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Dec 1, 2006 02:02 AM

Best Fish and Chips in Detroit ?

Since my Milroy post got no takers where do I find the best fish and chips in the detroit area.

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  1. Without a doubt in my mind...without even a *moment's* hesitation, the answer is Scotty Simpson's Fish and Chips at 22200 Fenkell in Detroit (it's 2 blocks west of Lahser Road). This place makes F&C that will make you instantly regret ever having wasted your money elsewhere. I've eaten at the best: Heather Hill (defunct), Susie-Q (defunct), and several others, and I only a year or two ago discovered Scotty Simpson's (thanks to Molly Abraham of the Detroit News), which is the best I've ever had. Their fried cod is basically perfect, and comes with hand-cut chips and handmade cole slaw *and* handmade tartar sauce. You should be aware that this place is the only one *ever* where I've liked the tartar sauce enough to use it, and use it I do! I know it's bad for me...I can *feel* it clogging my arteries, but doggone it, if I'm going to die, I'm going to die happy!

    Nothing from Scotty Simpson's comes from a box, period. The fish is flown in fresh daily from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, if I recall correctly. All recipes are closely-guarded secrets, but the staff and owner are the nicest possible people you could ask for. Harry's the balding guy who cooks the fish, and he's the owner. To give you an idea of the longevity of the place and its draw, the place has been open for almost 60 years, and Harry is only the *third* owner, and he's been working there since he was 16! Peter Karmanos, the CEO of Compuware, eats there usually once a week. It's that good.

    Yes, they have ginger beer (Stewart's), and it's quite good, too! Very strong! It's not quite the Bull Dog ginger beer of days gone by, but it's very good. Another suggestion: the onion rings are so good they'll make you weep. I am *extremely* picky about my onion rings, as are my folks, and they're so good, that my folks will get fish and *onion rings* instead of chips! They're *that* remarkable. Even the hard rolls fresh daily from DiMaggio's bakery a couple miles away are fantastic (at least, I love them...they may not be anything extra-special to some people, but I always get more than one...nice and crusty on the outside, light and fresh inside).

    I defy anyone to go there and tell me they were disappointed. The only possible way this could happen is if you go on Friday or Saturday night (their busiest time by far) and you happen to get a piece of fish that isn't *quite* as hot and crispy as it should be. Mention this to the waitstaff, and it'll be taken care of. Also on Friday, they have their homemade pies, which go quickly. I wasn't impressed when I tried the chocolate pie, but people love those pies. They're hard to get. Every day of the week, they have a clam chowder, which I found to be downright disappointing. I've never ordered it more than the once.

    But trust me: for fish and chips with cole slaw and tartar sauce (and a roll), with available ginger beer and onion rings, you will find this place to be Nirvana. Truly.

    17 Replies
    1. re: boagman

      Thanks Boagman I tried Scotty Simpsons and you are correct it was excellent. This is the same style Scottish Fish and Chips I was looking for. It is a long drive for me but by chance I was going to Novi and it was not much of a detour. I agree it is probably the best around but the neighborhood was a concern. If it was closer or in a better location this would be a regular stop. Thanks for the tip.

      1. re: firestalker

        Glad you enjoyed it. Told you! :)

        As for the neighborhood, I agree that it's not the best, but it's also much safer than you might think it is. In fact, on the busiest nights of Friday and Saturday, they have a couple guys who sit outside and watch the parking lot as security for the cars there. While I understand your concern, I wouldn't let it keep you from coming back, as I have never *ever* had anything even close to resembling a problem with the folks in the neighborhood there. They seem to respect that the place is a part of their local community, and want to support what's good around there. I've never felt unsafe, or been approached by a panhandler, or anything of that nature.

        I've gone on just about every day of the week at different times of the day, too. Really: don't let the Brightmoor neighborhood turn you off to the best F&C institution in the Detroit area. You'll be sorry if you do, and you'll miss it dearly. Plus, don't you want to *support* a place like Scotty Simpson's?

      2. re: boagman

        Boagman could you do me a favor my original post was about Milroys Fish and Chips which used to be on 8 1/2 mile and Gratiot. Their Fish and Chips were very simular to Scotty Simpsons. I mentioned this to my father in law who is Scottish and knew the Milroy owners. He stated that one of their last names was Simpson and he thought one of the sons went out on his own after working their awhile. When I was in Scotty Simpsons the owner looked like he might fall about in the age range. Since you talk to the owner could you ask and see if he remembers or knows Milroys those older Scotts love to talk and he probably could add some insite.


