Thursday, April 7, 2011

Best Fish and Chips in Utah

Best Fish & Chips in Utah 

- revised 19 April 2016

Check out our OTHER FOOD REVIEWS at

Especially see "Best Seafood in Utah" at: 
AND "Best Fish Sandwiches in Utah"

and "Best Restaurants in Utah" at:

They’ll never be able to match true fresh fish off the coasts because it’s not truly “fresh,” and here’s why:  The government allows the definition of “fresh fish” to be, in reality, nothing more than softly frozen – which ALTERS the taste and texture of fresh fish.  Gotta head to the coasts, baby. 

We've tried every cafe and drive-in in Utah that batters their own fish - over four dozen places. First thing we ask is if their fish comes already battered from the distributor - if they do, they get the ax - never any good. Downside is, if FRESH fish is not cooked that day, it gets a characteristic rubbing alcohol flavor to it, such as at one place on the list below, which brought the grade down.

Note about batter: most places use beer batter. If you are not into beer, as we are not, then no worries - the alcohol is cooked out. Some places use either too strong of an ale or too much. The beer of choice for top-notch chefs, and used at Franck's and Sqatters below, is Hefeweizen. However, the best-tasting beer batter we have found is at Wasatch Brew Pub in Park City, and they use their own. Also good batter is using milk - Virg's swtiched years ago from beer batter to milk batter. A really top notch restaurant in SLC, Pago, uses soda water. Our favorite overall batters were at O'Shucks, Cafe 300 (which adds herbs), Wasatch Brew Pub, Red Robbin, Wild Mustang, Archibald's, and A Little Taste of Britain. Some places make the batter too puffy like a corn dog. Others too thick and crispy. We like a thin crust texture, and some of us prefer some kind of flavor in the batter.

The List
1 (tie). Cafe 300 in Provo at 300 South and 279 East. SERVED FRIDAYS ONLY. Grade: B+ (a grade lower than L.A.'s best F&C places. (See our reviews for Best Fish and Chips in Los Angeles. To get the best fish and chips anywhere, you have to get it freshly caught PLUS they have to have a great batter. (Besides being tied for numero uno in F & C, Cafe 300 does have one of the best clam chowders in the state, in our opinion. See our Ratings for "Best Clam Chowders in Utah.") Grade: B+
(Notes about them: Opened December 2012. They experimented with the batter recipe for two weeks, and it paid off. The thick cod pieces are not overcooked like most places are, and the delectibly battered fish melts in your mouth. Their plan was to serve it only for Lent, but bingo - it was a hit and they're featuring it every Friday. (P.S. Their french toast and omelletes are tied for our favorites as well.) They're open Tuesday - Sunday 7 A.M till 3 P.M. But Friday is fish day, starting 5:30 PM.) 

1 (tie). Madison Gastropub, Provo, Chef Mike calls it Cajun Fish and Chips and uses fabulous mild spices and an absolutely perfect batter with decent cod. B+

1. (tie) El Tropical, Provo. Using swai, and introduced 13 Dec 2014 to their menu, this will be a featured and likely best-selling item. Like only 2 other places in Utah (A Little Tasate of Britain and State Street Grill, below), they serve huge fillets like in the UK, but you have to ask for it that way, and it's less expensive than other places. Very, very good batter as well. B+

1. (tie)  Sea Bass, Ogden. For likely the best fish and chips in the state, order the catfish and chips! They offer 5 different battered seafoods, rated below; only get the first two!
a. tilapia fish and chips (best tilapia in state) A-
b. catfish fish and chips (best catfish in state, tied with Station 22 in Provo) A-
c. cod fish and chips (dry, like halibut) B-
d. halibut B
e. fried oyster (must eat when freshly served, super hot) A-
(For our grading of their other food items, see our site, "Best Restaurants in Utah.")

1 (tie) Fish and Chips is served only occasionally at: Franck's Restaurant, Holladay, uses trout and it rates high - a B+, in fact it would be one that is tied for #1 in the state, but is only served on special occasions - we've only seen it once - in winter 2014. 

6. A Little Taste of Britain. Layton, on Main Street. Grade: B+ This was a best-kept secret until KSL TV did a feature on them in July 2012, then they had lines out the doors for weeks. Battered fish pieces are big, like England's. Cod is frozen, unfortunately, as nearly all places in Utah are except for a handful where noted below, but it's not chewy like most places that use frozen cod, and they don't overcook it like most do. We weren't crazy about the chips. The onion rings are OK. (On our last trip on 13 June 20 they had fixed an earlier concern we had - the tell-tall scent of fish being refrigerated too long at several visits the previous year, but on this trip the fish was excellent.) Very good batter as well. B/B+


7. Wasatch Brew Pub (kid-friendly), Park City. (The one at the airport may use the same recipe. Squatters downtown SLC has same ownership but different recipe, not as good as the one at Park City. This place has the best beer batter in the state, using their own, producing great flavor and crunch. But cod pieces are frozen with a slight chewy texture (most places have a very chewy texture that serve it from frozen state (except Pago and State Street Grill, which are fresh, and Cafe 300, which cooks it to taste like fresh). However, the cod pieces at Wasatch are too thin for our liking. Still, it's worth getting. B/B+

