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Mourning the humble fish sandwich

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Mourning the humble fish sandwich

waderoberts | Apr 3, 2012 12:53 PM

There was a time when a decent fried fish sandwich, drive-through or carry-out, wasn't that hard to come by. Even some of the fast-food notables (Whataburger's What-A-Catch, Sonic, Burger King's BK Big Fish, Wendy's, MacDonald's, Jack-in-the-Box) had fairly decent renditions. Those days, alas, seem to be gone, and, I fear, inescapably behind us. I was moved the write this after discovering recently that Jack-in-the-Box had discontinued it's Moby Jack (sad if only for the loss of the name) and finding out that Sonic had reintroduced (looks as if it's one of those "limited time"menu items) its fish sandwich.

By "decent," I mean: fairly substantial, a nice (and real) filet (not "constituted from minced," lightly breaded and fried correctly so the fish is crispy, moist, flaky and relatively grease-less. These days, it seems as if the poor fish sandwich is a second or third thought, forsaken for chicken, wraps and salads. They're no longer substantial, no longer real filets, and rarely properly fried.

Before moving back home to Houston from Chicago a couple of years ago, what I have argued was the city's best fish sandwich was not far from my house, at Hagen's, a Swedish family-owned market/take-out operation that dated back to the 1950s. Their fish sandwich consisted of a nice-sized filet (that also LOOKED like a real filet, not a square of finely textured marine by-product) of cold-water fish (I believe it was Alaskan pollock), perfectly fried, and with a gargantuan bun overhang. (Hagen's also had incredibly toothsome smoked fish [chubs, salmon, whitefish, pike, sable, sturgeon and catfish; for a modest fee, they'd smoke your own Lake Michigan catch).

I actually had a dream last night about Hagen's fish sandwich.

I'd be greatly indebted for any suggestions about worthy fried fish sandwiches in the Houston area (I'm casting my net wide enough to encompass catfish, flounder, etc,, but I'd be particularly grateful for sightings/tastings of the classic-style cold-water fish version (pollack, cod, haddock, etc). And especially indebted for recommendations to the city's southeast (Hobby Airport to Galveston, Galveston Bay south of the Ship Channel to, say, Pearland), although no drive is out of the question.

(On a side note, I've pretty much abandoned by search for smoked fish in the Houston area; my dedicated fish smoker should arrive this Friday. But more about that later . . . . )

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