Fish and chips seems simple enough: a couple of fish filets, battered, deep-fried and served with a healthy portion of chips (or fries, as we Yanks say). Yet there is more to this pub staple than meets the eye, and all too often, diners looking for cheap eats in L.A. settle on mediocre fish and chips. Once you've had the real deal, though, you'll never go back. Whether served in paper at a dive bar, prepared in a food truck or plated at one of L.A.'s best seafood restaurants, here are a few places around town that are doing fish and chips right.
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Fish and chips in L.A.
A restaurant on the Santa Monica Pier may scream “tourist trap,” but is there a more appropriate setting for fish and chips? A breathtaking view of the Pacific and the old-timey seaside amusements make for a seafood meal with a side of nostalgia. The Albright replaces SM Pier Seafood, the site’s former resident since 1977. After a much-needed sprucing up, the place still maintains the feel of an old fish market, with wooden picnic tables for casual seating and menu items written on chalkboards. The fish and chips are a refined version of the classic: straight-forward hand-battered cod, served with fries and coleslaw. Take advantage of the great selection of craft beers and pair your plate with an English ale, like Fuller’s ESB or Boddington’s Brown.
For a break from the beer-battered norm, get your fish fix at Badmaash in Downtown L.A. The word Badmaash is Hindi for “badass,” and this Indian gastropub certainly lives up to its name. Badmaash brings an eclectic mix of traditional Indian dishes and street food, plus kicked-up versions of non-Indian classics. Their Punjabi take on fish and chips is no exception—a hint of carom seed and mango dust add an unexpected layer of flavor to the chickpea batter, which balances out the delicate catfish. The masala fries are next-level good—thick and expertly seasoned with paprika masala and elevated by a side of paprika-spiced mayo. Pop open a bottle of Kingfisher Indian Lager and lose yourself in the Bollywood films projected on the wall.
Formerly a small shop that had people coming to Encino from far and wide, BatterFish is now a fish-and-chips operation on four wheels that serves up the crunchy dish to people all around L.A. Customers are encouraged to build their own fish and chips plate, choosing from options like catfish, tilapia, curry batter, garlic ginger batter, sweet fries and more, along with a bevy of sides like mushy peas and onion rings. Owner Jason Killalee was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and though he worked in a number of impressive L.A. restaurants, his nostalgia for the food of his homeland only grew stronger. You sense it in the crunch of the perfectly fried batter and the tenderness of the fish. If you close your eyes, you almost feel like you're having lunch across the pond. Follow BatterFish on Instagram to see their whereabouts.
Part fish market and part restaurant, this casual Redondo Beach seafood spot manages to combine fresh fish and an oceanfront setting without breaking the bank. Granted, there's a parking lot between the restaurant and open ocean, but the enclosed back patio is still a great place to get down on some fish and chips, which is one of the Captain's Specials. You can pick from a variety of fish—seriously, they have it all, from Arctic cod to tilapia and sea bass. The Captain's Specials come with chips, or you can build your own meal by ordering any type of fish you'd like, cooked any way you like it, and pick from a wide array of sides including macaroni salad, coleslaw and steamed veggies. But we'd probably just stick to the traditional fish and chips.
L.A.'s seafood guru, chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence, pays homage to his New England roots—his grandfather was a fisherman in Rhode Island—with a modern take on the clam shack. The lofty WeHo eatery offers classic seaside plates including lobster rolls, fried clams and, of course, fish and chips. A tribute to his aunt’s recipe, Joanne’s Fish & Chips are two pieces of Alaskan cod fried to perfection and the ideal combination of fluffy and crispy. Domestic craft brews are offered on tap and by the bottle to round off this ultimate fish dish.
When it comes to fish, freshness is key, and you can’t get much fresher than a fish market. A few feet away from Fish King’s fish counter in Glendale, where die-hard regulars take numbers and scan the daily catch, the Galley Deli offers a good old-fashioned fish fry to go. The no-frills menu is simple: Icelandic cod (simply denoted as “fish”) or halibut, with a side of fries and tangy coleslaw. You can also mix it up with fried scallops, clams or oysters. There are tables available for dining in, which come in handy for weekday lunches when you don’t want to be “that guy” in the office.
