Fish and chips seems like simple enough dish: a couple of fish fillets, battered, deep-fried and served with a healthy portion of chips (or fries, as we Yanks say). Yet there’s more to this pub staple than meets the eye, and all too often, diners looking for inexpensive meals 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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The 13 best spots for 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: straightforward hand-battered Icelandic cod served with fries and coleslaw. Take advantage of the great selection of craft beers and pair your plate with an English ale such as a Boddington’s Brown.
For a break from the beer-battered norm and get your fish fix at Badmaash in DLTA or Fairfax. 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 adds an unexpected layer of flavor to the chickpea batter, which balances 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 walls.
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, including Arctic cod to tilapia and sea bass—and the specials all come with chips. Or, if you prefer, 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, slaw and steamed veggies.
It’s here that 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, after all. This is Cimarusti’s modern take on the clam shack, a lofty WeHo eatery that offers classic seaside plates such as 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 batter-dipped 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, and while the fries served with this fish are great, why not order a round of lobster poutine? That’s our move, anyway.
When it comes to fish, freshness is key—and you can’t get much fresher than a dish fried right at 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 market’s 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, served with a side of fries and tangy slaw. You can also mix it up with fried scallops, shrimp, crab cakes, 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-esque 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’s 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.
David LeFevre’s fantastical seafood towers draw eyes as they travel across the cheery nautical-themed restaurant, but we’re telling you, don’t skip the humble fish and chips at this Manhattan Beach mainstay. It’s served as a not-so-little pile, three large pieces of Helles lager-battered cod sit atop a mountain of herbed, thin fries. They’re perfect for dunking into the side of house remoulade, which is ideally briny thanks to specks of dill pickle. (You should probably also order that seafood tower, you know, while you’re here.)
Malibu Seafood—an oceanside staple on PCH since ’72—offers super-fresh seafood with a side of 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 sitting right on PCH. 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. (Just watch out for that Malibu beach traffic on gorgeous days.)
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 spot 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 hang on the wall with taped-over price updates, and the ambiance is a sparse mix of florescent lighting and motel art.
It’s not often that fish can be described as punk, and yet that’s exactly the case at this Long Beach mainstay. Owned by former Social Distortion drummer Chris Reece, the Pike features a punk-loaded jukebox, live music and DJs by night, not to mention 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 slaw are pure Americana, presented in a retro red basket that meshes well with the vintage photos and tchotchkes peppering the walls. Grab a Beachwood LBC IPA and you’ll be ready to rock.
Quite possibly the best English pub east 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 and line-caught, then dipped in beer batter) is fantastic, 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 happens when one of L.A.’s top vegan proprietors tried their hand at it? Tony Yanow’s Stalking Horse Brewery & Freehouse serves a standard version of this classic, made with Alaskan cod, but you can also order the vegan (tofu) take as an ale-battered “cod” sandwich. 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—some brewed onsite—plus ciders, wines and cocktails, all the better to enjoy on that trellised back patio.
Tam O’Shanter is one of those pubs that’s been around forever—more than 90 years, in fact—and with good reason. Representing the Scottish tier of L.A.’s 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 slaw. Knock back a few Belhaven Scottish Ales, and by the end of the meal, you’ll be seeing tartan and reciting Robert Burns.