Thursday, August 9, 2012

August: Fish and Chips

Many Niagara Region old timers will agree that the best fish and chips ever were produced in Welland by Ideal Fish and Chips on East Main Street.  Louie dispensed his perfectly battered fish and deliciously golden chips from behind the counter of the tiny restaurant that was tastefully decorated with grease spattered green walls and Formica tables.  Regulars would squeeze past the counter and go to the back of the place where two more small rooms accommodated tables crowded every lunchtime with a broad cross-section of Welland businesspeople, from lawyers practicing at the nearby courthouse, to Niagara College professors, to workers at the Atlas Steels plant, to local retailers.  When Ideal burned to the ground (there could not have been a more combustible building anywhere, saturated as it was with cooking fat) Louie’s customers were scattered to the four winds to try to find a lunchtime replacement for their fish and chips addiction.

As one of those thoroughly addicted, I searched far and wide for a new favorite.  Friends and fellow Ideal devotees migrated to other spots: Bonnie landed on Sue’s Seafood in Welland, while Gordon switched his devotion to Hutch’s on the lakeshore in Hamilton.  While I agree that both of these make a worthy F & C lunch, my choice for Louie’s crown is Newfoundland’s Own at the corner of Prince Charles and Lincoln in Welland, where the fish and chips are pretty darned close to the gold standard set by Ideal.   It’s takeout only, so lacks the unique atmosphere of Louie’s place, but the food is outstanding.

There are other worthy contenders for fish and chip excellence.  I stop at Jill’s in Fonthill on my way through town when I’m in the mood for a lunchtime F & C fix.  If I plan ahead, I trek out to Centennial Park in Fenwick on Friday evening for the Lions Club fish fry there, and am always really impressed.  These guys might be amateurs, but someone knows a thing or two about making fish and chips, because their product is excellent.

While fish and chips are traditionally haddock or halibut (pollock is a poor substitute), sometimes someone tries a successful variation on the traditional favorites.  Stone Road Grill in Niagara on the Lake did an upscale version, using tempura battered salmon as the fish.  Their frites have always been exemplary, so the combination was outstanding, while deviating widely from tradition.  But Niagara residents in the know venture out to Port Colborne to get a really special treat.  Minor Fisheries have boats that ply the waters of Lake Erie for yellow perch, walleye (pickerel), and smelt which they process and sell commercially.  Lake Erie, by the way, supports the world’s largest fresh water fishing fleet and has an enormous recreational fishing industry that supplies fishing families all over Niagara with delicious perch.  Minor Fisheries has a small outlet on West St., right beside the canal, that sells their fish right off the boat and does a good lunchtime business with short order meals.  Their fish and chips (for $5.00!) are prepared with their freshly caught and lightly breaded perch.  Here’s a delicious way for locovores and hundred-mile-diet types to satisfy their craving for F & C.