Spaghetti, penne, pesto, chicken parm, bruschetta, pizza – and fish and chips.
One of those things does not belong? Indeed.
That last item is what restaurant owner Pat Nicholl calls an offering for “the tag along.” That’s the all-purpose menu item aimed at anyone who doesn’t care for the primary cuisine, but has come along anyway to eat with friends or family.
But since Nicholl’s Italian eatery, Amici’s, opened in Graham in 2005, fish and chips, strangely enough, has become one of the most often ordered menu items. The dish became so popular, it gave Nicholl an idea to open a fish-and-chips shop.
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Two weeks ago, he did just that. Find Oliver’s Fish and Chips across the parking lot from Amici’s.Oliver’s is an order-at-the-counter casual fish-and-chips shop serving fried fish and potatoes in various configurations. The decor is low-tech, the seating comfortable, with no upcharges for extras like tartar (I like that).
There’s crispy breaded cod and barely battered halibut, fish tacos and a few grilled items, too.Tartar sauce is housemade – and tastes like it. So is the clam chowder, which Nicholl makes himself.
A two-piece breaded Alaskan cod basket is a bargain at $7.99. The fish came with serious crunch from the snappy breading; the exterior crust broke to flaky fish that tasted steamed, not fried. I didn’t slog through a mouthful of grease to get to the good stuff, either. Fries are skins-on – Nicholl said they are a fresh-cut product a vendor supplies him.
The clam chowder ($3.99 cup/$5.99 bowl) was worth the hike to Graham alone. Nicholl uses the same style of cream base as Amici’s alfredo sauce, then he adds clams, a healthy helping of bacon, and a backbone of pepper and parsley. I detected no pastiness, which is a dire sin committed against chowders.
A two-piece helping of Pacific halibut ($12.99) was slightly less successful. The batter was barely there and it came unhinged from the fish too easily. Some diners will appreciate a thin coating, but I wanted a clingy jacket with some texture. I thought the halibut tasted a touch waterlogged and grease had penetrated the coating. I’ll stick with the cod.
Nicholl said he and his family are no strangers to the magic of crunchy fish and skins-on chips. They operated fish and chips haunts in Juneau until the 1990s when they sold their shares in the restaurant and moved to Graham.
The cute dog in the company’s logo? That’s Oliver, the Nicholl family dachshund, after whom the restaurant is named.
Oliver’s Fish and Chips9915 224th St. E., Graham, 253-262-3474, facebook.com/OliversFishandChips
Speaking of fish and chips, readers of this column might remember my January feature about the region’s best crunchy fish and chips, with Laura’s Bayview, a St. Helens neighborhood eatery in Tacoma, taking the top spot. Steamers at Titlow Beach and Fish Tale Bistro at the Northern Mutual Fish Co. on Ruston Way were close seconds. Had Oliver’s been open in January when I wrote that story, it would have made the top three.
Opening in Graham: A new Mexican restaurant, Julianito’s, is opening in Graham in the same shopping mall as Flying Tomato and Thai Mekong. The restaurant also operates an outpost in Kent. Find more information at julianitosmexicanfood.com.
Closed in Graham: Chicago Dogs and Beefs, a restaurant I liked for the real-deal Chicago dogs and Italian beefs, has closed. No word on whether something else will open at the building.