Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fish City Grill

Brodie Oaks Shopping Center
4200 South Lamar Suite 300
Austin, Texas 78704

Hill Country Galleria
13500 Galleria Circle Suite C-120
Bee Caves, Texas 78738

The Triangle
4616 Triangle Ave. Suite 200
Austin, TX 78751

Wolf Ranch Shopping Center
1019 W. University Ave. Suite 1025
Georgetown, Texas 78628

Well fellow foodies, I feel like I've let you down again. Its been several long weeks since my last review and I apologize. I've been so busy, reaclimating myself to life state side, working on school, recovering from love gained then lost, the list goes on and on. But that's no excuse. I resolved myself a few days ago to sit down and write a review, but I was at a loss as to what restaurant to review! I hate to say it, but I haven't been eating out as much lately!

As a consequence of the sucky economy, everyone's been tightening their belts. Laura and I love traveling almost as much as we love food. And in order to keep paying exorbitant airline prices, we have to cut back a little. For us here at Dining in Austin Blog, that means eating out less. We said goodbye to the twice a week $40 food binges at Sampaio's or Wink and hello to some of the cheaper establishments around town. Just the other night my girlfriend Becky and I opted to eat at the new Austin Trailer Park & Eatery on SoFi near Pulvo's. Right now, the only two trailers are Torchy's and Shuggie's, but there are whispers of empanada and cup cake trailers set to open in the now vacant spots. And you know I love Torchy's Democrat taco. It's probably the best taco on the planet (yes even with the hated cilantro), but we've already reviewed it. Damn, back to the drawing board. And last week I went out several times with a nice gentleman, but we went to Uncorked and Primizie.. Ok nothing to review there.

So in order to provide you with an exceptional review of the caliber you've come to expect here, I'm going to pull a name out of a hat. I'm going to review a restaurant that I frequent with my family but haven't had the opportunity to review yet. I thought of it in a flash of brilliance last night when I was imbibing a Sierra Nevada at the Saucer. I looked down the row of neat eateries at the Triangle, and my eyes lit upon Fish City Grill. Of course! Now, I try to only review places that I've eaten at recently. That way, my opinions and impressions are fresh in my head. But I've had so many decent experiences at Fish City Grill, that I feel like, even though I haven't eaten there in a month or so, I can still provide you that exceptional review you're expecting.

There are now 3 Fish City Grills throughout Austin: one at Brodie Oaks, one at the new Galleria, and one at the Triangle. Its one of those small Regional chains a la PF Changs and In and Out Burger that have gotten so popular of late. And to be honest, I've been eating there since the first Austin location opened at Brodie Oaks. My mother, a lifetime midwesterner, LOVES fish. She loves fish, shrimp, clams, (cooked) oysters, any kind of frutti di mare. When I was a small child, before I become an unabashed food snob, I have vivid memories of family celebrations at the local suburban Red Lobster. Yes, I know, Red Lobster.. I see you foodies cringing. But you have to understand, I grew up in Northern Illinois. You try finding a decent fish-ateria in a sea of McDonalds and Pizza Huts. It's impossible. So, we would happily don our plastic lobster bibs and dig into the sub-par fish that only the finest in chain restaurants can provide.

But now we're all more sophisticated - even my midwestern family. I've lured them away from Appleby's and IHOPs and into the places where there aren't pictures on the menu. My mom, actually, discovered the original Austin Fish City Grill not a month after it opened. Her fish-sensitive nose sniffed out the delicate aroma of grilled Thai spice salmon and blackened mahi mahi. And we've been eating there ever since. I now know that if I want to have a nice dinner with my mother, all I have to utter are the words "Fish City Grill" and she's there.

Fish City Grill at first seems rather unobtrusive. The decor is simple and rather generic. Even the facade has nothing special about it. At first blush you'd say, eh, another shitty chain. And if you delve into their normal menu, I'd say you're right. They're normal menu contains all the obligatory seafood favorites you'd expect: crab cakes, calamari, all manor of deep fried seafood, clam chowder, etc etc. Rather uninspired. But I'm going to let you in on the secret of Fish City Grill - don't order from the menu. Don't open it, don't touch it, don't even look at it.

As soon as you're seated, look for the large chalk board attached to the wall and order off that. Now I can't tell you exactly what's going to be on it, it changes every time I go. But, there will be a nice selection of a half dozen seafood dishes to choose from. They usually range anywhere from sauteed cod in french herbs to spicy salmon with peach salsa. But each one will be good. That's the beauty of Fish City Grill, they serve whats fresh, and they serve it simply. Now I usually only eat fish at the higher end restaurants around town; I've had my fair share of bad seafood experiences. Fish City's dishes aren't not going to be fussy over-thought fish you might get at those higher end fusion restaurant, but it will be simple and delicious and will satiate that craving you've had for roughy.

Each dish on the specials board comes with some kind of grilled, sauteed, or broiled fish and 2 sides. And this is where fish city starts to lose points, the sides. You can chose from fries, veggies drenched in butter, hush puppies, new potatoes, rice pilaf, slaw, or sauteed spinach. It seems like a good selection, but if you eat here as often as I do, you'll discover there are really only 3 sides worth eating: the veggies, hush puppies, and rice pilaf. So while I love the variety and variation they offer in their fish, I am always less than satisfied with the sides that go with it. I'd love to have a salad, some broccoli rice casserole, creamed corn, spinach casserole, something other than.. rice pilaf, sauteed veggies or hush puppies. If they offered just one or two daily special sides along with their fish, I'd be happy.

But the biggest downfall of Fish City Grill is their glaring lack of quality bread. When I eat at a fish joint, I want warm, crusty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, home baked rolls. I want a tender baguette with a pad of half melted butter on top. I want garlic biscuits. I want good bread!! But instead, at Fish City, I get uninspired, dry, and downright crappy thinly sliced french baguette. It sucks. But, really, when bread is my biggest complaint, how bad can it really be? Not bad at all.

Their desserts range from key lime pie to bread pudding and are all good, but rather average. The key lime pie is pretty good, but I can cook one that's just as good at home. And the bread pudding is warm and gooey, but not anything spectacular. Save the calories unless you're just dieing for something sweet.

All in all, I love eating at Fish City Grill. Its an old stand-by that I pull out of my hat from time to time when I want some good quality fish in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere.

Bottom Line: Shiver me timbers and walk the plank for some awesome fish!

Mariah - 8.5