        1. re: firestalker

          Gary, I suppose I can ask. I do wish you'd let me know earlier, since I was just there for lunch yesterday (and it was as good as it always is...your letting the neighborhood get to you is going to come back to haunt you, I guarantee it), but I'll ask on a subsequent visit.

          It would greatly surprise me if it's true, since Scotty Simpson's has been up and going for around 60 years, but hey, anything's possible. Sean, the second owner of Scotty Simpson's, is usually there on Friday nights helping out, so I'll try to remember to ask him then. Harry might know, too, but Sean would probably know better.

          1. re: firestalker

            Hey Gary, just to let you know, I was there this afternoon (Thursday) and I asked Harry (owner/chef) if he was familiar with Milroy's. He said that he'd heard of it, but that he really wasn't familiar with it at all. I expected as much.

            I hope that answers your question. My early dinner was fantastic! :)

            1. re: boagman

              I made it back to SS on Saturday the 23rd and ate inside. Firestalker is tipping his hat to Boagman. Thank You the food was GREAT and I even had a piece of homemade pie. I am glad I overcame my fear of the neighborhood and enjoyed this meal for what it was fantastic.

              1. re: boagman

                My great grandma Joan macilroy owned heather hills on 18 1/2 and Woodward she served fish and chips and ginger beer, I think she worked for the Simpsons.

                1. re: Macilroy

                  I'm sure that you meant to say 8 1/2 Mile, not 18 1/2 Mile.

                  We used to frequent your grandma's establishment when I was a child, and loved it. No one could ever get the F&C right once Heather Hills closed up shop. Though some claimed to have the recipe (and indeed very well may have), it's one thing to have the recipe, and another thing entirely to be able to *pull it off*.

                  Very fond memories of eating the F&C there in that little spot, with the jukebox in the corner, and the Bulldog ginger beer, and lots of good times with the entire family.

                  If your grandma is still alive, please give her my best wishes and tell her of the great memories she helped to be a part of. If she's no longer alive, please know that she was instrumental in making Ferndale a great place for F&C when I was young, and nobody has done it there like she did, since.

            2. re: boagman

              boagman: Man-o-man were you right about Scotty Simpson's! The only debate is how much we want to publicize this little diamond--I selfishly don't want the whole world to know about it, but also want to make sure they have enough business to thrive. The waitress was talking about how unprepared they were for the Lenten rush they got, a double-whammy because of the recent article in the paper (Freep? News?). I'll be back. You've been a great ambassador for them, but if everybody knew about this place, it would be a mob scene at 11:45, every day. Anyway, THANKS for your 100%-accurate endorsement. I'm trying the smelt next time; I've been looking for a good smelt dive since I left Dayton, OH, and my favorite, the Shuckin' Shack.

              1. re: Ignatz

                ::breaks his own arm patting himself on the back::

                You know, I'm a big chicken. I can list the number of things I've tried there on one hand: F&C, onion rings, clam chowder, chocolate cream pie...and that's *it*. I'm sure that the smelt, the perch, shrimp, and whatever else they serve is just fine. I just...can't get away from the cod. It's so Y-U-M-M-Y that it's hard to break away from it at all. I'm sure if you like smelt, though, it'll probably be the best smelt available. I like smelt, perch, and shrimp...but I'll probably just keep ordering the cod. Creature of habit, I guess.

                *But*, I am one *happy* creature of habit, that's for sure. :)

                1. re: boagman

                  As promised, on a recent visit to SS's, I ventured away from the famous cod and tried the fried smelt. While a relative value, the smelt did little other than satisfy a curiosity--it was pretty good, but not worth passing up the tried and true fish & chips. Being the stubborn sort, I'll try the perch next time.

                  1. re: Ignatz

                    Smelt??!! Scotty Simpson's has smelt on the menu? Wow! You don't see much smelt on menus around here anymore. I don't know whether I enjoyed more my dad taking us smelt-dipping late at night or eating the crunchy little buggers

                    1. re: berkleygary

                      Since my earlier comments caught your eye, I want to make sure you take them completely in context. SS's smelt was good, but just didn't (imho)compare to the shining stars of the SS menu, the fish and chips and the perch, both of which I consider to be worth a drive from just about anywhere in the 313, 248, 734, 586, etc. Don't let that scare you away from a SS's smelt feast--for $6, you still can't go wrong. While we're on the topic, you mentioned "not much" smelt available locally. Do you have any local favorites?

