March 24, 2007

Chipping in on Something Fishy

I received confirmation that I will by studying in London next semester (Fall 2007) from Syracuse University's study abroad program a few weeks ago. Naturally, I wanted to begin my adaptation to the British lifestyle immediately. I have yet to start calling the hood of my car the bonnet, but I have been making a concerted effort to eat more fish and chips. In this case, I stopped at the Carousel Mall in Syracuse and bought the fish and chips dinner combo at Arthur Treacher's.

It is important to note that I have an unparalleled love for fish. The kind of love in those classic romance tales "West Side Story" and "You've Got Mail." I don't need much of an excuse to rush out and eat fish and chips. In fact, the night before I ate at Treacher's, my girlfriend and I ate at an Irish pub in downtown Syracuse, Kitty Hoynes, and I ate fish and chips
The two meals of fish and chips in less than 20 hours gave me a great chance to compare Treacher's to a more expensive restaurant. In brief, the food at Kitty Hoynes was divine. The beer battered fish essentially melted in my mouth and the chips (known as french fries in less civilized countries) were quite good. It was steaming hot, the atmosphere was filled with Celtic wonder, and it was the day before St. Patrick's day.

Needless to say, Arthur Treacher's in the food court of Carousel Mall at noon on March 17 did not quite live up to the Irish precedent set by Kitty Hoynes. Somehow the Atrium of the mall's food court was not jumping with celtic flutes and art or Guinness. I don't necessarily have a problem with that, considering one of my original goal in eating at Treacher's was not to soak up Irish life, but to bask in the glory of British Cuisine. Confusing the Irish and the British is not a silly mistake I wish to make. Still, I don't think the most British Fish and Chips spots have small birds flying between Wendy's and Taco Bell because they somehow got trapped in the huge glass monstrosity that is the mall.

Regardless, Treacher's food was not too bad, considering the amazing standard that had been set by my meal the previous night. For a little over six bucks I got two pieces of fried fish, chips (large crinkle cut fries) and two hush puppies. The fish was piping hot and pretty tasty, albeit the batter did not melt in my mouth. The chips were a little on the cool side by the time I finished them, and that led to a little stiffness and sogginess, depending on the particular piece of potato. The hush puppies were as good as any I have eaten. That might not be saying much since the only time I ever eat hush puppies is at Arthur Treacher's.

Speaking of the hush puppies, I don't quite know why they are included in Treacher's meal. I was always under the impression that hush puppies originated in the Southern United States, not the shores of the United Kingdom. Since the Union Jack adorns both sides of the banner that proclaims "Fish & Chips" in Treacher's logo, there might be some discontinuity here. Either I am mistaken, or the head chef at Treacher's is. Either way, it seems like a fishy synergy of foods.

For those of you keeping count, Treacher's meal also gives you a medium fountain drink for your six Washington's. There isn't much to say about it, though. The most notable thing is that they have pink lemonade, which I find to be awfully sweet but somehow appealing.

My biggest disappointment at Treacher's is the way the food is served -- cafeteria style. Grab a tray, slap a styrofoam plate on it and fill with fish, chips, and hush puppies. I would like something a little more British -- wrap mine in newspaper please. Oh well, if you eat in a food court, you shouldn't expect to feel like you're grabbing a quick bite before taking the Tube to work.

In the end, the Arthur Treacher's fish and chips meal is a pretty tasty low price alternative to a more expensive joint. I applaud any fast food joint that serves fish of better quality than McDonald's, and Treacher's was serving me some aquatic food that was at least the quality the Gordon's Fisherman would bring home. I could have used better chips, and perhaps a third piece of fish instead of this hush puppies, but that is a minor complaint. I actually ate one hush puppy first because I was quite hungry and waiting for my fountain drink to be filled. It isn't right to complain about the inclusion of the food you eat first. (This is also why there is only one hush puppy in the picture -- I was so ravenous that I scarfed it down before breaking out the camera.)

All of this adds up to give the fish and chips at Arthur Treacher's a solid four out of five sporks. A newspaper, some better batter, and hotter chips would probably bump this meal into the rarefied air of five-spork territory, but you can't overlook a few of the disappointments in the meal. As long as you aren't expecting to feel like you're in Europe, this is a pretty good meal for a fast food joint. Now, in six months I'll let you know how much better fish and chips are in the U.K.
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1 comment:

  1. I believe I was there on this day and I can not wait for the sequal of this post that I am sure is to follow come August. May I request an article on beer be written know it's only polite to give the public what they want.