Refresh yourself with delicious food at Jasper’s Bayou Fresh Seafood – Alabama NewsCenter | Candle Made Easy

The idea of ​​gas station sushi is so out of place that it was mocked in a memorable Esurance commercial. The ad was funny. Zhu Jianjun thinks so too. And he talks about it and laughs about it, even as he proudly serves colorful rainbow buns and beautiful salmon nigiri to his familiar and often new customers at his small coffee shop that he shares with a gas station in Jasper.

Bayou Fresh Seafood at the Fuel Co. on North Walston Bridge Road is worth a stop: for the food, the quirky atmosphere, and the very real camaraderie between the customers and the staff (some of whom have been with Zhu for a decade).

Zhu Jianjun has been preparing food for friends and fans at Bayou Fresh Seafood in Jasper for 10 years. (Brittany Faush/Alabama NewsCenter)

Celebrate Christmas and Chinese New Year at Bayou Fresh Seafood. Inside, you’ll notice two mounted trophy basses on either side of a tasseled red tapestry decorated with Chinese symbols. The whiteboard of daily specials on a recent Tuesday included dinner with frog legs and Japanese ramune soda, a shrimp bowl and baby octopus nigiri, homemade seafood gumbo, and salmon roe sushi. There’s a waving lucky cat figurine near the sushi bar and a University of Alabama sign across the room. At Bayou Fresh Seafood, “the people who work here know what some customers want as soon as they walk in the restaurant,” says Camelia Castillo. And if you’re new, they probably know you by the time you leave.

“You notice this customer,” Zhu says, pointing out some regular customers. “They came here in 2013. … you like us; You know me. They always come and hug me… say, ‘You’re doing a good job.’ It gives me confidence, you know. I didn’t have any English at the time. … Now I learn something new every day.”

Family-run Bayou Fresh Seafood garnered national attention in 2016 when it made Southern Living’s list of the best gas station restaurants in the South. (Blue Pacific at Hoover Food Mart, popular for its Thai noodle dishes, was the other Alabama pick for this top 10 list.)

A copy of the magazine article hangs on the wall, and Zhu says that kind of unexpected exposure, as well as engaging social media like Facebook, has brought him clients from California. He regularly sees passers-by on the way to Florida; Other new customers are in Jasper to attend the nearby Sanders Aviation flight school. But the heart and soul of his business are his regular customers, he says.

Bayou Fresh Seafood brings the bounty of the ocean to Jasper of the Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Zhu, who is originally from China, bought the restaurant from a Vietnamese family in 2012. They were from Mobile and operated a fishing boat in the Gulf, he says. It was then called Bayou Fresh Seafood, and he kept the name. Then he serves fresh seafood dinners with Southern sides and some Cajun flavor if you want, which he continues.

A few years after he bought the business, a customer suggested Zhu add sushi to the menu, which he did. There was a bit of a learning curve, he says, so he made sushi with fried shrimp to show people that “not all sushi is raw.” Zhu says he started giving away sushi slices to entice customers to just try it.

“People would say, ‘Oh, that’s good. But why are you opening here? Why don’t you go somewhere else? … It’s a gas station. Nobody feels comfortable.” … I say: ‘I’m already here. I’m already spending the money here.” … I was just trying to work hard, trying to make everyone comfortable when they eat. Then they come back again. It’s not like they eat and say goodbye.” In fact, one customer came 50 days straight, he says.

His customers soon loved Zhu’s sushi, and now many come just for that. Sushi, he says, makes up most of his business.

Little wonder. Zhu and his wife Janice’s sushi is as delicious as it is beautiful. You can choose from the sushi menu or, if time permits, have a roll prepared for you.

His rockin roll is a work of art and a beautiful blend of flavors and textures — from the crispy shrimp tempura, tender crab, and cream cheese inside, to the tiny, cooked crawfish, flavorful crab, and fresh jalapenos he carefully tops to finish final drizzle of spicy mayonnaise and eel sauces.

