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99 Ranch Market
7330 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, Kearny Mesa

A zillion live rock crabs, each the size of a woman's hand, are sitting on a bed of ice. Luckily, they're not as crabby as some crabs, because a little kid, lifted to counter-level by his daddy, is picking them up one by one and dropping them into a plastic bag -- learning early how to buy fresh seafood. The Dungeness crabs are in a tank behind the rock crabs, safely out of the public's reach, which is a good thing since they are big and vicious; the ones chosen to become dinner react with fury. But keep looking -- there are also large, ghostly "crystal crabs," bargain-price Maine lobsters, and mussels, oysters, geoducks, several types of clams, and even sea snails sticking out their tongues at you. Now look up, behind the aisle -- there are the live finned fish: both sculpin and their equally ugly smaller cousins, cabezon; rock cod, bass, rainbow trout, common catfish, and a half-dozen species I can't even recognize by their faces. Those are just the live fish. You can also buy whole fish, fish steaks, fish fillets -- all manner of sea creatures, very recently killed, from a gleaming whole white albacore, caught off our coast that morning, to milkfish, rays, four sizes of calamari, four or five species of shrimp and -- over there! -- dainty fillets of rare black cod. The various counter guys speak a full range of local languages, too, so you can ask questions as you shop.

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