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Hake, monkfish and more: New Bedford seafood restaurant serves up 'undervalued' fish species

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Daniel Ackerman
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Head chef Chris Cronin with monkfish, one of Union Flats' specialty menu items.

New Bedford is the nation’s top-grossing commercial fishing port, but most of its catch gets sold up to Boston and exported. A new restaurant in the South Coast city aims to change that.

One block from New Bedford’s waterfront, Union Flats Seafood serves up New England-caught fish species that other local restaurants tend to ignore. Menu items include hake fish & chips and monkfish bouillabaisse.

“We saw that there was a need and a hole in the market,” said co-owner Amelia Ruvich, “where we could come and utilize some undervalued species that were local to our area.”

Head chef Chris Cronin said he’s enjoyed introducing diners to the new species he buys from New Bedford fish markets — after some initial skepticism. “I was like, ‘Are people going to order monkfish?’ But it’s flying out of here.”

The mild, flakey meat from hake is perfect for frying, according to Cronin. “A lot of people would think it’s cod.”

But unlike cod, locally caught hake rarely appears on local menus. “Most of the hake is probably being exported, and that's where we come in,” said Cronin. “We're cutting that supply chain and we're getting it right here.”

Elsewhere on the Union Flats menu: swordfish bacon, fried up from trimmings that local fish processors would otherwise discard.

Union Flats offers more traditional seaside fare too, for those who never tire of raw oysters and seared scallops.