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Bongo Fry Shack--Report (long)

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Bongo Fry Shack--Report (long)

Dan Geist | Nov 30, 2004 11:32 PM

I'll sum it right up front: the fried seafood was very good, but I would NEVER bother going there again.

I was rooting for the place. Bongo on 10th has been a swell Chelsea hangout for the past few years and, having recently been up in Maine, I had fresh in my mind the pleasures of the fry shack.

Ambience: Dead. OK, the place is new, it was 7:00 on a Wednesday. But, by the very fact that it is new, one might have hoped for something far different from the distracted (uh--not much action to be distracted by), diffident attitude of the manager (co-owner?)/order taker. I say order taker, because--as in many traditional fry shacks--you go up to the counter to place and receive your order. For that effort, you should know, you pay $6 for a bottle of Pacifico or Stella Artois (what we had...a number of other choices at that cost), $5 for a Bud or Bud Light. Fancy!

For my so-called large order of fried oysters, I paid $20. As I indicated above, they were very good. As also indicated, I placed the order and retrieved it. I ate them out of a standard-size old-school Chinese takeout rice container--14 oysters, I'll approximate. No sides. (For $19, I could have gotten the so-called plate of fried oysters, which would have come with cole slaw, chips, and...9 oysters?)

My companion had the baked scrod ($14 or $15 a la carte). I liked it, she didn't (though her judgment might have been affected by her displeasure with the square paper plate--"Why not just a simple white ceramic plate?" she asked. 'Cause you'd have to pay a dishwasher, honey.). What was inarguable was that the so-called vegetable of the day ($4 extra to make that scrod deluxe) was prefrozen broccoli points, shredded red peppers, et cetera. You remember your childhood TV dinners.

Let's compare to a Maine fish shack:

Seafood quality: just as good as an above-average (though not top-o'-the-line) shack.
Side dish quality: abysmally lower.
Cost (for comparable order): 65-80% higher.
Preparation time: inexplicably much, MUCH slower.
Ambience: even given time, and the best possible outcome, won't be close--as is, abysmally lower.
Attitude: taciturn but efficient New Englander vs. diffident New Yorker who doesn't seem able to muster energy for her own startup and sells you Birdseye prefrozen veggie hash by calling it "uh...broccoli." Best possible outcome not likely...

Suggestion: pay similar prices for a much better experience at Pearl Oyster Bar or Mary's Fish Camp or travel to City Island and pay much lower prices for a much better experience at a real fish shack.

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