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Jan 16, 2009 08:34 AM

Fish sandwiches

We just returned from Florida and indulged in some marvelous fish sandwiches, both fried and blackened. For example, Dockside Dave's in St. Petersburg Beach has a trademark grouper sandwich that you can order fried in two ways (light or heavy crust), grilled, blackened, or lemony. The sandwich I got was three substantial hunks of greaseless country-fried fish with a really good bun, for I think $10 (market price, but I did note the size of the check).

I have had other grouper and catfish sandwiches in FL at several places and it's similar-- terrific professional frying of fish that spills all over the plate, always accompanied by first-rate onion rings, fries, slaw, etc. Nothing that even begins to remind me of franchise fishburgers or what you would get from the freezer at Trader Joe's.

I can never recall seeing anything similar from any bar or restaurant in the DC area no matter what superlatives the menu writers may put on their descriptions. Even Great American Restaurants, with their terrific steaks and decent fish entrees, comes up short.

Question: Does anyone north of Richmond measure up? or are we hurting for fish sandwiches just like we are for pastrami?

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  1. The Key West-style fish sandwich at Lola's on Barrack's Row (Eastern Market) is pretty damn good. Not fried but still delicious. I've ordered it for lunch at least 5 times in the past month or so. Plus they make really delicious fries. Worth checking out.

    1. Horace & Dickies 12 St NE right off of H St makes a serious fried fish sandwich. This is strictly a take out place, the fried fish(catfish and whitting i think) is pretty much all they offer. No onion rings or other options, fried fish and white bread.

      1. A post of mine on this board from several years ago:

        Horace and Dickie's is still open. I was there three weeks ago. But a cautionary note. I am old enough (!) to remember the fish sandwiches at Benny's on Maine Avenue from the '50's where fresh perch or haddock was piled four inches high on Wonder bread and creamy home made cole slaw and Evangeline hot sauce were added to go along with lard cooked french fries.
        Horace and Dickie's is NOT the same sandwich as those or even Boyd's the H St. carryout that moved to this location and sold out to them.
        I read the Post article that raved about this place. I've been four or five times since then and also went to Boyd's in the '70's and '80's which was an EXACT DUPLICATION of Benny's from Maine Avenue. (Like McDonald's original fries which I discovered at Dick's in Spokane, WA or Hot Shoppes hot fudge ice cream cake which still exists at The Charcoal Pit on route 202 in Wilmington, DE) there are some tastes you never forget.) Horace and Dickey's french fries are frozen and cooked in vegetable oil not fresh and hot from being cooked in lard as the original. The fish doesn't have the same flavor and, maybe I'm wrong, but doesn't taste fresh. The fish fry is probably the same, though. (Yes, I've had the three and four "piece" sandwiches.) The overall sandwich simply is not as good. I seriously doubt that they are using the same oil/lard whatever that the originals used. Nor is their cole slaw which is home made but not as creamy. For those who never had the original Maine Avenue sandwiches or Boyd's then you'll probably like these but they don't even come close. (Sorry but I'm going back a lot of years to when D. C. made the best fried fish sandwich on earth.)
        But two or three years ago on a visit to Faidley's at the Lexington Market in Baltimore I found a better sandwich which was much closer to Benny's and Boyd's originals. (But NOT as good.)
        Although the Post once called the half smoke D. C.'s home grown best (one of my few disagreements with John B.) it was really the fish sandwich. From the Shrimpboat in Anacostia to Boyd's to Benny's on Maine Avenue it was this that was D. C.'s best, an indigenous taste that no one else-anywhere-duplicated.
        Faidley's may be 70% of the original. Horace and Dickey's is 40% at best.

        I've had a number of fried grouper sandwiches in Florida, most recently at Frenchy's on the beach in Clearwater Beach. Excellent. Just excellent. But this is a different sandwich from what D. C. was once known for. Horace and Dickey's is the best you'll find in the D. C. area today unless you go to Faidley's in the Lexington Market in Baltimore. That sandwich I'll match against Florida's best. Throw in some fries cooked in lard (if you can find them) and you would be close to D. C.'s best from many years ago.

        Note: Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City still serves french fries cooked in lard.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Joe H

          I haven't had any of the other fish sandwiches that Joe H mentions, but in my completely inexperienced estimate, the fish sandwich at Faidley's is excellent if eaten immediately on the spot. I'd rather have one of those than any of their crab cakes. That sandwich is worth a trip across town. And with extra tartar sauce, it almost makes eating the flabby white bread acceptable.

          I've had the Arthur Bryant's french fries too, and I didn't know they were cooked in lard. Thanks for that info Joe...I think...

          1. re: crackers

            Second on the Faidley's fish sandwiches. It's not on the order of some of the great dayboat stuff down in FL, but still fresh and hot and crisp and moist. Though I'm a fan of slaw and hot sauce over tartar :-)

            1. re: crackers

              crackers, it is *never* about the bread....
              flabby white bread, now that's the standard. ;-).

              1. re: alkapal

                Absolutely right alkapal. Unfathomable to serve it on a lightly toasted brioche roll :)

                At the other end of the region, the fish and chips at Eamonn's in Old Town Alexandria are superb, and they offer enough choices of sauces to satisfy both dmnkly's and my taste.

            2. re: Joe H

              So does anybody in DC/MD/VA still fry fish in lard anymore? Or is it all healthy, flavorless vegetable oil? Because lard seems to be the critical element in both flaky pie crusts and properly fried fish. I hope some bodega hidden away somewhere that's using lard in their tamales is deep frying fish in the same.

              1. re: monkeyrotica

                we fried fish in vegetable oil -- usually peanut oil -- in florida. imo, fresh fish makes the real difference!

              2. re: Joe H

                Hey Joe,
                I was passing through Bmore this weekend and stopped at Faidley's for a fish sandwich. They have several but the counter girl recommended the haddock. It was great. One of the best I've ever had and the only good one I know of at the moment. Thanks for the heads up. I'll never get a crab cake there again.

              3. Ceiba does a "Florida Keys Style Blackened Fish Sandwich Key Lime Tartar Sauce, Spiced Sweet Potato Fries" $15 for lunch. Soft wonderful bun, just INCREDIBLE!

                1 Reply
                1. re: csabo

                  Thanks, csabo. I like Ceiba's "hot lava," aka queso fundido. I'll go there for the sandwich. Joe, I was a kid in New Jersey in the '50s but I do go to Lexington Market on occasion and will go soon but forsake Faidley's crab cakes (too expensive now IMHO) for the sandwich.

                2. Watch out for General Store Post Office Tavern in Silver Spring when it opens. Nobody fries as well as chef Gillian Clark (of Colorado Kitchen). Best fried fish sandwich ever.