We hit one of Tacoma’s best hidden treasures, The Fish House Cafe on MLK, for some greasy goodness.
On the corner of MLK and S 19th, looming beneath the shadow of the new St Joe’s hospital expansion, is a tiny blue clapboard building that is home to some of the best fried chicken and fish in Tacoma. It is one of the three restaurants, along with Ezell’s and Papa Jone’ BBQ, that make up Soul Food corner (or Cardiac Corner as Ravi so poetically refers to it), and shouldn’t be passed up on your Tacoma bucket list.
This City of Destiny in which we live provides a nice little sample size of Sesame Street America. The “salad bowl” mix of cultures and people is something for which I feel fortunate, but while Tacoma is such a colorful place, it is also not without divides. I am occasionally made aware of this when venturing into a place that caters to a small community. This was one of those times. We were warmly greeted upon entering, but also given more than one wondering glances from quizzical staff and regulars. It’s not everyday that white boys with cameras show up at the Fish House I’m guessing.
Swimming with the delicious aroma of fry grease and fish, the tiny Fish House is cluttered with posters, advertisements, pictures, and community events flyers. Stock items line the wall and the ceiling desperately needs a new paint job, but the cluttered “well-loved” confines of this tiny restaurant inspire a confidence that a pristine environment might not. The menu is displayed above the counter in a row of several posters: fried chicken and fish with several sides, also fried. A drink case on the wall next to a small combo CRT TV features an assortment of soda, including what must be the single largest collection of Faygo in Tacoma.
Being the unrivaled investigative reporters we are, we felt it necessary to purchase a wide and ample array of fried deliciousness for research purposes.
BUT, they also have some killer wings, burgers, cheesesteaks and sides. Although the burgers and cheesesteaks are doubtlessly delicious, we wanted to get our fill of fried greasy goodness and opted for the fish and chips (with both standard breading and Southern Cornmeal), fried fish sandwich, wings, okra, and hush puppies.
The food comes in standard disposable paper baskets. Combo meals combined, sides in little paper bags, and sauces in portable dixie containers. The sides were all very solid. Fries standard cut and golden, okra piping hot, and hush puppies delicious. I’d still walk across the street to Papa Jones for my okra though, and Ezell’s is a distant third in the sides department.
The fish is appropriately tender and juicy, the batter as crispy as one could ask for, and the choice of breading is nice – the flaky cornmeal being a nice alternative to the standard batter-fry – but the real winner here was the chicken. Moist as can be, super flavorful, and fried to perfection, the chicken wings were the surprising stand-out dish on this visit. It should be noted that chicken is available in strips, as a sandwich, or wings, but we didn’t feel like gut-busting today in order to provide a more complete picture for you. Sorry.
Our BBQ options are growing in Tacoma, and at our current rate of blogging we might get through all of them by 2019 but we’ve been to enough to at least provide some sort of culinary compass. Go to Papa Jones for brisket, or slow cooked meats. Go to Uncle Thurm’s for their catfish (freaking unbelievable), and go to the Fish House for wings. I still need to try the shrimp though…because my current favorite is from Frisko Freeze and that can’t be right…..
***As always, mention us and get…nothing! Available in Southern Corn Meal! 1814S K St
Tacoma, WA 98405 (253) 383-7144