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The Worst Fish and Chips in Austin?

Fellow Hounds,

There are many food topics on this board which I do not feel qualified to comment on, having had little previous experience with these varietals: interior Mexican dining, for example. However, being a Brit, I do feel eminently qualified to speak on the subject of fish and chips - the UKs number two consumed food, curry being number one these days.

When I first arrived in Austin during the latter years of the last century, fish and chips were scarce on the ground. With the exception of the Dog and Duck, you really couldn't find them anywhere. Today, it seems like I can't walk into a place that serves a piece of blackened catfish without them including fish and chips on the menu. Since I've never really had a proper fish and chips in Austin, I thought this thread ought to start at the bottom and work it's way up, if the moderators will so humor me.

My previous all-time Worst Fish and Chips in Austin was an honor held by the now defunct Capitol Brasserie, following an offering so hellaciously inedible that I never went back, even to eat anything else. Today, however, I had occasion to dine at Fish City Grill - their Brodie Oaks location - and Ithink, folks, that we have a new winner.

Let me start by telling you what I think fish and chips ought to look and taste like. The chips should be large, steak fry-style, well-cooked but not burned, so that when you douse them liberally in malt vinegar they go slightly soggy but you can still pick them up. The fish should be fresh - usually cod - and cooked in batter such that when picked up, the piece of fish in question does not wilt, but still 'melts in the mouth'.

Now, let us move on to fish and chips as defined by Fish City Grill. This was one of their daily specials, too. Special, indeed. First, the "chips". In this case they were grid-style fries of some sort, which looked and tasted like they had been accidentally left in the fat fryer while the chef ran an errand or cooked someone else's lunch. Tough, chewy, and inedible. I could not say the same for the fish. It looked like it had been waved, as a token gesture, somewhere near the fat fryer, and then dropped onto my plate. Attempts to pick it up were fruitless - it disintegrated on impact. Thoroughly tasteless, too. Also on the plate were sides of cole slaw and tartar sauce which both tasted identically - of nothing at all. Maybe I should have mixed them together.

I left this fine establishment with a sour feeling in my stomach, and the desire to inform fellow Hounds of the newest holder of the Worst Fish and Chips in Austin award.

Anyone have any ideas where I should head next?

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  1. Thanks for the review on Fish City Grill. I personally hate waffle fries. They seem to cool and become soggy faster than properly cut french fries. In a state that loves its fried catfish, you'd think a restaurant could pull off a decent fish and chips.

    As for suggestions, it's been a while since I ate there, but I recall Fado's serving decent golden-fried planks of cod and thick-cut chips.

    I've tried Opal Divine's version a week ago and was seriously underwhelmed. The planks fell apart as soon as I picked them up and the "chips" were their pepper fries (tasty, but not up to your definition of chips).

    I wonder if Quality Seafood could pull off "fish and chips" without calling them that specifically. They have fried cod on their menu.

    2 Replies
    1. re: verily

      The one time I ordered fried cod at Quality Seafood was about three months ago. It was nicely battered and fried, but the fish was extremely dry under the crust. It was surprisingly bad.

      1. re: Greg Spence

        quality seafood's fried cod is terrible. stick with the fried catfish.

        i don't eat fish and chips a lot but i remember years ago i used to really like fado's version when i worked nearby.

    2. Aside from the issue of execution, I think much of what is passed off as cod, just ain't (i think pollock is the likely pinch-hitter). And it's even easier to sneak this by a diner when it's in the form of fish'n'chips.

      At a few places that I've seen on it the menu here in town, I've noticed that malt vinegar hasn't been offered, instead tartare or some other such sauce/remoulade. I usually won't order it if I can't have the MV.

      1. LJS, baby! Be sure and request extra Krumbs.

        3 Replies
        1. re: cstrombe

          What's LJS?

          After going to London and having them there 2 or 3 times, I found that the Dog and Duck just doesn't cut it anymore. The fish is cod and pretty good when not overcooked, but in my experience that is only about half the time. But the chips are just fries (most likely frozen). The best I've found since is B.D. Rileys. Chips are big and handcut, while the fish has just the right amount of batter, and as I recall it was a pretty good size portion, as well.

          1. re: TroyTempest

            I'm pretty sure he just recommended Long John Silver's. I hope it was tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek.

            1. re: TroyTempest

              Another vote for BD Rileys. If you didn't mention them, I would have.

          2. I have fairly good F&C at Mother Egans, but it has been a while. Last time I was there I noticed that their menu had changed slightly (they had done away with the tasty fried brie and opted for crappy out of the freezer section fried cheese sticks). This could be a bad sign. However, it's worth a try and not a bad place especially on Wednesdays for trivia.

            1. I tried the F&C's at the Lakecreek Alamo on Saturday. They were just a bit on the crispy side for my liking. The fish they used was Tilapia, which really didn't have much for flavor, and the fillets were quite thin. They did not include Malt Vinegar.

              Trust me, I have been searching for good F&C's since I moved to Austin from Seattle 5 years ago, and haven't hit a good plate yet.

              Keep searching!!