Catching up with J Hot Fish in Olde Towne East

Beth Stallings, Columbus Crave

KC Edwards wants to make one thing clear: the cornmeal breaded and fried tilapia he's selling out of a takeout window in Olde Towne East (1117 Oak St.) is not spicy. The hot in his pop-up eatery's name-J Hot Fish-refers to the fact that food is served fresh out of the fryer.

It's a mistake many have made since the space's former tenant was last summer's dining sensation Hot Chicken Takeover-a style of chicken spiked with cayenne pepper for plenty of heat.

Edwards opened his seafood-only J Hot Fish last month, and has spent this time tweaking his recipes and product.

The J Hot Fish menu is simple-there's the Fish Dinner with fries and coleslaw for $8.50, a basket of Cajun fried shrimp for $7, plus sides of fries and coleslaw. The biggest tweak in how they prepare their fried shrimp. The shrimp gets a 10-hour dip in a marinade, is seasoned with the house J Seasoning (predominately garlic and onion powder) and then tossed into the fryer. "It's fried shrimp without breading," Edwards says. "It's gotten a lot better."

New menu items could include eggrolls filled with shrimp, and house hot sauces including a jalapeno tartar sauce and a blackened tartar sauce. This weekend, Edwards plans to start a dessert table with treats made by his wife, including chocolate chip cookies, individual size sweet potato pies and lemon pound cake.

Once the weather breaks, Edwards plans to offer outdoor seating and live music. "Our plans are never to leave Olde Towne East," Edwards says. "I want to create a family style atmosphere."

Edwards grew up in Olde Towne East and eventually moved to New Albany. Eleven years ago, he started an annual family fish fry at Alum Creek, which quickly grew into a 400-plus person gathering. Last summer, he partnered with a few food trucks to sell his fried chicken, hoping to eventually launch his own truck. But when he read Hot Chicken Takeover was moving out of the former Near East Side Cooperative kitchen (the cooperative has moved down the street), he swooped in.

Hot Chicken Takeover owner Joe DeLoss has provided feedback and advice on how to streamline their process. DeLoss' service-oriented chicken concept also inspired Edwards. J Hot Fish carries on the mission by providing work to those who need help getting off public assistance.

J Hot Fish is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. They hope to start serving from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday in the coming weeks.