Wholey’s fish market is one of the most bizarre markets found in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Representing the retail end of the Robert Wholey Company, Wholey’s offers an experience completely unique to Pittsburgh. With great prices, variety, and service, it is a good place to shop, and with such an odd experience, it is a fun place to take the uninitiated as well.
The Robert Wholey Company has existed since 1912. On some level, the business is still the same. They offer fish, meat, and poultry backed by their reputation. On another level, they are a very different place today, having survived the near demise of the Strip District, Pittsburgh’s steel collapse, and the new Strip District of today.
Sitting in a white brick building on Penn Avenue, complete with an awning providing shade in the summer, Wholey’s is hard to miss. On weekends, the exterior is packed with vendors selling oysters, fresh grilled meats and vegetables, and whatever else is being prepared at Wholey’s today. The chaotic exterior is an introduction to the interior, which can be complete chaos when busy.
You enter into the fish area, typically greeted by the sushi chef in front of you. The sushi has a great reputation here, and the fish doesn’t get fresher in Pittsburgh. There are also tables filled with fresh fish, packed in ice, often with a whole “centerpiece fish”, like a ray or swordfish, peeking out. Countertops filled with other fish varieties and staffed by helpful employees line the right wall, and signs broadcast prices throughout the store.
Continuing around the bend takes you into the meat and poultry areas, where you can find bulk or small quantities of meat. Prices on meat here are typically far better than those at Giant Eagle, and the meat is fresh. Hidden in this area is the ice maker, where a sign tells you about the absolutely massive amount of ice that goes into a day at Wholey’s.
From there, you can find the dairy, deli, and produce items. This area is a bit less chaotic, and it is here that most people begin to notice the animatronic animals and vegetables that are scattered around. In the back corner, there is even an animatronic porcine bluegrass band. These touches amuse the children within the store, and contribute to its unique local flavor.
The produce is cheap, but similar to Stan’s, it tends to be on the “very ripe” end of the spectrum. Careful choosing of your vegetables is key, but if you pick carefully, it is easy to get a week’s worth of vegetables for almost nothing. Finally, at the tail end of the linear shopping area, is the checkout area.
Wholey’s is a great place to do your shopping. Buys are mixed between bulk and small packaging, and prices are quite reasonable. If you cook based on what is cheap that day, you can live for very little at Wholey’s. The only downsides are that the store is tough to backtrack in, and that there is no easy place to park. This is a great location for a personal grocery cart or a backpack, since you may have to hike up to a mile to park on weekends.
Wholey’s Seafood: About Us