Some days you just need a good piece of fish.
Ferhat Yalcin understands. The 36-year-old owner of the Fishnet restaurant is far from his native Turkey but clings to his childhood passion for fresh seafood. Fishnet sits on Berwyn Road (at No. 5010), a secluded street off Route 1, close to the University of Maryland’s College Park campus.
The intimate and quirky ambiance helps make it homey for regulars. The walls are a soft aqua and balmy cherry red, accented with anchors, seashells, worn buoys and raffia trimmings. A string of wooden fish rests against a pillar. Outside, a canopy of lights hangs over the popular dog-friendly patio. For Yalcin, fish is home and home is fish, and he’s got conviction about both. Too many people in the United States don’t want fish to taste fishy, he observes — and chastises a bit.
“It doesn’t make sense to me at all,” says Yalcin, who also co-owns the seafood-centric restaurant Drift on 7th in the District. “When I eat steak, I want it to taste like steak. ... So, if I’m eating a bluefish or a Spanish mackerel, I expect that fish to be oily and bold-flavored.”
Fish tacos, a menu favorite, can be made with the catch of the day, served fried or grilled, with crispy cabbage-based slaw and a side of house-made garlic sour cream sauce. The restaurant also offers a discriminate beer list, produce from the College Park Farmers Market, and often fresh mint, chives and basil from the nearby Smile Herb Shop.
But the main allure is the fresh fish. Yalcin has been tight with a fishmonger in Jessup, Md., for years, since the restaurateur’s days as a general manager at the District’s Corduroy restaurant. In 2011, he cast his fortunes in Maryland, collecting good reviews and good vibes. The Berwyn District Civic Association meets at Fishnet a couple times a year. In March, the issue on the table was whether a proposed Chick-fil-A would bring unwanted traffic. It’s also an occasional gathering place for the College Park Community Foundation.
P.J. Brennan, a College Park City Council member, eats there a couple times a month and says the place is an “incredibly community-oriented” operation.
As in any culture, says Yalcin, food is what brings people together. And “when you want to eat, why not eat with friends.”