As with fast food like pizza and burgers, most of us grew up eating fish and chips, even if Long John Silver was the sea cook. For this reason, perhaps, opinions abound when it comes to rating P-town's ever-growing fleet of fish fry hot spots.
People's choice often goes to the Horse Brass Pub's Brit-friendly beer-battered halibut and chips, Halibuts' beer-battered (mainly) saltwater catch served with thick-cut fries, or Corbett Fish House's Wisconsin-style freshwater fish fry.
If you back the last option, punch another hole in your belt, because Hawthorne Fish House, open since early June, is burning the fish fry oil seven days a week thanks to Corbett Fish House owners Dana and Greg Boyce—same menu, same vibe.
Let's start with the fish. Lake Superior yellow perch, Manitoba walleye, Alaskan cod and halibut and Mississippi catfish are all given the gluten-free treatment—lightly breaded in rice flour, flash fried and served with house-cut russets.
Rice flour supplants the ubiquitous beer batter here because, as the menu boldly states, "The most common genetic disorder in the U.S. is the inability to digest gluten." But does the end justify the means here? Can this stuff really handle the heat?
An order of the yellow perch and chips ($13, $16 jumbo) arrives in a basket with the small fillets curled up, skin intact, over a mound of golden fries. One bite and the piping hot, slightly sweet, juicy flesh is a testament to why rice flour works. It's subtle, offers a slight crunch, and doesn't leech up oil like a sponge. Added bonus—no sticky fingers.
The rice flour-dusted, deep-fried cheese curds ($6) are a salty, buoyant starter that floats well with one of the eight beers on tap. One of the best appetizers is the calamari ($8)—cooked to a pliable perfection, sprinkled with Parmesan and parsley, and served with a house cocktail sauce that bites back.
Sides ($2) aren't too impressive—the wasabi coleslaw is surprisingly bland and the veggies are nothing to shake a spoon at. The soups, however, are always on. The New England clam chowder ($3.75 a cup, $6 a bowl) is thick and hearty, swimming with substantial hunks of clam and a healthy dose of pepper, while the soups of the day rely on fresh catch and fresh flavor.
The space, formerly home to the Mexican restaurant La Casa De Rios, is boxy with booths and a Cheers-like bar toward the back of the room. The walls, painted unassuming pale shades, are dotted with pesca-phernalia and the glass-topped tables showcase nautical maps. Hawthorne Fish House exudes the same un-self-conscious lack of style as low-lit pizza parlors or old-school burger joints. The difference: Most kids won't have to whine to convince their parents to take them here.
Hawthorne Fish House, 4343 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 548-4434. 11 am-9:45 pm Monday-Wednesday, 11 am-11:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, noon-8:30 pm Sunday. $$ Moderate.