While fried chicken is having its day in the spotlight, a pair of unassuming fried-to-order seafood joints serving soul food are thriving.
Shrimp Hut in Whitehall and J Hot Fish (piping hot, not spicy hot) in Olde Towne East serve up deep-fried meals that challenge the almighty chicken. Offering similar menus, sides (mac and cheese, please) and price points (both will set you back roughly $10 to $13 per platter) they're both quite a catch. In this "fry-off," we take a look at what each restaurant does well.Shrimp Hut
Shrimp Hut regulars aren't quiet about their love for the fried goodness served over the counter at this 6-month-old Whitehall gem. The seafood restaurant (more a stall than a hut) sells generous portions of fried-to-order fish (including perch, tilapia and whiting) and shrimp over the counter while pumping out gospel music and a welcoming vibe. At the time we went to press there was no seating, though owner Harold Ray says a few small tables are in the works.
What to Order: No surprise here: the shrimp are the must-have. Available in two sizes (jumbo and large), the batter-dipped shrimp are tasty enough to eat whole, tail included. Although the meals are served atop a massive pile of fries, slaw and hushpuppies, a side order of the fried green tomatoes is a must. Frequently on special, the thinly cut tomatoes are sweet, tangy and perfectly fine without their accompanying buttermilk sauce.J Hot Fish
The chameleon-like space that once held the East Side Co-op and Hot Chicken Takeover has been home to fried fish for more than a year. The dine-in or carry-out establishment is busy, but a large television and children's crafts occupy those waiting for Southern-style fish dinners of whiting, catfish, red snapper and more. Thanks to abundant signage and some aggressive sales techniques by the cashier, it's difficult to turn down a piece of "That Cake" whose origins are vague. And it's even more difficult not to eat it (and order another) before the meal arrives.
What to Order: Angle for the salty strips of fried perch, finely breaded with a crispy texture. As part of a platter, the fish is served alongside hand-cut fries and slaw. Of the many sides available, the slow-cooked, turkey-laden greens seemingly make the meal healthy again and the small, dense jalapeño hushpuppies add a kick.