You can read all about the history of Tim's Tavern on their website, so I won't go into too much of it here. As you drive up to the restaurant, the sign out front is simple: Tim's Tavern, Famous for Fish. Excellent, that was why I came.
The parking lot is ample and as you approach the side of the building you will see this:
The rear of the building connotes a time back in history when the Meyer Lake Amusement Park was still open:
When I walked into the side door, the bar was to the left and the dining room to the right. Unfortunately, by 7:30 pm, the dining room was already closed. So, I sat myself in the bar area (which has plenty of tables besides the bar) and soon my server approached me with a menu and a glass of water. Having looked over their menu on-line before showing up, I already knew what I wanted. Here is how our conversation went:
"Do you know what you'd like?"
"I'll take the 3 piece fried fish dinner, please."
"What sides would you like?"
"Before I answer that, I have a question for you. Is the macaroni and cheese homemade?"
"How about the mashed potatoes?"
"How about the fries?"
(Are you starting to see a pattern here? At this point I was starting to get a little frustrated.)
"Maybe it might be easier if you told me what WAS homemade."
"Um, the cole slaw. The rice pilauf. The hot sauce."
So, I ended up getting the cole slaw and the rice pilauf. With your meal you also get a choice of bread and butter or unlimited hushpuppies with a homemade honey butter. After about ten minutes, my server brought me my cole slaw and hushpuppies. First up, the hushpuppies:
I didn't know for sure, but I could almost bet these were frozen, too. They weren't bad, but they just didn't have that "fresh" taste. The hushpuppy batter contained onions and parsley. I tasted the honey butter by itself and it would've really made a nice addition to a piece of bread or even better yet, cornbread. However, the combination of the onion, parsley, and honey was just a strange match for me. The hushpuppies were generally fine, but this was something you could find in the frozen foods section of any grocery store.
The cole slaw was next:
While this was homemade, the flavor profile on this slaw was flat. It really had no character of its own. It simply tasted like generic cole slaw. Which, I suppose, if that's what you are into, then you'd probably find this version acceptable. Just like the hushpuppies, this was nothing to write home about.
Not even two minutes after my starters arrived, my fried fish platter arrived at my table:
Tartar sauce on the left, four pieces of fried fish in the middle, and the homemade rice pilauf on the right.
Let's talk about the fish first:
This was so close to being excellent! But, it missed the mark in two ways. First, this was a greasy, greasy mess. If the lighting had been better in the bar, I would've tried to take a photo of the puddle of oil that covered the bottom of my plate. A simple stop onto a paper towel before plating this fish would've done wonders to alleviate this problem. Secondly, and this is a problem I've found at other places that do fried fish, the fillets themselves are never thick enough to withstand the deep frying process. The Northern Atlantic cod that Tim's uses is not uniform in size; so in one bite you will get a lovely, juicy piece of fish and in the next a dried up chewy piece of jerky.
I will say this about the fish: the coating that was on top of the fish was fabulous. As you can see from the black specks in the photograph above, this had a wonderfully flavorful coating and at least on the side of the fish not stewing in the oil below, it was crunchy crisp and just a bit greasy. So on the rare bite where the fish fillet was thick enough, you definitely got a crispy, creamy combination. It's too bad that wasn't my experience with the entire fillet though.
Finally, the rice pilauf:
When I first smelled and then finally tasted this dish, three things came to mind almost immediately:
- The seasoning packet from one of those boxed rice pilauf products you can buy at the grocery store
- The smell of Campbell's Minestrone soup
- Chicken base / chicken bouillon
When my waitress came to collect my dishes and bring me my check, I asked about the hushpuppies.
"So, I'm guessing the hushpuppies were from frozen, too?"
"You could tell, huh?"
"Yeah, I could tell."
I'm beginning to understand why the menu lists the hushpuppies as unlimited with a platter meal; no one would want to order a second plate of them. While the fried fish goes a long way toward saving Tim's Tavern, the lack of tasty sides makes me want to give them a pass the next time I get a craving for fried fish. It's not awful by any stretch of the imagination, but serving a generally mediocre meal just isn't the way to bring in and retain new customers. I give Tim's Tavern a marginally passing grade.