By Haley Frederick
Pittsburgh Current Staff Writer
This fish sandwich season, Wholey’s decided they wanted to do something new. For inspiration, they turned to a beloved Pittsburgher and certified local foodie: WQED’s Rick Sebak.
Sebak says he first visited Wholey’s when he was in college, but his relationship with the legendary local seafood business really started when he featured them on the “Strip Show” for WQED.
“Living in Pittsburgh, if you come to the Strip you go to Wholey’s almost every time,” Sebak says.
Then, when Sebak spent a lengthy stint in the hospital late last summer, his room was flooded with food deliveries from local businesses. And Wholey’s showed up bearing gifts of cod sandwiches and lobster rolls.
So, when Sebak was asked to collaborate with Wholey’s on a new creation to be available during Lent, he didn’t hesitate. He was excited to break the usual Lenten fish sandwich mold.
“I love the idea that Wholey’s contacted me and said ‘what can we do that would be unusual for Lent?’” Seback says. “I had two ideas: one was to put something fancy on top of a fried fish sandwich, and the other was the shrimp burgers from South Carolina.”
It didn’t take long for Josh Steele, kitchen manager at Wholey’s, to put the Sea-bak Shrimp Burger together. He’d never had a shrimp burger before, but once Sebak explained how the patty was formed out of chopped shrimp and cornmeal, Steele immediately went into the kitchen and whipped up some prototypes.
“I was looking over our Wholey brand sauces and chutneys, and saw this mango habanero that went really well when you put it with the shrimp,” Steele says. “It gives it a little tropical feel.”
The shrimp burger is to coastal South Carolina what the crab cake is to Maryland. Though the taste and feel of Wholey’s shrimp burger is quite different then a crab cake. The cornmeal adds a sweetness and texture similar to a hushpuppy.
The mango habanero chutney on top adds a nice brightness to the sandwich, and it’s much more fruity than hot, so the spice-averse shouldn’t be worried. The shrimp burger and chutney all comes together on a pillowy soft bun from Mancini’s—you can choose which locally made bread you want, but it’s hard to top Mancini’s.
So, if you’re looking to switch it up this fish sandwich season, the Sea-bak Shrimp Burger is available at Wholey’s in the Strip until April 19.
“I say it was my idea and if you like it, give me credit—but if you don’t like it, blame Josh,” Sebak jokes.