After a somewhat successful attempt at getting a great piece of fried fish at my first destination of the evening, my second fried fish dinner involved a stop out and see the guys at Fat Casual BBQ in Macedonia. I missed their Lenten fish fry last year because at the time, I was still only reviewing non-commerical (i.e., not restaurants) organizations. Given that I greatly enjoy their regular menu (and have written about them twice already), they were a shoe-in for a stop on the search for fabulous fried fish.
Fat Casual BBQ was located at 223 East Highland Road, Macedonia, OH 44056 and can be reached at 330-748-4690. Parking was in the lot surrounding the building. Here was a shot of the front of the building:
I arrived slightly after 6:15 PM to find one of the three large tables filled with regulars, the communal table only slightly filled and the only other table in the room, a six-seater, completely open. Knowing that I was being joined by several guests, I claimed the empty table and waited for my tablemates to arrive. Shortly after everyone arrived, we headed up to the counter by the front door to place our orders.
Fat Casual belongs to a category of restaurants known as "fast casual." This means that you order and pay for your food up front and when your order is ready, they will run it out to the table for you. Here was a shot of tonight's special Lenten menu:
Normally, I might have tried the clam chowder in addition to ordering the fried fish dinner, but because this was my second meal of the evening, I decided to exercise a bit of restraint (so says the man consuming two fried fish dinners in one evening). After ordering my dinner, it wasn't ten minutes before this arrived at my table:
This was a Cornmeal-dusted Fried Catfish with Cajun Hushpuppies, Cole Slaw, Tartar Sauce and a squeeze of lemon. From a technique perspective, both the fried fish and hushpuppies were cooked perfectly -- crispy on the outside without being at all greasy. While I normally expect to find finely chopped onions in my hushpuppies, Fat Casual had decided to put a twist on the standard recipe and went a different route with some added cajun seasoning. The texture of the hushpuppies was nice, but the cajun seasoning left me a little disappointed. The catfish was wonderfully moist and I found it amazing that these thin catfish filets which had been thawed from frozen and dusted before frying were still moist and juicy.
The two issues I had with the catfish were that the seasoning in the coating was a bit aggressive. Whereas my earlier fish in the evening had been quite bland, the catfish was close to being too salty. The second issue I had with the catfish was the catfish itself. While I am in no way doubting the quality of the fish, catfish in general has a very unique flavor profile that you either like or your don't. This particular catfish had a very pronounced fishiness to it that may be off-putting to those normally averse to fishy-tasting fish.
I had absolutely no issues with the homemade cole slaw. It was crunchy, creamy, slightly acidic, and barely sweet. It hit on multiple flavor and textural combinations and was (and has always been) one of my more favorite versions of this side dish. The tartar sauce, also homemade, had a better balance between tart, salty, and sweet that my earlier dinner's version did not. One of the co-owners, Walter, suggested that I also try the catfish with the house BBQ sauce, which I did. It was an interesting combination, fried fish and BBQ sauce, but not one that I found worked great together.
While the execution in the preparation of the dishes was flawless, some of the flavors and seasonings were a tad off tonight. Would I go back for another fish fry at Fat Casual? With catfish on the menu, probably not. Were they to switch to a different kind of fish, absolutely. And, of course, I will always return for their mainstay, the barbecued meats and side dishes. That stuff is killer good.
Here are the current rankings so far from best overall to worst overall as well as an individual grade for each of the major elements on the plate.
1. Fat Casual BBQ (Macedonia): Fish, B-; Hushpuppies, B; Cole Slaw, A
2. American Legion Post 281 (Cuyahoga Falls): Fish, B; Cole Slaw, C+; Green Beans, C; Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, B-