After the meteoric rise and staggering collapse of chef Michael Hebberoy’s culinary empire in Portland, I was highly dubious when he fled North and set up shop in town. Apparently I am that rare gastronaut who remains completely indifferent to the “underground” restaurant scene typified by Hebberoy’s One Pot or Gabriel Claycamp’s Gypsy/Vagabond. The Kill the Restaurant movement has always struck me as more than a little bit smug (or at least more so than the rest of the scene).
So imagine my surprise when Hebberoy quietly opened a tiny take-away fish fry joint on 10th Ave, “smooshed in-between Moe Bar and Neumos”, in the spot that the dearly beloved Frites used to inhabit. This was not the act of conceit that word-of-mouth had led me to believe were the hallmarks of the chef. Well, it is with no small amount of boot in mouth that I retract my misinformed quick value judgment and sing the praises of the miraculous Pike Street Fish Fry.
Last Friday night, after several pints and a few rounds of pool, the crew decided sustenance was in order before we parted ways for the evening. Finding ourselves at the corner of 10th and Epiphany, I realized that I was just inebriated enough to forego my prejudices and descend into Hebberoy’s world. I hesitated, and then took the plunge. It was like walking into a David Lynch movie. A low wood-paneled ceiling, soft red lights, pickling jars with mysterious contents along the wall. A porthole into the “kitchen”. It felt a little bit magical, like a secret. We were the sole patrons at that rare moment just before the shows end and the bars close, and so managed to appropriate the only actual table in the space (there are also a couple of bars you can lean against, and some wooden tables outside on the sidewalk).
I kinda fell in love with the place even before I tried the food. Maybe it was because they had Anchor Steam on tap, my very favorite beer to drink with fish and chips, and virtually impossible to come by in the Northwest. Maybe it was the cashier and the cook, who were exceptionally genial. Probably it was my bias slipping away. We placed our epic order and within moments, were transported to food nirvana. Each order of fish comes with your choice of sauce, so we paired catfish with lemon aioli and ling cod with the housemade tartar. Approximately 95% of the time, I will forego tartar sauce for malt vinegar, but this tartar made me a believer. Creamy and lemony, untainted by that sickening sweet pickle relish. The fish itself is served not as a filet, but as little flaky chunks of blistering hot maritime delight. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you find a deep fried lemon and proclaim genius.
The accompanying chips were crispy, salty and hot. I had heard the seasoned spanish fries were great too, but figured I’d start with the basics. Additionally, we ventured away from the batter and also ordered some grilled steak with curry “ketchup”. These were served as bite-sized chunks of skewered cow and were tender and delicious. Everything was perfect and I couldn’t have been happier.
Just as we finished up, there was a massive influx of people as the neighboring bars closed up shop. As I stood enjoying the spectacle and the night, I was once again reminded that this intersection is truly the heart of Seattle. Not a bad place to be, Mr. Hebberoy. I wish you the best of luck.