- 3624 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY, 40207
- (502) 895-1188
- Overall User Rating:
- (2 ratings)
- 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
The word “chowderhead” first appears in print in 1833. So says the Oxford English Dictionary, at any rate, and the OED lexicographers are pretty good at ferreting out such stuff.
At first, to be a chowderhead meant to be a dunce or a blockhead. Because chowder originated and flourished along the North Atlantic coast, some use the term as a regional appellation for folks from New England (in that context, the label is either one of pride or of derision — depending on one’s feelings about the Boston Red Sox).
For me, chowder is an addictive substance, and I’m enough of a blockhead that I developed a craving for the stuff even during the recent heat alert. So I headed for The Fishery, where they’ve been cooking up some of the city’s best clam chowder for nigh on 20 years.
Their version has an off-white color, a slightly granular texture, plenty of bits of chopped clams and fused flavors — salt pork, seafood, onions, potatoes, cream, pepper and herbs — so perfectly in balance that no one ingredient predominates. Sometimes I add a dash of hot sauce, but The Fishery’s chowder comes out of the pot pretty much perfect, as far as I’m concerned.
A cup ($1.95) pairs nicely with a sandwich, and a full bowl ($2.45) with a bottle of beer (perhaps a bottle of locally made craft beer) makes a satisfying meal, especially on a hot day.
For years, I’ve been stopping at The Fishery’s venerable location in St. Matthews (3624 Lexington Road, 502-895-1188). It’s a nicely weathered old place that has the feel of an oldtime fish shack — a bit cramped when the 40 or so seats are all occupied, but cramped in a neighborly way.
But quite a while back, The Fishery opened a second location in Middletown. It’s at least twice as big (and the way tables are spaced, it seems quite a bit bigger). The design elements are strictly functional, but it has a bright, contemporary look (well, there are a few pieces of maritime kitsch) that’s comfortable and inviting. And generally, it’s just an easier environment for everyone involved.
As at St. Matthews, customers order at the counter and take a number; but in Middletown the wide open spaces make it a lot easier to retrieve your food (and on recent visits, I’ve seen staff just whisking laden trays to the tables, rather than calling out numbers).
Co-owners Matt Clark and Carol Clark-Kassai have long since mastered the art of serving up consistent seafood, and they’ve brought all that skill to bear at the Middletown location. Over the years, the food has earned plenty of plaudits and awards from critics and diners, and the new location will likely just add to the fan base. Flawless frying is a hallmark of The Fishery, whether the golden, fine-grained batter is wrapped around slabs of moist, pearl-white cod (sandwiches, $5.75; platters, with two sides, $10.95); sweet, juicy hand-cut onion rings ($1.95); crisp, satisfying hushpuppies; or meaty, flavorful clams (a happy recent addition to the menu, $8.45, with two sides).
If you have your own sides, and just want the convenience of picking up some fried stuff by the pound, you can do that as well: cod, $12.95/pound; shrimp, $19.95, chicken strips, $10.95. (In addition, if you’re planning an event, it’s worth noting that not long ago The Fishery paired up with Callahan’s Catering, so between the two firms, they can deal with pretty much any sort of catering need.)
For folks who want down-home, Southern-style comforts, there are house-made salmon croquettes or chicken livers (both $8.45), or frog legs ($9.95). And there are plenty of good side dishes — including time-tested standbys like creamed peas, macaroni and cheese and green beans.
But fried fish and hushpuppies — good as those things are — aren’t the only options at either Fishery. On a recent visit, I dined on fresh salmon, broiled and brushed in a dark bourbon glaze (just faintly sweet); and though the salmon was cooked a bit too much for my taste (I like my salmon pink and moist in the middle), many diners will like it just as it was served — flaky, cooked through, with a faintly crunchy surface ($10.95).
Shrimp and sea scallops can be had the same way — or blackened, if preferred. Couple either preparation with a big scoop of light, carefully seasoned rice pilaf (studded with corn kernels and flecked with green herbs) and you have a convenient, guilt-free seafood meal.
And if you just can’t make up your mind, The Fishery has that covered as well, with combination platters — a half-order of any two dinners, plus the two sides, for $10.95.
And if you’re looking for a bargain, get this: On Saturdays, when an adult accompanied by a child orders a sandwich or platter, the child (under 12) eats free.
You can email freelance restaurant critic Marty Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.