TNT Diner

Waterfront fish-and-chips stand now open in Tacoma

Battered fish and chips are on the menu at The Daily Catch, the fish-and-chips window at WildFin American Grill.
Battered fish and chips are on the menu at The Daily Catch, the fish-and-chips window at WildFin American Grill. skidd@thenewstribune.com

For those of us who flock to fish-and-chips counters and stands along our waterfront, here comes some terrific news.

The Daily Catch opened May 2 on the Tacoma waterfront. It’s a walk-up fish-and-chips window and an extension of the kitchen at WildFin American Grill, Tacoma’s newest waterfront restaurant that opened in January. It’s located at Point Ruston, a retail-residential development that straddles Ruston and Tacoma. The seasonal restaurant will operate through October.

The opening comes on the heels of April’s opening of JW at the Boatyard, a waterside trolley serving fish and chips, chowder and fish tacos, at the Gig Harbor Marina and Boatyard.

And here comes more good fish and chips news, in case you missed my update from a few weeks ago. Steamers Seafood Cafe at Titlow Beach, which has been closed since December due to a plumbing flood, should reopen in June.

And farther inland, the highly anticipated Fish Fish Fish (*and chips), the sibling restaurant to Stadium’s Shake Shake Shake, should also open this summer on Sixth Avenue.

Here are first-bite impressions of the Daily Catch. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism during a restaurant’s first month, which is why this report relies on descriptions and concept.

Dual restaurants: Inside WildFin, find commanding views and a menu of casual-to-high-end seafood, as well as sandwiches, salads and plenty of options from the turf category. Outside, the fish-and-chips window focuses on fast-service classics: fish and chips, chowder, fish tacos and the trimmings.

Seating: Sorry folks, it’s standing room only with a few stand-up tables right in front of the window. However, walk behind the restaurant and down to the playground and you’ll see picnic-style benches scattered sporadically along the beach.

Pricing: Bargain priced for the quality served. It’s getting tougher to find a higher quality two-piece fish and chips for under $8.

Menu lowdown: Two-, 3- and 4-piece cod ($7.99/$9.99/$11.89); 2-, 3- and 4-piece halibut ($12.99/$15.79/$18.89); calamari and chips ($9.99); clams and chips ($8.99); crispy cod fish taco ($6.89); bahn mi fish taco ($6.99); three sizes of seafood chowder ($3.99/$6.99/$13.59); jicama-cabbage slaw and fries in multiple sizes (99 cents-$4.99). Soft-serve cones ($2.99) and blackberry basil lemonade ($2.99).

For the kids: One-piece fish and chips, plus soda, juice or milk and a cookie for $5.89.

The eats: The beer-battered cod came encased in a puffy batter that crunched more than I expected, breaking to big flakes of cod. Fries were coated, fried golden brown and crisp. I had to carry the food elsewhere because of the lack of seating, and it proved to have a longer-than-expected shelf life. Several minutes later, the batter was still crispy, as were the fries.

Also try: Two styles of fish tacos, with sides of tortilla chips. The banh mi fish taco was grilled cod with a nutty sweet-salty marinade and all the traditional trimmings for the Vietnamese sandwich after which the taco is modeled: thick rings of grassy jalapenos, shredded/marinated carrots and daikon, long sprigs of cilantro and a peppery, creamy sauce that cooled the jalapenos some. I appreciated the taco’s paper wrapper was sealed at the bottom, a detail that’s vital for portable food that comes sauced.

Also try: Seafood chowder ($3.99) laden with thick pieces of salmon and cod. The texture was of the creamy-silky variety, not the flour-pasty stuff.

All-you-can-stomach tartar: Tartar rationing, as if it’s some kind of precious substance, is a personal peeve at fish-and-chips restaurants. A thimble’s worth of sauce for three pieces of fish? Come on.

The Daily Catch sets a good standard for tartar fiends. All-you-can-pump tartar came in two varieties here. A puckery dill tartar that was thick and creamy, and a jalapeno aioli that carried a light sweetness and some kicky heat. There’s also serve-yourself ketchup for those so inclined.

Did I mention the cola? The Daily Catch has one of those fancy machines with 5 million (or 70 or something) flavors from which to choose.

Where else to find counters and fast service restaurants with a specialty in fish and chips? In Tacoma, there’s Northern Fish on Ruston Way, Fish House on the Hilltop, Paya Fish and Chips at Freighthouse Square. Find Oliver’s Fish and Chips in Graham and newly opened JW at the Boatyard in Gig Harbor. Also, there’s the Frying Dutchman, which is a roving food truck. And, of course, plenty of restaurants in the area offer fish and chips at sit-down restaurants. But I like mine to go. And the closer to the water, the better.

The Daily Catch

Where: WildFin American Grill, 5115 Grand Loop, Tacoma.

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily through October.

Info: 253-448-2145, wildfinamericangrill.com/the-daily-catch.

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