There are, of course, California Rolls. It becomes an Alabama roll when he wraps the pieces in fresh tuna. Similarly, the Tennessee roll is a California roll wrapped in fresh salmon. The Huntsville roll is made with flavorful tuna and cucumber, topped with salmon, crunch and eel sauce. Summer rolls are made with salmon, crab sticks, cream cheese and avocado, then deep fried and topped with eel sauce. The three color roll is made with deep fried salmon, tuna, albacore tuna and cream cheese with yum yum sauce. The sushi is also available in multiple combinations, served with miso soup and ginger salad. You will want to try this ginger salad. It’s an easy, beautiful, crunchy mix of iceberg lettuce and seaweed lettuce, topped with a ginger dressing and sprinkled with delicious roe that bursts delightfully with every bite.

At the end of the sushi menu you will find dishes from the kitchen; this is what you would expect from any southern seafood restaurant. Shrimp, crab claws, frog legs, catfish, grouper, mahi-mahi, red snapper and oysters. Get these separately or in combinations; Order them fried, grilled, steamed or blackened. The lunch special (from 11am to 3:30pm) includes a fish (or chicken finger) box with three wildly different side dishes of your choice (egg rolls, hushpuppies, french fries, corn on the cob, fried pickles, gyoza dumplings, some really excellent smoked sausage, red potatoes , ginger salad, miso soup, coleslaw and white rice). In the evening there is a similar menu; For dinner, there’s fries, hushpuppies, coleslaw, and an extra page from this interesting list. You’ll also find a variety of Po’boys (chicken tenders, tilapia, catfish, shrimp, oysters, grouper, and alligators). Fresh crawfish are celebrated in the summer and people line up when Zhu has snow crab legs.

The ingredients for these dishes come to Bayou Fresh Seafood several times a week. Zhu says he gets his sushi ingredients — the spicy tuna, small octopus, assorted roes, salmon, squid and more — from JFC International in Atlanta. Shipments of fresh Gulf shrimp, snapper, grouper, crab claws and oysters come direct from shore via Bon Secour Fisheries Inc.

Some of Zhu Jianjun’s employees at Bayou Seafood have worked with him for years, and he has taught and learned from them like family. (Brittany Faush/Alabama NewsCenter)

At a time in the food and hospitality industry when restaurant owners are struggling to hire and retain staff, Zhu has a cadre of loyal employees who have stayed with him for years.

Zhu says they are “family.” He talks about Alex, who has been frying and steaming seafood in his kitchen for 10 years, and says the restaurant “is like home.” He talks about Ashley, who they call “Peavey”, and Lacey, who have also worked at Bayou Fresh Seafood for a decade. He points out Kerri and Camelia (Castillo) who have been there for six years. During their time together he learned from them, he says, and they in turn learned from him. “This is the story of bayou,” says Zhu. “It’s not about the food. It’s about family.”

Castillo, who shows up quickly and expertly prepares sushi rolls when Zhu is talking to customers, agrees. “Zhu and Janice are like mom and dad to us,” she says.

Zhu and Janice have children of their own, but he says he’s also proud of his restaurant family. Some of the young people who work at his restaurant started out as teenagers and now have children of their own. “They work hard,” he says. “You work so hard.” And he’s proud of her for it. But he also sets a good example. “I’m Chinese. I come here for family. I don’t go to college, but I still own my own business.” But, he’s quick to add, his staff and dedication make this restaurant a success.

Zhu says when his customers are happy, he’s happy.

“A lot of customers tell me they go everywhere and eat sushi, and I’m quite the best. And I’m so glad. And that’s why we work so hard.”


Bayou fresh seafood

217 N. Walston Bridge Road

Jasper, Alabama 35504

205-221-3400

https://www.facebook.com/BayouFreshSeafood/

@BayouFreshSeafood

Hours

Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Zhu takes a break from making sushi Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.). eat or run. A menu is available on the Bayou Fresh Seafood Facebook page.

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