Steve Naccarato and Robert Stocker wanted to do for fish and chips what they did for burgers and shakes in the Stadium neighborhood with their five-year-old restaurant, Shake Shake Shake.
Their mission: Create a fun space with a vintage feel and a micro focus on a fast food they could dress up with chef touches. Like Shake, it would be walk-up counter service, appealing to families with kids and in a bustling neighborhood.
Fish Fish Fish opened on Sixth Avenue in April with a retro vibe exactly as promised, although the menu is still in flux as they get a handle on high demand and limited kitchen space.
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The restaurant debut had become a running joke around town because it took more than two years from announcement to opening. Diners seemed perplexed by that time line, but the particulars were complicated and familiar to restaurant operators working with tough spaces. The duo was required to install a larger and more costly than expected grease interceptor and do hefty interior work to carve out a restaurant space where none previously existed.
All that anticipation turned into oversized interest upon opening. They’ve been slammed with business.
Bring your patience as Tacoma begins its love affair with the newest haunt for fish and chips.
On an inaugural visit, I found Fish Fish Fish offered elements of some of my favorite fast-food fish-and-chips restaurants.
Broadly cut fish, like at Paya at Freighthouse Square.
Zippy cocktail sauce, like Northern Fish on Ruston Way.
Tasty beer batter, like Daily Catch at Point Ruston.
“Alternative” fish choices, like Fish House on the Hilltop.
A sense-of-place, like Steamers at Titlow Beach.
Big portion sizes for the price paid, like Oliver’s in Graham.
Here’s a first-bite look. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.
Dining room: Like they did with Stadium’s Shake Shake Shake, the artists and restaurant owners fabricated an artistic retro theme.They aim to capture a slice of diners who want an experience, not a fill-up-fast-and-go meal in bleak surroundings.
A light-up funky fish watches over a dining room outfitted with simple metal diner chairs with padded seats in the duo’s signature electric orange and aqua. Those colors repeat throughout the dining room (as they do at Shake Shake Shake). The space is smaller and without the cozy nooks of Shake Shake Shake, but visitors will recognize the decor theme.
The fish: Three fried-fish options on the opening menu: Beer-battered Pacific Cod in a two-piece ($10.99) or three-piece ($13.99). British-style beer-battered haddock in a one-piece ($9.99) or two-piece ($12.99). Tempura-battered albacore in two-piece ($11.99) or three-piece ($13.99). All include fries.
Note: Market availability will fluctuate. Options and pricing can and will change.
Sourcing: Line caught/wild. Sourcing and serving sizes listed on the menu.
Also: Baja tacos with beer-battered cod (two for $5.99, three for $7.99).
Sides: Clam chowder ($4.49 cup/$6.49 bowl), Caesar salad ($5.99 small/$7.99 large) and gluten-free pineapple quinoa salad ($5.99 small/$7.99 large).
Growing pains: Out of some menu items on my visit.
For kids: One-piece fish, fries and small drink, $4.99
On a first visit: Get the haddock, a popular British or East Coast fish not quite as popular here, mostly due to our love affair with gadus macrocephalus, the Pacific cod counterpart to Atlantic haddock.
Haddock’s a beautiful white fish with a mild sweetness that breaks into big, flaky pieces. It’s also a neutral fish that’s an excellent vessel for jamming beer batter and tartar sauce into one’s mouth. Here, it’s served in long-and-broad filets, beer-battered and fried until light golden brown.The batter crackled at first bite and released a puff of steam that carried a light waft of yeast from the beer.
The beer-battered Pacific Cod also broke into big, white flaky pieces. Like haddock, the fish was cut broadly and carried a thin-to-medium-thickness coating of beer batter, a win-win for those who favor the flavor of fish to a mouth full of batter.
The pieces were so big, I struggled with jamming them into the cups of house-made tartar, dill-and-parsley speckled with a light application of sweet relish.
Fish tacos came with filets of battered cod so large, the corn tortilla could not contain them, which made eating traditional taco-style impossible. I opted for a fork. Topped with cabbage, pico de gallo and a cumin-heavy lime crema.
Caesar salad was built with a house-made dressing heavy on anchovy, light on lemon with house-made croutons. The gluten-free quinoa salad with rice was speckled with springy slivers of fresh pineapple, cilantro, chiles and lots of lime flavor.
Chowder was creamy, heavy on potato, with a plop of smoky, chopped bacon on top.
Fries were skin-on, medium surface area and crispy edged, sturdy enough for serious dunking in the creamy tartar and zippy cocktail sauce with a welcomed punch of spice.
Drinks: Serve-yourself soda machine.
For condiment lovers: A nice chef’s touch at the serve-yourself condiment counter: fancy vinegar and pepper sauce that the restaurant ages in barrels from Gig Harbor’s Heritage Distilling Co. Both are must tries.
Mushy peas? Sorry, ex-pats, but the mushy peas are off the menu for the moment. I’ll report back if they return. Coming next will be grilled fish, more dipping sauces, halibut and shrimp cocktail.
Fish Fish Fish
Where: 3018 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
Info: 253-263-7272 or fishfishfish.guru
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m..-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11:30-8 p.m. Sunday.