***Writer’s note: this post was supposed to go up last week in time for Ash Wednesday, but I lost my notebook that I write these posts in (I have a crippling inability to write straight to a computer. I blame my 12th grade Composition teacher. She forced us to write 3 rough drafts in a notebook before we typed them into Microsoft Word “just in case” and now if I’m not looking at piece of paper my brain can’t form coherent paragraphs.) and I refused to write this again from memory. So, lets all step back in time and pretend that you’re reading this 10 days ago and not today on the way out the door to do something with your weekend.
Lent is upon us which means that for approximately the next forty days Ike will be dragging me from bar to bar looking for the best fish fry that he can find which conforms to his skewed Western New York standards. I should really write “fish fry”as it has been 6 years and the best definition I’ve gotten from Ike for this mysterious food is that it involves a piece of bread, fried fish the size of a large baby, and a side of questionable looking coleslaw. Not a single dining establishment has recreated his hope for this culinary enigma but I was told that the Angry Penguin in Waterford has been the closest. So… that’s nice.
I, on the other hand, am always looking for a decent plate of fish and chips. I lived in London for awhile (oooOOOOOooo) and after a lifetime of equating breaded fish with Long John Silvers and Gorton’s fishsticks, I was converted at the altar of the corner chip shop to a full blown lover of battered and fried fish.
I’ve given up on Ike ever being satisfied with any fish fry east of Rochester but I’ve been pretty pleased lately with the local fish and chips offerings. The Black Cat in Cohoes put forth a solid effort when I ate there last with good batter that stood up to my slathering of malt vinegar and edible fries.
While I recommend Brown’s for their burgers and chicken pot pie (good lord I love the chicken pot pie. My dream is to eat it wearing a snuggie and one of those stupid neck pillows so I can immediately fall asleep in a booth afterwards.), I’ve steered clear of their fish and chips ever since we got a plate of what was clearly off fish. The staff were very kind and apologetic but I still haven’t been able to get back on that particular seahorse.
The three names I hear mentioned most often for great fish and chips are Troy’s own Finnbar’s Pub, Albany’s Olde English, and Saratoga’s the Local.
Getting the Local out of the way first… for all the talk I heard about this being the best fish and chips in the area, I was pretty unimpressed. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good either… it was forgettable. So forgettable that I didn’t even think about the Local until someone mentioned it as I was compiling a list of recommendations. Anyway, I certainly won’t be driving to Saratoga just to eat it but you can if you’d like.
On the other hand, the fish and chips at the Old English are really tasty and would motivate me to drive down 787 and cross the boundaries of the Hudson if it weren’t for how good the fish and chips are at Finnbar’s.
Full disclosure: we already love it here. They have a great selection of beer, the menu is unique but not so quirky that you have to be in a certain mood to eat there, and the bartenders/waitstaff are super friendly (and by that I mean they enjoy it as much as I do when we play 14 Prince songs in a row).
None of this has any bearing on how good their fish and chips are, though and Finnbar’s is my recommendation for Fish Fridays if that’s something you do, especially if you’re in Troy. Whomever the little woodland sprite was that whipped up their fish batter has my love. It’s glorious and holds up to my flood of malt vinegar like a champ. I really like their fries, too. For what you get when you order the fish and chips, you can easily split the giant plate between two people provided you aren’t the glutton that I am. I won’t be sharing and actually I’d recommend you keep a safe distance away while I’m eating as I get messy. 3 feet should be good.