Monday, February 13, 2012

The Great Fish-and-Chip-Off of 2012: First Report

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 7:33 AM

As promised, my little group of Luncheros has been nibbling our way around town trying some of the best fish and chips searching for the creme de la cod. Did I mention that this group usually consists of me and three to four attractive young female food bloggers. "My name is Charlie, and these are my angels."

Occasionally another dude crashes the party, and his attendance is always welcome since he tells us stories about the stars that cannot be repeated in this space. But the core group of four of us are serious about our task of finding the best fish and chips in town. However, we're not serious about much else, so the lunch conversation is always lively.

So here are the results of rounds 1 to 3:

Dan McGuinness Pub
1538 Demonbreun St.
(615) 252-1991

All of us had tried the fish and chips at Dan McGuinness previously, and with easily accessible parking and the benefit of a $6 Thursday special, it was a logical spot to start our investigations. The lunch deal included two large fillets and arrived within five minutes of our ordering, despite the fact that there were lots of other diners there to take advantage of the cheap eats. Instead of the expected thick-cut "chips," the fish came accompanied by seasoned french fries, which were in fact nicely seasoned. Also well-spiced was the batter on the fish, and that added a nice counterpoint when lightly doused with malt vinegar — as God intended.

The tartar sauce was deemed to be a little bit sweet and lacking in the pickle relish department. There was a random sprinkling of parsley all over the dish, so maybe it missed the tartar sauce bowl during prep. Overall, the Luncheros considered Dan McGuinness a strong offering, especially for the price on Thursdays. Taking the price into account, we gave it an average score of 4.125 fillets out of a possible 5.

Fleet Street Pub
207 Printers Alley
(615) 200-0782

Our next visit was to the new kid on the block, or more accurately, the new kid in the alley. We had all heard great things about Fleet Street Pub and were all anxious to make our first visit. Despite other diners' complaints about the smoky smell of the pub during evening hours, smoking is not allowed during lunch and none of us were bothered by the aroma. Perhaps that's because the garlic aioli that accompanied the chips we ordered as an appetizer smelled so good that we ignored any other odors.

The fish and chips looked amazing coming to the table. An app size of two fillets goes for $7.75 and were perfectly golden brown on the outside. My first fillet was delicious and moist, but unfortunately the second piece had fallen victim to a fryer that was perhaps heated to too high of a temperature. (Good thing we had a real culinary professional Nicki along with us to diagnose that problem.) The way the problem manifested itself to me was in pockets of bitter uncooked baking powder in the crust.

Maybe the fryer is set that high to ensure that the french fries that come with the fish can be so awesome. They are hand-cut and thrice cooked, and Fleet Street brags that they are "the best fries in the city" — and they may just be right. We all agreed that Fleet Street definitely has the potential to serve the best fish and chips in the city, but based on what we sampled we had to give them a 3.5, although an "incomplete" might have been more appropriate. We'll be back to try them again and would like to hear more about Bitesters' experiences.

Whiskey Kitchen
118 12th Ave. S.
(615) 254-3029

Whiskey Kitchen was a known commodity to most of us, and not just because it's one of the closest bars to the Scene offices. The most expensive of the three fish-and-chip dishes we have sampled so far, a serving of two of Whiskey Kitchen's fried cod fillets runs $13.50. Just for comparison, one of the Luncheros ordered the Fish Tacos for a dollar less. More on that later.

Whiskey Kitchen's fish and chips were a little skimpy on the fries, which for the money was disappointing. C'mon M Street, dump a few more taters in the bowl, please. They were tasty, though, so maybe why that's why we craved more. Both the fries and the fish benefited from an inventive tartar sauce that actually had a bit of a remoulade character to it. The fish was a tad greasy, but nobody said that this was supposed to be health food, right?

An interesting option were the Baja Fish Tacos, which actually offered three expertly-fried snapper fillets for less than the price of the regular fish and chips. Add in the julienned veggies that come alongside for making your own tacos, this dish was deemed the deal of the day. But we're not on a Fish Taco hunt (yet), so we had to pass judgment on Whiskey Kitchen based on the fish and chips. Factoring the price and the value, the group settled on an average score of 3.25. Although that was slightly disappointing, there are plenty of other good reasons to visit Whiskey Kitchen, not the least of which is whiskey.

Next up on the agenda are Blackstone, Whole Foods and a dark horse with a strong following, McNamara's Irish Pub and Restaurant in Donelson. Maybe I'll wait until after my annual physical so that my doc doesn't measure the malt vinegar content of my bloodstream.

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