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Fried Smelt? (Stay on topic!!!)

It looks like an overzealous moderator deleted the discussion of fried smelt from the other day. :( So let's try again... Please tell me about local options for fried smelt. I won't discuss where I've had it before, since it wasn't in the Greater Boston Area.

No jokes! No off-topic comments! No discussion of anything other than fried smelt in Boston and hopefully this time it will be allowed to stay...

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  1. I LOVE fried smelts and other small oily fish (anchovies, sardines).

    I'm really surprised that a fish that is cheap, sustainable, and good for you isn't on more menus these days (perfect small plate?) but I think like anchovies and sardines, poor quality examples gave them a bad rap. For that reason I generally make them at home.

    I've had them at Belle Isle and they've been good: dirt cheap and relatively straight forward. That said, I'm curious if any restaurants are doing sllightly more interesting preperations. At home I prefer them sauteed or grilled (like sardines) to deep fried.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Klunco

      I had a great dish of different small fried fish at Hei la Moon a few years back. I believe it was the only time I ever saw them at dim sum.

      1. re: trufflehound

        I have seen them there also on the same cart as salted shrimp, calamari usually after 12 at dim sum.

      2. re: Klunco

        Oh, I also like anchovies and sardines. I'm stupidly averse to preparing them at home, though. I've never done it for some reason. Probably once I tried it would be fine. But suggestions for restaurants where I can get my fix of any small oily fish (do mackeral count?) would be great too!

        Years and years ago I had a cold appetizer of sardines and roasted red peppers at some random restaurant (Davio's maybe?) that I've never been back to. It was simple, but fantastic. I should really try to recreate it at home.

        1. re: maillard

          Mackerel are oily, but hardly small - most varieties are at least a foot long, and some grow as large as six feet. Still, you can cut them into pieces as small as you like.

          1. re: BobB

            Tinker mackerel are sardine size and delicious; the really big ones (king) are a different species and are not very tasty IMHO.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              Toraya in Arlington has an appetizer of marinated mackerel chunks coated with panko crumbs and fried - very good.

      3. Court house had it last year in Cambridge, haven't made it back in a while.http://www.courthouseseafood.com/menu...

        The takeout in Norwood use to have it, haven't been back there in years, but no seating there. Whoops looks like they change their name to the takeaway still have smelt on the menu http://thetakeawayma.com/

        1. I love them too. Also anchovies and sardines.

          Like I said previously, Legal's had fried smelt on their menu for years, primarily as an app but I think also on the dinner side.

          Not sure if they still do, but it was serviceable.

          3 Replies
          1. re: C. Hamster

            at some of the "old school" locations you can request certain off-menu items, like bluefish pate. i bet smelts too. places like chestnut hill are a good bet.

            1. re: C. Hamster

              I found them very heavily breaded, although as I recall they were splayed open and the bones removed.

              1. re: C. Hamster

                OMG, I used to love them! It was the perfect tapas to go with wine; a crispy fried bit, tho I don't consider them as oily as anchovies and sardines, both of which I love...You can get them by the pice at Courthouse seafood, even at the Fish Market side, where they have a case of fried treats, if your mouth starts to water when you're buying your fish!

              2. Might want to try some Greek places, maybe Desfini in E. Cambridge.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bizkat

                  I've had them at the Aegean in Watertown and remember them being pretty good. Pretty sure they were always on the appetizer menu - not sure now since they are still updating their online menu (seems like over a year now), and I haven't been there in a while.

                2. I had some pretty tasty ones at Moulton's a few years ago. Not heavily breaded...just a light dusting IIFC.

                  1. I love fried smelt too! We usually buy them at S&S seafood in Fitchburg (excellent fish store with best prices around) and fry them at home. Yum!

                    1. The Clam Box in Quincy (NOT to be confused with the Ipswich Clam Box) has fried smelts.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Allstonian

                        Oh yeah. I remember that now. They werent that great, though.

                      2. Regal Beagle's were excellent (I'll be good from now on, O Wise and Just Moderators).

                        1. We're really sorry that the smelt discussion got lost; it was tied into a pretty long and chatty digression that went pretty far away from offering on topic local chow tips. We usually try to salvage on-topic, helpful responses when we're able to, but that didn't happen here. As penance, we'll post the posts that were removed below (we can't move the actual posts here).

                          Oh, I love fried smelt! Is there anywhere in Boston to get these? I've only seen them in the midwest…
                          Courthouse Seafood in Cambridge, probably some of the other area clam shacks.
                          C. Hamster
                          Legal had them on the menu for years. Not sure if that's still the case.
                          MC Slim JB
                          Nebo does a nice version; glad to see they're still on the menu in the spiffy new Waterfront location.

                          I've had them at the Regal Beagle - really great fry job, though I had never had them before, so not much to compare to.
                          Wow, thanks so much for the recommendations, everyone! I had no idea there were so many options around here. Hooray for fried tiny fish…

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: The Chowhound Team

                            Oh, thanks for returning these posts! And it worked out well to have a separate post, since now I've got even more tiny fish dish recommendations.

                          2. I've had fried smelts at Bergamot, but if I recall correctly, they were a special of the day. Best to call and find out if & when they're doing them.