                  2. re: boagman

                    Hey Boagman-- I believe I have found the one piece of fried fish in Detroit that outshines SS's cod: SS's perch! Why was I not surprised? As previously promised, I tried it yesterday, on my fourth trip to SS's since discovering your ringing endorsement about two months ago. The perch is pricier, but from now on, I'll be faced with the complicating temptation to throw down the extra couple bucks and upgrade. BTW, Bev has been my waitress each time and I agree with you--she's wonderful, in keeping with the overall SS theme.

                    I have to believe that there are three big reasons, in order, that what ends up on the plate at SS's is so superior : 1) the love and experience of the crew, 2) freshness of the fish and 3) half beef fat in the fryer, not just plain ol' oil! Hard to believe Harry eats much of what he cooks, since he looks like he could play strong safety for the Lions!

                    Suffice it to say that, despite being only 1/8th Scots and 1/8th Irish, I'm hooked.

                    1. re: Ignatz

                      Hey Ignatz. Yeah, I'm pretty sold on just about anything that would come out of the fryer at Scotty's. I've had the cod, the onion rings, the chips, heck, I've even had a frog's leg! That was, in fact, the first frog leg I've ever had, and it was good. Not sure I'd go with a full order in lieu of the cod, but it was still good.

                      I must say that the half-beef-tallow of the frying oil is probably the "secret" ingredient, but I can't be absolutely sure: there's just something about that secret batter that Harry makes up daily that is just so good...

                      Perch is something that I haven't tried from there, but I would. You're right about the price being higher, and I *really* love the cod...but perch is a very different taste and consistency, so I'm sure I'll try it from Scotty's one of these days.

                      Oh, and Ignatz? My one-year-old *nephew* could play strong safetly for the Lions. ;)

                      1. re: boagman

                        Frog legs....I did notice them on the menu and will definitely try them in a month or so when they're in season. I'm sure Harry has a good local source and does them up right.

                        Given his penchant for deep, spot-on analysis of potential talent, I now expect Millen to draft your nephew in the first round tomorrow, assuming he saw your comment!

                2. re: boagman

                  Ok, you can count Tracy and I among the converts to Scotty's. Right after I got done talking to you Boagman, we decided to go there for lunch instead of the sub shop downriver. After fighting through insane traffic at 5 Mile, Grand River and Southfield, we finally made it there.

                  Walking in the first thing that hits you is the wonderful smell of fried fish, and my mouth instantly started watering. We sat and had our orders placed in under a minute, going for the F & C with side of rings. 10 minutes later we were chomping down some of the crispiest, tastiest fish, chips and rings we've had in a long time. Granted the pieces were a bit on the small side but it was worth it. We will be back for certain very soon!

                3. My favorites are the Speedboat Bar in Wyandotte MI:


                  Also, during Lent, I love the fish fry at the Dexter Knights of Columbus. Awesome!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: momskitchen

                    momskitchen: I'm a recent (totally sold) convert to Scotty's, but also a recently relocated Dexter resident. Our family hit the Dex KofC fish fry last month and while a great gathering for our humble little community, the fish--while good-- didn't hold a candle to Scotty's. If you haven't ventured down to 5 Mile, run, don't walk. Only your cardiologist could keep you away after trying it once!

                  2. Oh my gosh Boagman! You have me dying to try Scotty Simpson's! I wish I had heard of it before I moved from the Detroit area but we go back at least once a month so next trip I will make a bee-line for the place!!!

                    There is a place for fish and chips on Hayes Rd. in Clinton Twp. called Dubliner. They too use very good fish and make their own batter. It's very good. Their chips are not homemade but I am very fond of them. They are something along the lines of the chips that Arthur Treacher's used to serve- sorry, loved tthose chips soaked with vinegar.

                    1. Oh, sorry, I just re-read Boagman's post and realized SS's pllace uses fresh fish! Wow! Dubliner's fish is very good but it is frozen.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: luckygirl

                        Luckygirl, anybody who could go to Scotty Simpson's and come away unhappy is someone I'd deem "unable to be pleased." I honestly have ever eaten better F&C in my life, and I always look forward to returning. It's not that everything they do there is the best I've ever eaten (as I previously mentioned the clam chowder and pies aren't my favorite), but their F&C and tartar sauce are, bar none. The (what I consider to be) great roll is just icing on the cake, and for them to have ginger beer at *all* is not just apprpriate, but shows their knowledge of their customer base as well. That it's a good, strong ginger beer scores extra points.