8. Dalton's, Payson. B/B+

9. Archibalds, South Jordan. Cod B/B+ (cod is chewy from being frozen, but tempura batter is quite good. Their halibut is rated only a C, farther down the list)

10. Joe's Crab Shack, Sandy and nationwide. As of November 2014, very nice batter, slightly chewy, typically frozen cod. B/B+

11. O'Shucks, Salt Lake City location only. nice tempura batter with a cayenne kick, but fish is too thin. Depending on who makes it, sometimes it's thicker but still thin, and sometimes with a great quality fish. You have to ask for "tempura fish" - not "fish and chips." The Park City west location had a great one, same batter but bigger fish pieces, but they changed to a beer batter in fall  2014 that we find mediocre and is further down this list. B/B+. 

NEXT ON OUR LIST TO TRY: The Garden Restaurant, SLC, Friday nights only.

The B grade fish and chip places:

12. Spur Bar and Grill, Park City (actually catfish strips!). B

13. Blue Boar Inn, Midway
a. fish and chips (but very thin, like calamari, and not much to portion, but very good batter) grade B

14. Matty's Bistro, Midway
a. fish and chips (good batter, cod too chewy)

15. State Street Grill, Pleasant Grove. The only FRESH cod, along with Pago below, and occasionally O'Shucks, SLC, among those tested. The fish, like "A Little Taste of Britain" and "El Tropical," is large, probably 12 oz., like in the UK. The batter was too hard and the fish with batter in Feb 2014 tested B-/B. But they improved it to the following: fish: B++/A-, batter: B/B+, taste: B+. Overall: B+

16. O'Hana's Grill, Springville. This is breaded swai at a Polynesian cafe, not battered the traditional way and they don't call it fish and chips. B

.17.  Pago, SLC. Served at lunch only. Fresh wild caught cod in batter of soda water rather than beer. Crispy but kind of tasteless batter. Grade: B

18. Red Robbin (national burger chain). (Most national chains serve pre-battered fish from the freezer via their distributor, and it's awful. But this one they batter themselves and it's surprisingly not bad.) Grade: B

19. Virg's Fish & Chips, Salt Lake Valley and Tooele chain. Grade: Decent yet somewhat more inconsistent than most day to day: C to B/B+, with an average of B-. They vary on the day and location. They have 4 locations: 5770 S Redwood Rd, SLC; another off the 123rd south exit in Draper (not as good), another in West Valley on 3500 South and about 3200 West, and one in Tooele. They batter their own cod, which averages a B - - , 2nd best is haddock, at B- - - (when they have it), and third is the halibut at C-.

Note 1 : At the location on 5770 S. Redwood Rd., we've usually had B grade and sometimes C. At the Draper location we tried once, it was a C.

Note 2: Virg's has been around over 40 years, when it was at 3150 South State in SLC and before that at 30 east 1700 south as a cute dive. Most of the years they served fish only. Moved and enlarged, it's now served with other diner food that makes the fish & chips shine.  (In other words, stick to the fish.) Used to be our fav fish shop for 25 years (after Sheila's Fish and Chips went out of business, per below), but in our opinion it's not as good as then - a main reason was they used to serve thicker pieces of fish). The cod is chewy, as most frozen cod is when cooked, but is usually the best of the 3 or 4 fish offered there. It's worth testing haddock, halibut, and swai and/or tilapia if they have it. Get the "mix and match."

OUT OF BUSINESS: Wild Mustang, Orem. Batter gets an A. The frozen cod with its typical texture gets a C. Overall: B

The next group are B-minuses.

a. Rumerz pub, South Jordan, at the District, about 114th South and Bangerter, just north of the theaters. Allows kids.. B-
 (Sometimes it rates a B for us.)

b. Sizzlers. B- (believe it or not, that amazingly mediocre-minus steak place - unless you love cardboard-tasting steaks - has decent battered cod.  See Note for Red Robbin (#4) above.

c. Flannigan's Pub, Park City (allows kids). B-

d. Daly's Pub and Rec,Park City (this batter is a B-; the fresh fish would rate it a B if it were fresh when we had it, but it had a characteristic "rubbing alcohol" flavor that fresh fish has when sitting in the fridge after a day or two. So when it is older, like our one trip was there, we gave it a C; but had it been fresh, it would have been rated a B- or B.

