My friend Jim and I ate at Fish, Fish, Fish on Sixth Avenue, recently. It was their opening day. I’ll go back in a few more weeks to write a review. In the mean time I had lunch at Katie Downs and wrote a review on their fish and chips (a favorite). A comment from a reader will soon lead me to The Daily Catch at Point Ruston. While mentioning these connected events my buddy Denny Flannigan recommended The Fish House Café on MLK in Tacoma. Jim and I visited them on Friday for lunch.
The Fish House Café is located just off South 19th at 1814 MLK in Tacoma’s Hilltop . . . or as my friend Antonio Edwards call it, Hilltopia. Traveling south on MLK we ran out of street before finding a place to park. We turned west on 19th and went two blocks before turning right to go back north a block. We ended up in a spot just off MLK across from the lovely mural at the People’s Community Center, a Metro Parks facility, originally named the Malcolm X Center. The Fish House Café appears in the mural, as do other local landmarks, events and people. Very homey.
We arrived at the Café at 11:50 and just beat the noon rush. Jim ordered the fish sandwich, which comes with plenty of nicely coated, slightly spicy, fried fish, cheese, tomato, tarter, and lettuce for $7.75.
By 12:05 the line was out to the sidewalk, where it stayed for the next hour or so. I think we were the only newcomers. Although, I know they have quite a neighborhood following, the customers were both black and white. Surprisingly, we saw no one obviously from St. Joseph’s Hospital which is just one block east. The interior of The Fish House Café is not conducive to conversations and slow enjoyment of food. In and out, in and out, the customers changed but their routine didn’t. In and out. Music competed with talking, but didn’t over-power it.
I ordered the fish and chips with potato salad and a Coke. I passed on the hush puppies and the okra . . . and the onion rings, which were calling to me with a siren’s song, “We only cost two dollars. We only cost two dollars.” I blocked out the call. The $1.50 potato salad tasted like every family picnic I remember as a child. I ate it first. I savored it. I could have eaten two. If my mother was still alive I would have ordered the okra “to go” for her. With tip I was down only $12.50. I had one piece of fish left over. When I called home to tell Peg I was on my way, she asked “Did you get me a piece of fish?” Sometimes things just turn out right. The same with Jim. He had mis-ordered his fish sandwich and ended up with two of them, but it was Enid’s birthday, so he proudly had something to surprise her with.
Jim and I stayed and talked until around 2:00 and then bused our table and looked questioningly to the order taker. “Behind the fan,” she said. There are three tables and maybe eight chairs in the restaurant plus two stools and a counter. A huge black fan sits on the floor by the door. The wastebasket was, as she had said, right behind the fan. We walked back to the car, stepping onto the parking strip once to allow two young women in Seahawks shirts pushing their children along in strollers to continue on towards the Café. We looked at the houses along the street behind a strong black fence (four feet high) that ran the length of the block. Four little dogs barked at our ankles through the fence at one of the houses. It was a gorgeous day. I think I used to own the four-plex in mid-block. We enjoyed our conversation, the fish, and the neighborhood.