Fishbar's decor is maritime kitsch in the best possible way, with buoys and surfboards hanging overhead and TVs in every corner for the sports fanatic. Don’t be fooled by the Long John Silver’s facade, though: When it comes to fish and chips, this place means business. Available with either cod or salmon, the fish is fresh and flaky, and packaged in a light golden crust that defies the deep-fried, oily taste that is so often this dish’s demise. The chips, though closer to American-style fries, are uniformly crisp and well-seasoned. Wash it all down with a Fishbar Brew—the house honey blonde—and immediately make plans for your next visit.
Malibu Seafood has been an oceanside staple on PCH since '72, offering super-fresh seafood and sunny views of the Pacific. Owned by a commercial fisherman, the tiny spot with the giant lobster billboard has both a fish market and a café. Sure, you can (and should) pick up whole fish to-go, but don't leave without the crisp-battered, flaky white fish in one, two or three pieces: Perfect, salt-tinged rectagles fresh from the sea, best enjoyed with a view of the ocean from the restaurant's three-tiered outdoor patio. The chips are thick-cut steak fries, and there's a bottle of malt vinegar on every table.
No, your eyes do not deceive you—it’s a fish and chips place that serves Chinese food. Or is it a Chinese place that serves fish and chips? Whatever it is, this Alhambra strip-mall hole-in-the-wall serves up a mean portion of pollock at one helluva bargain. The fish has a light, crisp crust and clean flavor, which makes up for an admittedly lackluster performance from the crinkle-cut fries. Malt vinegar is housed in repurposed soy sauce bottles, Chinese selections are handwritten on orange poster board, and the ambiance is a sparse mix of florescent lighting and motel art. There’s no beer at this joint, but there is a 7-Eleven across the lot.
It’s not often that fish can be described as punk rock, and yet that’s exactly the case at this Long Beach dive. Owned by former Social Distortion drummer Chris Reece, the Pike features a punk-loaded jukebox, live music and DJs by night, and some damn good grub. Sole is the star of the Pike’s fish and chips, which almost look like three golden sausages (okay, they’re borderline phallic) until you cut into the hand-battered crust, revealing the steaming white fish inside. The steak-cut potato wedges and creamy coleslaw are pure Americana, presented in a retro red basket that meshes well with the vintage photos and tchotchkes peppering the walls. Grab a Firestone 805 blonde ale and you’ll be ready to rock.
Quite possibly the best English pub this side of Santa Monica, the Pikey gets top marks for authenticity, from the interior—half Tudor-style tavern, half cockney chip shop—right down to the fish and chips. Okay, so the romaine garnish is an unexpected presence on the plate, but the fish (wild, line-caught Pacific snapper dipped in beer batter) is a revelation, as are the earthy spuds, which are reminiscent of a thicker, tastier version of In-N-Out fries. Of the four beers on tap, a Scrimshaw pils pairs nicely. Daywalkers might prefer dining on the café side of the Pikey, but for the true experience, hunker down in the dimly-lit pub among vintage beer signs, cricket and football (real football) memorabilia, and even a cheeky portrait of Winston Churchill.
We all know a good plate of fish and chips is a hallmark of a good pub, but what would happen if one of L.A.'s preeminent vegan proprietors tried their hand at it? Tony Yanow's Stalking Horse Brewery & Freehouse serves up both a fish and a vegan version of this classic, made with either Alaskan cod or a brined tofu. While we tend to prefer the fish, this is one spin on a stalwart we can get behind, and both of course come served with the requesite chips. Also find British ales and porters, plus ciders, wines and cocktails—all the better to enjoy on that trellised back patio.
Along with Tom Bergin’s, Tam O’Shanter is one of those pubs that has been around forever—more than 90 years, in fact—and with good reason. Representing the Scottish tier of L.A.’s British pub scene, the Tam is the real deal, from the red phone booth outside to the grumpy old men drinking at the bar. The fish and chips are made with line-caught cod and served in a bucket lined with newsprint parchment paper—a cute nod to the newspaper-wrapped fish typical in UK chip shops—alongside chips and not-so-traditional peanut coleslaw. Knock back a few Gone to Plaid Wee Heavy Scotch Ales, and by the end of the meal, you’ll be seeing tartan and reciting Robert Burns.