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сообщение May 9 2007, 08:12 PM
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Katie Dean
The Capital Times

To the delight of seafood lovers, the shrimp truck is back for its 30th year in Madison.

Every three to four weeks from mid-April to November, Fabian Seafood sells fresh Gulf shrimp, whole red snapper, crawfish tails, blue crab meat and oysters out of the back of a white truck parked at Steve's Wine Market at 3618 University Ave. from noon to 6 p.m.

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Regular customers start lining up before noon, armed with their checkbooks and their mailing list postcards, which alert them to the shrimp truck's arrival and save them 30 cents a pound.

"It's become a ritual -- it's shrimp Tuesday," said Pat Noordsij, who was standing in line with her husband and daughter, and a steady stream of about 20 other shrimp fans.

Noordsij said her family has been shopping at the truck since the 1990s. In the beginning, they were a bit leery of buying seafood off the back of a truck, ("We were a little worried because it might be sketchy," she said), but were quickly sold on the freshness and quality.

Steve Fabian, a co-owner of the family business, said that they have six trucks to cover four driving routes that thread through 11 states. For the Madison route, Fabian and his crew make the drive from Galveston, Texas, and stop in a number of Midwestern spots like Iowa City, Rochester, Minn., and Minneapolis, before coming to Madison. They stop at airports to pick up additional inventory that is shipped in by air freight. The seafood is fresh, not frozen.

"The shrimp is superb," said Harlan Hassberg, who was shopping for shrimp and whole red snapper with his wife Joan.

"We try not to tell anybody because the line gets too long."

Hassberg added that his 85- and 92-year-old parents have shared the snapper and "are now converts" to the seafood truck's fare.

"You can't beat the freshness," said Judy Giacomino, a longtime customer who likes to boil the shrimp in old bay seasoning and beer, grill the jumbo shrimp or make shrimp scampi. Normally, she picks up five pounds of shrimp. On Tuesday, her haul was 15 pounds, as she was buying for friends.

She said it's best to arrive as early as possible to get the shrimp, as the truck gets busier when people get off work.

On Tuesday, Fabian said the truck sold 800 pounds of fresh shrimp (the large shrimp go for $11.25 per pound; the jumbo for $13.95) and another 300 pounds of other seafood. The truck sold out of snapper, crab and oysters.

In terms of sales, "Madison is one of my best," Fabian said. College towns in general ring in great sales because people come from all over to the university and "they know fresh seafood and they miss it."

Marge Bartlett has been patronizing the truck since it first started showing up in Madison. On Tuesday, she bought two pounds of shrimp and was looking forward to serving shrimp cocktail with her homemade sauce. And she has a regular routine: she parcels out her shrimp haul, freezing it in water in groups of 8 to 10 pieces, to use in the several weeks before the next visit from the shrimp truck.

"We always look forward to when they come back," she said.

To sign up for the shrimp truck's mailing list, visit the http://www.fabianseafood.com/.



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