The Conservas Trend Comes to Columbus

Ginger Rabbit’s BJ Lieberman talks tinned fish and why it’s on the menu at his jazz and cocktail lounge. Plus, tips for where to buy quality conservas.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Clockwise from top right: Dan the Baker country sourdough, Jose Gourmet packaging, Ortiz anchovies, Scout freshwater trout with dill, Ortiz anchovies packaging, Jose Gourmet mackerel filets in olive oil with packaging, and a bowl of Marcona almonds

Recently, Chapman’s Eat Market co-owner BJ Lieberman has taken part in a fairly niche pursuit. He estimates that he’s eaten a thousand varieties of conservas (aka tinned seafood) with the goal of identifying the very best.

We’re not talking about tins of Chicken of the Sea, but rather the kind of hand-packed, high-quality seafoods found in Spanish tapas and Portuguese petiscos bars. Seafood varieties range far beyond tuna to sardines, mussels, trout, squid, razor clams, mackerel and many others. Preparations aren’t limited to water or oil, either.

“You know, it’s all over the world; anywhere there’s a fishery, there’s generally people trying to preserve that product, because you can’t sell it all fresh. Spain, Portugal have very proud traditions of it,” Lieberman says.

The chef took on his tinned fish project ahead of opening his jazz and cocktail lounge, Ginger Rabbit, last year in the Short North. The underground jazz bar doesn’t have a kitchen and instead serves conservas and Dan the Baker bread alongside other snacks like housemade hummus, Castelvetrano olives, and caviar with potato chips and crème fraîche.

The jury’s still out whether the conservas trend can stay afloat in Columbus. When trying to open Ginger Rabbit’s doors last year, even Lieberman struggled to explain the concept of conservas to the city.

“The [Columbus] health department had a really tough time trying to wrap their head around what we were doing. They’re like, ‘OK, the scallops, how are you cooking them?’ I’m like, ‘We’re not cooking them.’ ‘So you’re serving them raw?’ And I’m like, ‘No, they’re not raw. No, they’re conservas.’”

It’s a niche craving, perhaps. Since opening the jazz lounge, Lieberman has already halved his conservas offerings based on demand. Instead of being the thing Ginger Rabbit is doing, it’s a thing, he says.

And yet, some trend-watchers predict that charcuterie’s sea-faring cousin, the seacuterie board—yes, that’s a thing—will soon have its moment in the sun, though quality conservas can be hard to find in local markets. The best local selection I’ve found is at Carfagna’s Market in Polaris. Otherwise, the internet is your best bet.

If you’re interested in creating your own seacuterie board or just trying to recreate the Ginger Rabbit experience at home—without the spiffy bar service and jazz band—here’s a quick guide to some of the best tinned seafood brands to seek out and where to source them.

Ekone Oyster Co.

Ekone is the tinned seafood brand from Taylor Shellfish Farms, which has been fishing off the Washington coast for five generations. Lieberman is particularly fond of Ekone’s smoked oysters.

Where to buy:,


Among its conservas offerings, one of Ginger Rabbit’s best-sellers is a silky branzino from the Italian brand Iasa.

Where to buy:,

Jose Gourmet

Lieberman carries this Portuguese brand of conservas at Ginger Rabbit. In addition to a high-quality product, Jose Gourmet wins for best packaging with its clever illustrations. Seafood varieties include sardines in tomato sauce, octopus in olive oil and garlic, and mackerel fillets dressed in extra-virgin olive oil.

Where to buy:,,

La Brujula

This is the rare brand of conservas that you can find locally—at Carfagna’s Market. Hand-packed in Galicia, Spain, La Brujula conservas include stuffed squid, white tuna, sardines and others.

Where to buy:, Carfagna’s Market (1440 Gemini Place, Columbus)

Ramón Peña

Since 1920, this brand has been preserving seafood from the Galician estuaries off Spain’s northwest coast. Lieberman recommends Ramón Peña’s scallops in a Galician sauce of oil and paprika and its (quite pricey) razor clams in brine. Other offerings include octopus in olive oil, baby sardines with peppers and stuffed squid nestled in ink.

Where to buy:,,


Co-founded by chef Charlotte Langley, Scout is a B Corp craft cannery based in Vancouver that sources its seafood from Canada and Alaska. Scout offers a three-pack featuring PEI Mussels in a smoked paprika and fennel tomato sauce, lobster in lemon-infused olive oil and rainbow trout with dill.

Where to buy:,,

Pro Tip: Cooking With Conservas

Conservas aren’t just for eating on crusty bread or straight out of the can. Making pasta for dinner? Cook down anchovies and add to your tomato sauce for more depth of flavor. Or add canned clams, garlic, white wine and olive oil to linguine for a quick weeknight supper.

This story is from the February 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.