Tucked down on the southern end of Green River Road across from what locals still call the Lawndale Shopping Center, Kenneth and Linda Parkman busy themselves each week selling pieces of the Gulf Coast to Evansville.
“I want everybody in the area to eat well and eat fresh,” says Kenneth Parkman, who owns Par-K Seafood, speaking with two customers from Henderson, Ky., as they sat down for their meal at his small restaurant.
Later, he receives a compliment from the pair: “Those oysters were as good as any I’ve ever gotten down in Florida.”
The Parkmans’ mission to give Evansville fresh seafood takes Kenneth down to the Gulf Coast and back at least once a week. Parkman was born and raised in Gulfport, Miss., and he makes the 10 and half hour, 650-mile drive back to the area to buy only the freshest ingredients and seafood for the recipes sold at his Evansville restaurant. In search of the best quality seafood, Parkman will travel to Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.
“I could give you shrimp gumbo and you wouldn’t complain,” Parkman says. “I could give you shrimp and oyster gumbo and you wouldn’t complain. You’d take it and think ‘that’s good enough,’ but I don’t do that. I give you seafood gumbo and in that I put it all: the crab, the shrimp, the oysters, and the crawfish, if I’ve got it. I could make money off all that other cheap stuff and you’d never know, but the problem is, I’d know.”
The importance of freshness and quality is really an extension of how Parkman feels about his adopted hometown of Evansville.
“It feels like Evansville has been picked on a lot,” Parkman says. “Evansville has been bullied a lot by other cities so now we don’t think we deserve it — the good foods. But we do. You do.”
Parkman’s deserving dishes change according to what ingredients are available and what he deems good enough to purchase during his trips down to the coast but menu staples include jambalaya, seafood gumbo, red beans, and rice and fish.
A customer can come in and order just about any type of fish and Parkman will begin his quest immediately to find and bring it back for them.
“Fish is the most perfect thing you can put into your body,” Parkman says. “It’s wild caught which means it gets up every morning and says, ‘I’m either going to be prey or predator.’ It’s fish from the least toxic area of the ocean you can get, so when I bring it in to you and you eat it, you’ve put that back into your body to replenish you and (by extension) Evansville.”
For more information about Par-K Seafood, call 812-401-5222 or visit par-kseafood.com.