Emerald City Fish & Chips Settles Into its Seasoning

"/>

26004_381577356459_215319206459_3661139_1175610_n.jpg
Emerald City Fish & Chips
Shiny, new, fresh and friendly.
Throughout 2009, the only dining establishment of note on the corner of Rainier Avenue and

"/>

Emerald City Fish & Chips Settles Into its Seasoning

  • Emerald City Fish & Chips Settles Into its Seasoning

  • ">

    26004_381577356459_215319206459_3661139_1175610_n.jpg
    Emerald City Fish & Chips
    Shiny, new, fresh and friendly.
    Throughout 2009, the only dining establishment of note on the corner of Rainier Avenue and South Charleston Street in the Rainier Valley was the beloved Bottomfeeder all-star Silver Fork. A Silver Fork Early Bird Special, may I remind or inform you, is basically the best breakfast in town for the price, and over my turkey links and grits one pre-9 AM morning earlier this year, I looked through the window and exclaimed to my dining companions, "uh, since when was there a fish and chips spot across the street?" In a part of town where most offerings are either strip malls or Asian strip malls-- oh, besides that sweet taco bus right up the road-- the Emerald City Fish & Chips Co. storefront, small and promising, glimmered improbably on the other side.

    The restaurant has been open since the beginning of 2010 and was received warmly by the residents of Rainer Valley; you can check out this Rainer Valley Post review and comments right when it opened to see that while neighbors had considerable critique of the food, they were more impressed that a fish and chips spot was actually open in the area and thus forgiving of culinary growing pains. I stopped in this weekend to see how, after four months, Emerald City Fish & Chips Co. had settled into the neighborhood and into its groove.

    First, I was surprised to see that another restaurant, with the incredible moniker Purple Rain, had just popped up adjacent to Emerald City Fish & Chips: a peek inside revealed a cookie-cutter "hip lounge" decor-- indigo mood lighting, white couches-- that primarily featured bubble tea. I'd normally say that such an establishment seemed "out of place," but the Rainier Valley is shifting with new condo and townhome development, radically redefining the place itself. While sitting down and spending an hour soaking in the old-school jams and hospitality of Silver Fork is really the signature experience, independent, faster-food offerings like Emerald City or Purple Rain indicate that this intersection is growing into its own neighborhood hub, not merely a place to pass through between I-90 and Columbia City.

    Knowing I'd have to sample the fish and chips, I walked into Emerald City, bright with natural light, with a highly persuadable stomach. After pouring over the menu, I asked the man behind the counter for suggestions. "Depends on what you want," he responded, the indecisive order's least favorite retort (short of "everything's good.") I pressed further: "How about the cole slaw, do you make that here?" "We make everything here." "Oh, the chowder?" "We make everything here."

    So I was guided instead by the asterisks next to some menu options that indicated they were "made fresh daily," and ordered a 2 piece order of the catfish & chips, which came with two small cole slaw sides and was the cheapest fish and chips offering on the menu for $5, a 6 piece order of the Crab Puppies ($5), and a small Seafood Chowder ($3). The few in-store diners snacked on po'boy sandwiches or salmon burgers with house-made potato chips; more people streamed through to grab to-go orders. I received my order piping hot in under 10 minutes.

    To get right into it, I was actually pleased that the catfish portions were not enormous chunks but rather smaller golden-battered medallions set atop considerably large fries. The catfish was, in a word, JUICY. And in some more words: surprisingly succulent, kind of dripping, extremely delicious. I realized how normalized I have become to the dryness of flash-frozen fish; the freshness of the catfish's preparation was delightful. It also made up in large part for my too-browned Crab Puppies, which appear as a cross between tater tots and crabcakes: the morsels, while filling, didn't have enough crab presence and were a bit too burnt to be recommended.

    I had a couple of bites of my Seafood Chowder, thick and pink, and put it away: after the catfish delicacy, my palate simply would not have something heavy and bland. I revisited the Chowder a few hours later and enjoyed it far better chilled: featuring only a marginal amount of seafood, the potatoes were actually perfectly cooked and the cold brought out the subtle flavoring. Where flavor was NOT subtle was on the ubiquitous "chips" of the equation: hearty fries approaching steak fry status with generous seasoning. It is the kind of seasoning that coddles you out of any sodium aversion you may possess, declaring, "I know it may seem bad for you, but fries are better this way." Finally, the cole slaw had commendably fresh-tasting cabbage-- with a nice bell pepper touch-- but could have used a bit more dressing, tasting more like a salad than slaw.

    Next time I go, I'll probably get a oyster po'boy sandwich or the Cod Burger, since it's probably the most seafood bang for your buck. Then I'll go next door and get a Taro bubble tea, and sit outside and watch Rainer Avenue go by. In the meantime, I am entirely enamored with Emerald City Fish & Chip's web presence, which includes a fairly popular Facebook Fan page and a website with plenty of YouTube videos to provide an intimate glimpse into the restaurant (it also features a Midi version of "You Got Me" by The Roots and Erykah Badu... and it is awesome). Although Emerald City Fish and Chips is still getting itself straightened out, its worth championing an independently-owned fast-food joint where freshness is valued above all else, and more deeply is contributing towards the expanding Rainier Valley culinary culture.

     
    comments powered by Disqus

    Friends to Follow