- 1310 Winter Ave., Louisville, KY, 40204
- (502) 568-2993
- Overall User Rating:
- (3 ratings)
- Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Cafe Beignet serves breakfast on Saturday, 8 a.m.-noon, and Sunday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
I pity the successful angler. You know who I mean: There are people who can put a Niblet on the end of a bare hook, flick it into a muddy pool on Beargrass Creek, and pull out a rainbow trout that has no business whatsoever being there.
Those folks haul in so many fish that they lose track of particular fish. Their memories grow so dim and blurry that they have to make up stories to keep themselves entertained.
Me, I’m such an incompetent angler that I can easily bring to mind pretty much every fish I’ve ever landed. Those silver salmon in Alaska. A couple of trout on the Margaree River in Nova Scotia. A courageous trophy minnow on the Beaver River in Ontario (a brave fish, that minnow: It had tried to swallow a lure that was twice its size).
Lucky for me, my pal Johnny is a master of farm-pond fishing. It turns out he’s also a master of the deep fryer, and every summer he puts on a fabulous fish fry. So when he sternly mentioned that I’d neglected to write about his favorite fish restaurant, I took note. And so should you.
I drive past The Fish House a couple of times a week, but hadn’t dropped in for years. It sits where Oak Street crosses Barret Avenue and turns into Winter, and when I stepped through the door, it felt as if nothing had changed since my last visit.
Owner David Hilsenrad was sitting behind the counter taking orders, chatting up customers, expounding on the virtues of Green River-style fried fish. A couple of refrigerator units held a fine collection of interesting beers. Bottles of malt vinegar and giant squeeze bottles filled with house-recipe tartar sauce (and green-tinted jalapeno tartar sauce) sat on counters.
Customers were sprawled out in cozy, casual dining spaces (including a sheltered patio).
Outside, big blue banners announcing fish, clams, oysters and shrimp, as well as beignets, chicory coffee and omelets. For The Fish House has a dual identity: Seven days a week, it’s a fish place, but on the weekends, it does double duty, serving New Orleans-style breakfast dishes under the name Cafe Beignet (a project initiated and run by Hilsenrad’s son, Adam).
Let’s talk fish first. The Green River style — named after a style of fish cookery that has its roots in Kentucky’s Green River watershed — is classic Southern cookery: fillets of scrod or catfish are coated in peppery cornmeal and fried.
I like black pepper. The Fish House uses plenty. I like fried fish that’s crisp and moist. The Fish House does it right.
I like places that try to accommodate special needs. Upon request, the Fish House will prepare an order of gluten-free, cornmeal-battered fish, and cook it in oil that’s never contained any gluten-containing ingredient (they’ll fix you an order of baked fish, too).
I like good value. A scrod sandwich runs $4.95; add fries and piquant coleslaw, and you’re up to $7.95. A hefty dinner portion of fish with sides runs $7.95. Other sandwich and dinner options include splendid, thin fillets of haddock (they receive a slightly more floury breading that highlights the flaky texture of the fish), catfish, tilapia, pan-fried oysters, shrimp, clam strips and the like, and the prices are pretty much in line with the scrod.
I love New England-style chowder, and for now, the creamy, herb-flecked version at The Fish House (which includes chunks of fish, as well as chopped clams) is at the top of my local list ($2.95/$3.95), but it’s not unusual for the kitchen to dish up a half-dozen soup choices on a given day, including bean soup, chili, tomato-dill and the like, and all of them are good — as are the fresh-cut onion rings ($2.50).
By now, you can see a theme developing: I like The Fish House. A lot. Almost as much as I like Johnny’s wild-caught bluegill. And that’s saying something.
It turns out, Cafe Beignet (its hours overlap those of The Fish House: Saturday, 8 a.m.-noon, Sunday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.) is pretty good, too. It can’t compare with the extravagant pleasures of a true Louisiana breakfast (nothing in the world can compare with a crawfish omelet, a side of boudin and a dose of Saturday morning Zydeco at the Café des Amis in Breaux Bridge). But it’s darned good.
The beignets, which are available through the week, are crisp and sweet, whether covered in white powdered sugar or cinnamon ($1.25 each, three for $2.95). The chicory coffee sports a fine, spicy flavor.
Lovely little potato pancakes ($2.50 for about a half-dozen hand-formed discs) are served with applesauce and sour cream.
Fluffy omelets ($6.95) are made from a variety of ingredients (including weekly specials that often feature bright combinations of vegetables). And for simple, childlike pleasures, it’s hard to do better than an egg-n-a-hole ($1.25).
Contact freelance restaurant critic Marty Rosen at email@example.com.