Repeatable: Maybe. Visits: 1
Tucked into an alley off Pike Street, Fish Fry is the kind of place you can only find if you already know where it is. Or if you have a built-in homing mechanism for fried food. Or if you’re drunk or high and have the munchies. Or if you’re a teenager throbbing with hormonal rushes.
Alas, not being able to lay claim to any of the above options, I got so lost trying to find the place that I asked a tattooed guy sweeping a doorway where it was. “Right here,” he answered. Doh.
I arrived early, at 11:30am, to escape the mad hordes I was assured would be there. The place didn’t really fill up until 12:30, and the young hard bodies jamming the space were clearly of high school vintage–that is, old enough to be my children if I had gotten knocked up near their age.
My tasting buddy for this jaunt was an old-school type–a Republican who eats fish on Fridays and is possessed of a more forgiving palate and even-keeled disposition than mine. I needed all the help I could get as I can no longer tolerate fried food (or wine) as I once could.
My first bite of the fried catfish nuggets took me straight back to my college years in Boston, when I thought nothing of roaming the Eastern seaboard via rail or road in search of something good to eat. The batter was the same deep-fried chestnut brown of my memories: a thin crackling shell that encased the fish like a glossy lacquer. Mmmm.
When I complimented him on his frying, the cook answered that he had learned his technique in Boston (Coincidence? Not! Like wines, frying styles vary by region. IMHO, the ne plus ultra of frying is in the South. Red-hot epicenter: New Orleans, of course. Sorry, but the Northwest simply doesn’t fry very well. Nor can anyone cook beans properly. CUMIN DOES NOT BELONG IN BEANS!!! But that’s the subject of another post.)
The medium-cut fries that came with my four pieces of catfish ($8) were just OK. But the battered and deep-fried lemon slice? Tangy crunchy heaven. And the battered, deep-fried green beans ($5)? Addictive. The oysters ($9) were also pretty dang good–crunch outside, molten quivering flesh inside. (But in my dreams, I will forever crave the fried clams I used to eat during the summers I spent bumming around Martha’s Vineyard.)
The accompanying sauces–”housemade” tartar, lemon aioli, curry ketchup, smoked chili mayo–were not nearly as finger-lickin’ as their names teasingly suggested. In fact, these 2-tablespoon-sized portions were all rather one-dimensional and boring–and so NOT worth the extra buck charged if you asked for another flavor besides the one you get with your order. By the time I realized that there were complimentary containers of tried-and-true malt vinegar and ketchup on the counter, a heaviness in my gut kept me glued to the stool I was sitting on.
From this perch, I watched the flock of high schoolers all queued up for their chance to stoke their flaming pimples with grease and salt. I contemplated that fried foods are best left to the hardier guts of the young and free. Me, I knew I’d be paying for my indiscretion for the next few days as a black headache crashed around my ears the moment I lurched out of the tiny store. Too much grease, both eaten and breathed in.