It's tough to get behind Team USA at this year's Olympics. It's bad enough that both LeBron James and Mitt Romney's dancing horse are representing our country in London, but now American corporate imperialists are denying the poor Brits their native chips.
McDonald's paid a king's ransom for the exclusive rights to sell fries at this year's Games, so other vendors are banned from selling spuds unless they're part of a fish-and-chips plate. Yes, the hosts will eat the same fries people in Omaha eat. We'll laugh right up until the moment we see Ronald McDonald carrying the Stars and Stripes into the opening ceremony as part of a sponsorship deal.
As a modest act of contrition, we set out to crown Portland's best fish and chips. Here are your best bets for eating like a Brit while rooting against Rafalca and the Preen Team.
Hawthorne Fish House
4343 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 548-4434, corbettfishhouse.com
If it swims, the Hawthorne serves it. The crusty pub has the feel of a dockside dive, with a huge menu featuring fish tacos, calamari, oysters, grilled salmon and a boatload of fried fish at moderate prices.
The fish: The Boatload sampler platter ($19.50) has small, chunky cuts of fish. The two most interesting are the oily catfish and a light but meaty walleye. The catfish is covered in a dark chili spice and has the greasy consistency of slow-smoked pork ribs. The walleye was pleasantly firm and a little sweet.
The chips: Dry and very uniform in size, they reminded me of Wendy's.
I dub thee: Knight of Walleye.
Year of the Fish
Southeast 50th Avenue and Division Street, 971-258-6567, letseat.at/yearofthefish
This cart serves one of the most distinctive plates in town, starting with a tempura batter that's rolled in Japanese panko to get a delightful crumb-y texture. A combo plate with two kinds of fish for $7.50 is a steal. The tartar sauce, packed with so much relish it's almost like a salsa, was my favorite.
The fish: The cod was excellent; oily but still very white and flaky. The snapper was drier but very good.
The chips: Nice, fat potatoes cut and fried fresh. They're crispy enough for the masses but pack enough potato flavor to please purists.
I dub thee: Grand Duke of Tartar.
2525 NE Alberta St., 808-9600, theoriginalhalibuts.com
This hippie-dippie Alberta Street restaurant is the beachiest of this bunch. You'll pay tourist-town prices and you might wait 30 minutes for your food, but it'll be good.
The fish: The halibut (market price, $14 on our visit) is incredibly light and flaky in a crunchy golden batter.
The chips: Lightly seasoned and crisp, with a pulpy interior.
I dub thee: Prince of Greenback.
Rose and Thistle Public House
2314 NE Broadway, 287-8582
As a bartender sang along to "Anarchy in the U.K.," I realized if I'd been way into first-wave British punk—the Damned, U.K. Subs, Sham 69—this would be my haunt. I would order fish and chips ($13) with my Guinness and be pleased to get a generous portion of decent food.
The fish: The halibut came in a buttery golden batter.
The chips: Just like what you'd get at an average American steakhouse, plain yellow and midsized.
I dub thee: Duchess Nancy
The Fish & Chip Shop
1218 N Killingsworth St., 232-3344, thefishandchipshop.com
Located next to a freeway on-ramp, the Fish & Chip Shop was hosting a Doctor Who trivia night when we visited. No music, no television, no conversation—just a room of people listening closely to questions about Doctor Who and a large plate of cod with chips ($12).
The fish: Thin slices of cod lightly fried in a very plain batter.
The chips: Dry, crispy and square.
I dub thee: Member of the House of Commons.
Horse Brass Pub
4534 SE Belmont St., 232-2202, horsebrass.com
Horse Brass was created in the image of a British pub by guys who'd never seen a British pub. They did a remarkable job. You go for the beer, but the pub serves inconsistent-but-sometimes-great fare.
The fish: Four big, dark pieces of halibut that benefit greatly from a brightening squeeze of lemon and a twinkle of vinegar ($14.25).
The chips: My favorite chips are dark and almost soggy with a strong potato flavor. I've had them here, but not on this visit, when they were overcooked husks.
I dub thee: Archduke of Publican.
County Cork Public House
1329 NE Fremont St. 284-4805, countycorkpublichouse.com
A warm and friendly Irish pub with church pew benches and dart boards, Cork serves wild-caught cod at a bargain price. If you were planning to sit for a few hours drinking before sopping up your booze with a big plate of fish and chips ($10), this would be the place to do it.
The fish: Generous cuts of airy white Alaskan cod that get even better with the house tartar sauce that gets a strong flavor from lemon and Worcestershire sauce.
The chips: Like cartoonishly large McDonald's fries.
I dub thee: Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
The Frying Scotsman
SW 9th Avenue & Alder Street 706-3841, thefryingscotsmanpdx.com
You'll know the fish at this cart is prepared by someone actually from the Revolution's losing side when you encounter oft-dour chef James King. The Scotsman knows his trade, though, serving our town's best and biggest plates at a bargain price.
The fish: Huge planks of tender, flaky white cod ($8.50) in a light batter that's golden like the sun and gets better with vinegar.
The chips: Large jojo-style spears that taste even better covered in curry sauce ($3).
I dub thee: King of Portland.