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Feb 13, 2013 10:26 AM

A brief history of fried whiting in DC.

Why can't I get decent whiting in NoVA? I have to head to Maine Avenue or cross the river to Oxon Hill to get it fried proper. You can't swing a dead catfish without hitting mediocre sushi in NoVA, but the proper fried whiting sandwiches are few and far between.

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    1. re: Dennis S

      I'll give them a try. I'm looking for something in Alexandria/Fairfax. Nothing upscale or sophisticated. Just cheap fried fish on Wonder Bread with hot sauce.

        1. re: agarnett100

          it is Lent after all. which should mean 40 days of church fish-fry comparison in the wilderness.

          Hmmm... or will that just get the Catholics and Lutherans at each others throats again? both do a good job, but y'know Methodists seem to keep more neutral.

          oh I have to go back to one of these, I'll channel my dead Grandmother. this is my Spring wish.

          1. re: hill food

            I've phoned around. All the church fish frys are on the MD side of the river or are in downtown DC. Many of the VA Catholic churches skew Latino, so they're not big on fried fish.

            I'm going to try Horace & Dickies this Friday. You have to get there when they open otherwise you're behind a dozen people, each putting in a dozen orders to take back to the office.

      1. re: Dennis S

        The smoked fish dip at America Seafood is wonderful.

        1. re: Dennis S

          Dennis, I just picked up lunch there and my sandwich was very good. I got a fried mahi mahi (the hoagie roll was heated on a George Foreman "hot plate") with fries and slaw for $12 and I really liked it. The owner really takes pride in his product, he actually took me back to the cooler to show me a fresh grouper he hadn't cut up yet and it looked like it was just out of the water with clear eyes looking at me like I was at fault for its current predicament...
          I had had mediocre sandwiches there years ago, but this one was pretty darned good, I will definitely be going back.

          1. re: Ziv

            Cool - good to hear. I go only maybe twice a year, even though I pass by it nearly every weekday afternoon. Just not the right time for that much of a meal. I also think about picking up something to cook at home, but 98% of the time I'm trying to keep the wheels rolling. I'll have to check in again one of these days coming up where I can leave the office a few minutes early and make a pit stop.

            Cool that he took you back to the freezer!

            1. re: Ziv

              The sandwiches at America Seafood are very high quality, thoughtfully prepared, and pretty darn big.

          2. The same reason you can find "Lake Trout" in abundance in certain sections of Baltimore and not at all in others.

            This is not a case of "if you build it, they will come."

            People in NOVA want sushi, not fried fish!

            4 Replies
            1. re: Bob W

              I've pretty much come to the same conclusion, although there does seem to be a handful of cheap Koren run seafood takeouts in Lorton and Woodbridge that I need to check out.

              1. re: Bob W

                You know "Lake Trout" is whiting right?

                1. re: agarnett100

                  Known in St. Louis as jack salmon, and, per the NYT, also in Louisville, KY. Never served any way other than breaded and deep-fried.

                  1. re: agarnett100

                    Um, yes -- see the quotation marks around Lake Trout -- but thanks!

                2. I don't think it is possible. Best I've had recently was at my son's football game in District Heights in November. Huge crowd of people around the snack bar so I headed over and ended up with a hot out of the oil whiting sandwich. Really good!

                  Per the other NOVA parents there, you need to be in MD or DC for this dish.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: tcamp

                    There's a new soul food joint in Del Ray that looks like a good candidate, but they only do fish on Friday and Saturday. Any place that serves good collards should know what they're doing. I'll have to check them out and report back.


                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      I hear you on the fried fish-not exactly what you're looking for, but I've had a really good catfish po'boy at ThaiBox, & the other night, excellent fried croaker & belt fish at To Sok Jip in Annandale...I love a good fried fish sandwich, but this area is difficult, I keep meaning to try the fish tacos/tostadas/ ceviche at Tacos al Costalilla...

                      1. re: thistle5

                        Yeah, I like pretty much everything at Thaibox, including the catfish, but that poboy is a different animal than the pile of whiting, Wonder Bread, and hot sauce I'm looking for. The closest to me that I've found is Mid Atlantic Seafood in Oxon Hill. Just a big old fish fry place with a bewildering variety of sides. There's another in Laurel. They fry their whiting good, simple, hard, and pretty cheap. Cameron Seafood is another candidate.

                    2. re: tcamp

                      How about Dave's Subs and Seafood? Shopping center at Glebe and Colombia Pike. I believe there is a choice of bread, but the essential 'fried fish on bread' remains the same no matter how you get it.

                      1. re: Steve

                        Dave's is fairly good, but I can't remember if the sandwich I liked the best was croaker, or whiting, I think it was whiting because it had almost no bones. I had it on the basic wonder bread with mayo and the sides were fairly good as well, the greens were smoky and the mashed potatoes might have actually been real, maybe with dark brown gravy that was fairly flavorful.

                        And on edit, I was wrong, the sandwich I liked was the trout...
                        Here is what I thought of Dave's a couple years ago, I doubt it has changed too much:

                        "I just got back, and I have enjoyed just about the best trout sandwich platter I have had in years. It was lightly breaded and deep fat fried to a golden crunch. Simply delicious, served with 2 slices of white bread wrapped in wax paper, slightly smoky collard greens & a little tub of decent potato salad. I drove like a maniac to Lyon Park to grab a table and chow down. They serve the platter with 3 filets of trout, two of which make a pretty good sandwich. They also give you pepper sauce, tastes like Pistol Pete to me. I stood in line with a guy from southern Virginia, he claimed the croaker, which looked really good, is about as good as what his Mama made, on one of her good days.
                        This isn't a Key West style sandwich, it is more like the ones I used to get in Deal or Hughesville in southern Maryland.
                        Now for the blasphemy, I liked my trout sandwich from Dave's much more than the 4 pieces of whiting and wonder bread I got at Horace & Dickie's. Apples and oranges, I know, but the trout at Dave's was pretty darned good. And the croaker looked like it was worth the occasional bone!"

                    3. I know it's not whiting, but Hard Times Cafe has a decent fried cod sandwich. It's served on a sub roll, but you could always remove the toppings and bread and eat it with hot sauce.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: 4X4

                        I tried their cod sandwich. Maybe it was on off day, because it was fried too low and was way too greasy. The batter was particularly thick, like Irish bar fish & chips batter. The thing about whiting is that it's thin and fried hot and hard and the batter is usually just corn meal, sometimes seasoned.

                        I've found the NY Strip at Hard Times is a really good deal, grilled to order, with good char and a lot of flavor. And they know what medium rare means.

                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                          I've never had their steak, but maybe I'll try it some time. I usually go there for happy hour and get the discounted wings or sliders.

                      2. Don't know what kind of fish she uses (just listed as "fried fish") but I enjoy it immensely. And "immense" is the word for the portions. Carry-out only, careful for your transmission going up the driveway.

                        Margaret's Soul Food & Catering, 2534 S Shirlington Rd
                        Arlington, VA 22206

                        (703) 608-9226 (maybe they'll answer ... it's a casual sort of place, but you'll fall in love with Margaret who can cheer up even the gloomiest day)