                            1. I've had fried smelt at East Coast Grill, try calling them.


                              1. I had them at CBC (Camb Brewing Co.) once a year or two ago, but they were a special and I haven't seen them again.

                                1. I have had very good fried smelts at the Weathervane chain, of all places. Sprinkled with salt and malt vinegar, they were cruncy, sweet-savory, and good.

                                  1. My longtime favorite version of this dish is found at Jack's Family Restaurant in Warren, RI. Order it with the marinade on the side.

                                    Old-timey mix of shore food, Italian-American, and Azorean dishes, and it earns the "family restaurant" moniker. One of those places that looks like it hasn't changed a hair in 80 years.


                                    1. I've had good results at Belle Isle, Century House and The Causeway, the later 2 only offer as occasional specials.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: treb

                                        Edit an old post; I've always had good luck at Belle Isle, if you go late in the day, before they close, they usually pile them on.

                                      2. Here's a photo from last winter of fried smelt from Courthouse. I had them make a roll, which isn't listed but they were happy to do.

                                        1. The smelts of my youth were so small they weren't fileted. Just cut the head off, pan fry in seasoned flour, and eat it whole, bones and all. We netted tons of these easily at the beach. The smelts at the fish mongers that I see are much bigger than I recall. Does anyone ever see these really small tasty morsels?

                                          1. What's the season for the little bastards anyways? I had them as a kid and loved them, but can't say I've had them as an adult

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: devilham

                                              I haven't been in a couple years, but Great Bay in Portsmouth NH is where we have always gone.

                                              This time of year is a great time for catching them in the creeks that come with the tides.

                                              These are small smelt and some can be good sized, but I rarely see any caught the size that you see them in the market now.

                                              I like cook them the same way CCGuy does. Great stuff!

                                              1. re: devilham

                                                "According to the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources, the normal smelt fishing season in the state, including Boston harbor, runs from the middle of May to the last day of February."

                                                Read more: http://www.ehow.com/info_10024429_sme...

                                                  1. re: 9lives

                                                    You were on the water? It's freezing out there. I'm going to ask at our local Whole Foods about smelts for Christmas Eve. I always manage to get some around Christmas. Makes a nice nibble w drinks before The Feast.

                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                      We were right by the bridge where the pic in your link showed..Nice evening but I think I'll be limiting my smelt consumption to purchasing them..:)

                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                        i've been getting them at market basket, if you are cooking them at home.

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          Thanks! Yes, that's we usually get them too. I'll have my husband get some this week-end.

                                                1. Anthony Caturano from Prezza offered smelts outside during some of the feasts. Don't see it on the regular menu but maybe a "special."

                                                  A little farther away, I had some at TA Restaurant in Fall River recently. I usually go to Sagre but they had a fire recently and the owner suggested a few alternatives.

                                                  1. Try Burke's Seafood in N. Quincy on Billings Rd., or Kelly's Landing in N. Weymouth on Rt. 3A, just over the Fore River bridge. I know Kelly's had them recently and I' m pretty sure I saw them on the menu board at Burke's a couple of week ago. I like them also, but I only eat the ones I catch and cook myself.

                                                    1. The Porthole Pub in Lynn has them. I prefer Dube's and The Barnacle for fried seafood, but haven't seen smelts at either.

                                                      1. Summer Shack has them but not always - they are usually on the blackboard when in season, and you can get an appetizer or dinner portion. They're fried and very good.

                                                        1. They have them at Kirkland Tap and Trotter! (Though not always, I guess.)

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: maillard

                                                            I had them a couple weeks ago at Kirkland and they were very good, but not quite as great as the smelts I've had at Craigie over the years. I'll be interested to see if they pop up on the Craigie menu now that they're being served at Kirkland.

                                                          2. I had them at Summer Shack Alewife within the past year and they were whole, lightly fried, crunchy, and delicious - a chalkboard special, I believe - outstanding.

                                                            7 Replies
                                                            1. re: rlh

                                                              Seawitch in Peabody has them very frequently at lunch, but I don't think dinner. I think possibly Century House on occasion. Maillaird, did you ever find them.. Have personally never had them. I eat sardines and anchovies but never had smelts.. thought they would have lots of inedible bones, or are they more like sardine/anchovies in that regard? Are kippers like smelts?

                                                              1. re: chompie

                                                                You can eat them whole, just grab by the tail, put in your mouth, close, and then pull out and the skeleton slips right out like a cartoon. So their fun to eat as well as delicous!!!

                                                                1. re: devilham

                                                                  The bones are so delicate I just eat them.

                                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                    crunchy calcium!

                                                                    blue room and rendezvous both often do sardines too.

                                                                    1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                      I'm with you, Striper.....eat 'em bones and all!

                                                                      1. re: Science Chick

                                                                        I never knew there was a way to eat fried smelts except whole. I guess they can grow to a size where chewing and swallowing the bones would be a bad idea, but I've never been served anything but the finger-size ones.


                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                          The ones my dad used to make were a smidge longer than an adults finger, and you could eat them as I described (and I suppose as you guys describe as well, but we were kids and were probably averse to eating bones at that time, so my dad taught us to eat them 'cartoon style')

                                                              2. Plough & Stars had them as a special a month or so ago. They were Canadian Smelts with a bit of saffron lime aioli. Very tasty. Not sure how regularly they have them.