                        Believe it or not, there's one especially loyal customer who eats there every day they're open! And no, it's not me. ;)

                      2. Based on the rec from Boagman, my friend and I went to Scotty Simpson's for lunch today. Delicious is all I'll say. Lightly battered flaky fish, and good chips. I don't like coleslaw, but Scotty's is worth eating. It was a good, non-mayo based slaw. I now wish we would have gotten the onion rings. We'll save that for the next time, and next time. Anyway, just go back up to the top and read Boagman's raves. He says it all.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Summerfield

                          Ha-HA! Another convert. Going for the onion rings instead of the chips is well established there. As I said, my folks will simply order fish and onion rings, which they substitute at no extra charge. They are, indeed, wonderful. I tend to stay with the chips for two reasons:

                          1. I like the chips, and it's the "traditional" accompaniment to fried fish, in my book. I may not like them *more than* the onion rings, but I do like them.

                          2. Chips fill me up more than the onion rings would. As good as they are, there's more food when you get the chips than the rings.

                          Interesting that you should mention the cole slaw, and that while you "don't like" cole slaw, it's "worth eating." It's just another example of the quality of the food in this place. I do like cole slaw if it's *good* cole slaw, but so many places serve a horrible, *horrible* ultra-sweet, mayonnaisey slop of cabbage, and it's just a chore to even try. This coming from a guy with a big old sweet tooth, too!

                          Not so, here. I'm also not a big fan of the taste of bitter, and this cole slaw isn't bitter (say, from too much vinegar), either. Instead, the "glaze" (if you will) of Scotty Simpson's cole slaw really complements and enhances the existing flavors of the cabbage, green pepper, carrot, and what not. It's really a finely put-together lump of stuff. ;)

                          Of *course* you'll be back. Who wouldn't? As an aside, I found out today that our previous F&C spot, Mercury F&C on 10 Mile in Southfield, is closed. It's not a big loss, as the quality had fallen substantially in recent years, and Scotty Simpson's blows them out of the water, but still. It's being replaced by yet *another* Thai place in the Detroit area.

                          There was a time in the not-too-distant past that I mourned the lack of Thai places (especially good ones!) in the Detroit area. Now they're all too common and even ubiquitous, and it seems like you just can't get away from them, as practically every strip mall has one currently, or one going in. A message to these people: it's a crowded market, so *distinguish yourselves with quality*, or your storefront will soon be as empty as it was before you started.

                          Thankfully, Scotty Simpson's ain't going that direction any time soon. :)

                          1. re: boagman

                            Boagman--since you brought it up, what are some "good" thai spots? I moved away from the area in 1991, and with only a few choices at that time, my fave was Bangkok Cuisine @ 16 Mi. & John R. Upon moving back in 2000, I bee-lined up there to find that sadly, they were no more, but was also amazed at how common Motown-area Thai had become. You're right--it's waaay worse six years later. Any suggestions would be appreciated. There's a decent one on Monroe downtown, in the retail strip under the Compuware parking garage (don't know if Karmanos eats there, though...). If this at all interests you, and/or if you're downtown for lunch ever, Sizzlin' Spice is a surprisingly passable choice for Indian, despite the ridiculous name. I keep telling the owner he needs to change it. He passes my acid test, though--about 60% of the lunch patrons are of Indian descent on any given day.

                            1. re: Ignatz

                              Ignatz, the best Thai place I can direct you to isn't far from your original nirvana: Pi's Thai Cuisine at 16 Mile & Dequindre, and they have a second (original) location on John R at I-696 (10 Mile). Both serve the same menu, and their quality and ability is fantastic. The main difference between the two locations is that the 16 & Dequindre location has far more room in which to sit down and enjoy your meal there. You *can* eat at the 10 & John R location, yes, but there's really only about 10 seats total (3 of which are at the counter), and it's just a small location with *very* little room.

                              The ingredients they use are fantastic, and if I may, a word of caution: the Spicy Factor at Pi's, in contrast to most places, errs on the side of *hot*. You'd be smart to order a bit less spicy (say, a full step, so if you normally order medium, go with mild) than you normally would, and work your way up the ladder, so to speak. Their "very hot" will kill most people, and in my opinion, even the hot drowns out the tastes the great ingredients have to offer. I've tried many things on their menu, and have rarely been disappointed, if ever. I'd especially recommend their tom yum soup, which they tell me has been sweetened, but oh *man*, is it ever yummy!

                              About Indian, I like Indian food, but rarely end up buying it. For some reason, I find that Indian food tends to have a bad cost-to-portion ratio when I end up buying my traditional lamb curry, and thus have just sort of fallen away from seeking it out altogether, which I would readily admit is my loss.