This particular blog post has been a long time coming. I began writing it Monday December 29th and was interrupted by a phone call from my sister Barb telling me our dad had passed away. He was 85.
Looking through the draft of this post I found an odd coincidence. Early on I mention the Fish-n-Chips at the family restaurant at the intersection of Belsay and Lapeer Roads in Burton, Michigan. In 2004 dad and I went to see the film Hellboy at the Showcase Cinemas in Burton. Prior to seeing the movie we went to that particular restaurant, where I ordered the Fish-n-Chips I’d enjoyed for so many years.
That was my most recent visit to that restaurant. And I’d included it here at about the same time he’d passed away on Monday.
Goodbye Dad. May you rest in peace.
I’ve always had a thing, multiple cravings, a hankerin’, whatever you want to call it, for good Fish-n-Chips. I’m not talking about anything formed from what’s likely a cheap whiting, and served with a pile of greasy potato chips. I mean a whole piece of cod or something along those lines, dredged in a batter that’s not from yesterday, and served with some kind of deep-fried potato that doesn’t come in a bag.
I’ve had Fish-n-Chips in so many places, so many restaurants, there’s no possible way I could ever remember them all. My old standby is the family restaurant at the intersection of Belsay and Lapeer Roads in Burton, Michigan. They’ve been doing Fish-n-Chips right ever since I can remember. And they still do.
I’ve had Beer-Battered Fish-n-Chips wrapped in newspaper on Charing Cross Rd. in London, England, west of the theater district. I’ve had Fish-n-Chips in a basket in a Greek restaurant in Toronto. I’ve had Fish-n-Chips at a plank-benched family-style restaurant in the Ozarks of Arkansas. And I’ve had Fish-n-Chips in Dubai … but it was served as whole deep-fried crayfish with the shell still on. No, that wasn’t right at all …
A couple months ago I discovered somebody up north had started this thing called Scalawags Whitefish & Chips. With six locations in the lower peninsula of Michigan and one in Mackinac City I knew sooner or later I had to end up at one of their places.
Especially since they serve wild-caught freshwater Whitefish from the Great Lakes.
We went to the Brighton location this past weekend and ended up quite impressed. It’s a cool place. The interior of the restaurant has an old-fashioned coziness to it, with it’s high-backed lodge-style benches, its log-lined walls, and the outboard motor hanging from the upper wall like a hunting trophy. I only wondered what they did with the rest of that particular kill …
These lamps hanging from the ceiling were also extremely interesting. That’s a real minnow bucket, with a compact flourescent lamp (CFL) lit within it in a standard bulb base. It’s all hanging from the ceiling via a chain-style fishing stringer, complete with a few fake fish strung out on it. The power cord runs through the stringer. Pretty cheap, not too cheesy, and I know some guys (and gals) who would appreciate this thing.
This is Chris, dipping one of our pieces of Whitefish prior to laying it into the deep fryer to fry. We didn’t see anyone else … I think Chris was running the place by himself. Chris was taking the orders, collecting the money, cooking the orders, delivering the food to the waiting patrons at their tables, fixing the receipt printer … and did he smile? This kid (he’s younger than me, which means he’s a kid) smiled the entire time, including when I pointed my camera at him through the pick-up window he wasn’t needing to use. Chris seemed seriously dedicated to his work, to this job, to this restaurant. If he was faking, I couldn’t tell. But I don’t believe he was faking it.
I ordered the Whitefish and Perch Fish & Chips, which you saw in the first photo in this post. It was beautifully done, both pieces of fish being perfectly crispy on the outside while flaky and juicy on the inside. It was, to use a word I’d not normally use … lovely to actually be able to see the real shape of the Whitefish in the breading Chris used. Scroll back up to that first pic. See the line through the middle of that piece of Whitefish? Yeah, that’s good stuff there.
Mary ordered the Whitefish Reuben which you can see below. This was another piece of that wonderful deep-fried Whitefish on a grilled rye bun, on a mixture of cabbage and thousand-island dressing and topped with a slice of cheese. As Mary doesn’t like seafood she was planning to order something else, such as the Grilled Chicken Breast or the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger. However, as she also cannot pass up a good Reuben sandwich she went ahead and ordered this Whitefish version of the classic. To say that she ate all but a bite or two of the sandwich says a lot about this particular version and how her own serving was prepared.
As to the French Fries in both of these baskets, they were decidedly fresher and cooked much lighter than a lot of restaurants prepare fries. One item some people say they like at McDonalds is the fries because they’re made right. These are similar, while also being made better by quite a few notches. The lightness of these fries was actually pleasant surprising. I’d go back for the fries alone.
If you like fish, or even if you don’t, Scalawags Whitefish & Chips is a place to seek out for Great Lakes Whitefish made right.
Dad would have loved that ceiling lamp …