been building a growing list of local providers for other products. There’s Bob Fitzgerald, a farmer in the Sussex area who Tom knows who, come harvest time, will supply Billy’s with root vegetables, different varieties of peppers and other produce, including greenhouse-grown tropical fruits, such as mango and citrus.
“It’s amazing,” Tom says, to be able to source those exotic ingredients locally.
He also gets fresh local microgreens year-round from a Fredericton supplier, a former chef he knows. He uses them as a garnish, with his current favourite being daikon radish shoots.
“They add a lot of flavour and freshness to the plate,” he says.
And on any given day, you’ll find Tom shopping in the market for that day’s menu, browsing the selection at H&S Meats, grabbing some prosciutto at Sister’s Italian Foods, and stocking up on produce from The City Market Greengrocer.
He and Billy appreciate how the city’s tight-knit community, where everybody seems to know each other, connects them to unique and excellent local suppliers.
“Our connections are close-knit,” Billy says. “And that’s important. We’re supporting someone, creating employment. We’re keeping them here.”