e. O'Reily's Pub, Park City B-

f. Boneyard Saloon and Kitchen, Park City. (batter thicker than fish) B-

g. McCools, SLC. (the fish alone is B-, batter is a B-/B, tartar is C+, cottage fries: C) fish overall: B-

h. O'Shuck's, Park City, Gordozia Pines Location only.. B- (In April 2014 they used a better tempura batter, rating a B/B+)

i. Culver's, A.F. and expanding in Utah, chain out of Wisconsin. Cod: B- - -

Fair places, which all rate in the C's:

a.   Miner's Sports Bar, Park City. C

b. Squatters's Pub and Grill, downtown SLC. C

c.    Glade’s Drive In, Spanish Fork (Unfortunately, they use shortening to fry in hydrogenated oil - which is outlawed in the state of New York for all it’s 33,000 restaurants, and rightly so.  Even so, Glade’s tastes pretty decent for the area.) C

d.    Daley-Freeze Drive-in, in Payson.  Another small-town surprise.  You can't sit down in the place, but the fish is worth standing in the cold, waiting for it at the walk-up counter. C

e. Sommerhays, Salt Lake City, 4870 South Higland Dr. This is not a drive-in, but you pay at the counter like drive-ins and don't have to leave a tip, so it's cheaper, like drive-ins are. As of 2012 they were serving only battered haddock and halibut. Whereas the halibut in 2011 was a B, they both rate a C+. 
(The swai was the best fish they ever had there: B in 2011, which they stopped serving in 2012.)
(Cod is wisely no longer served, it was a C- / D+ and chewy). Nice people, quaint atmosphere. We like it. (Check out the grilled salmon sandwich, the best fish sandwich we've found in Salt Lake Valley - See our reviews for Best Fish Sandwiches - we found a couple amazing places in Utah Valley.)

f. Scaddy's. fish and chips: battered Halibut, overall: C+. The batter rates a B- - but the fish is overcooked and chewy and gets a C- - .

g. Eating Establishment, Park City. C

h. Market Street Grill, 3 Salt Lake Valley locations. C+

i. Collie's Sports Bar and Grill, Park City. C++

j. No Name Saloon, Park City (actually C-) (no kids allowed)

k. Red Rock Brewery on 200 West, SLC. C

l.     Christopher’s Steak and Seafood.  Pricey but fair.  This and Red Rock serve pretty thick halibut - not my fav for fish & chips, but pretty darn OK.  A few other places have thick halibut as well and are about as good – like those below. C

m.     Marriott Hotel, SLC.  Another thick halibut, pricey. C

n. Hoppers Seafood and Grill on Fort Union Blvd in Sandy, C

o. Ruby River Steakhouse. C

p. Claimjumpers, Heber City. C

q. Archibalds, South Jordan, Halibut. C (but their cod rates higher, per above).

r. Iggy's, Utah chain, Halibut C++

s. Ruth's Diner C+

t. Chubby's C/C+

u. Wingers (not currently serving it) C

Some but not all the above 17 C grade places are not in order; the 4 below are. 

v. Denny's, national chain. C+

w. Iggy's, Utah chain. C. 
    Has overcooked halibut, small pieces.

x. Hook and Ladder, SLC on California Ave.. C 

y. Village Inn, national chain; the supposedly better Friday night special, when they batter it themselves: C-

z Black Bear Diner, regional chain. C-

Historical footnotes (good places now gone:) 

a. Our all-time fav in Utah is only in the history books.  It was Sheila's Fish & Chips, later Audrey's Fish and Chips (even written about by fish & chips aficionados in L.A.)  Two old ladies from Liverpool launched the best fish place probably ever in the Rocky Mountains, located at 9th East and 9th South in SLC; then retired and sold it in 1980 to a couple Afghan guys, who started up an Afghan restaurant but kept the SAME FISH recipes, and cooked it right!  (Their Afghan fare was pretty decent too.) But alas, they folded their nomadic tents and disappeared into the desert in the mid-80's, taking the sacred Liverpool recipes with them.  Allah is looking down on them most favorably for their years of extra great fish they brought us. 

b. A Salt Lake icon for decades, now gone: Chris's Fish and Chips on about 2800 South State in SLC was around 30+ years but folded when the married couple from Maryland retired around 2004 or so. It was decent, about on a par with Virg's then (when Virg's was a solid B and thicker and better), but Chris's had a different, flakier/crispier batter, kind of like Red Robbins now.

c. Another old icon: Picadilly Fish and Chips. Started in early 70s in Provo, spread with several locations to SLC. The fish never rated above a C+, but the clam chowder was the best in the state. The old owner sold it, went on to start the Health Rider craze and made millions, but was disheartened that the new owner changed the chowder recipe his wife had developed. For nostalgia buffs, you can get the same fish (if it's still there) at a Chinese place calls Lee's, in Layton, just off Main Street. The wife of the husband-wife team who runs it used to work at Picadilly's under the first owner and brought the fish recipe with her. Even the fish was a bit better under the original owner. Picadilly finally closed after 40 years, after going through several locations, sometime in about 2012. The last one was on State Street, around 15th south; before that one, for over a decade, was the one on 2100 South and about 200 East. 

c. Last historical footnote:  Rocky Mountain Drive-In of Provo is now out of business (the one across from D.I is gone, but another one with different owners and not the same recipes is still around). Why do we list it?  The former owner might see this some time and give his recipe to somebody still in business:  It had little green herb specks in the batter and other herbs that really rocked, similar to Crown and Anchor Pub in Vegas, and the batter was exceptionally good. Update: Cafe 300 has that same magic in their batter. Not exactly the same recipe, and it's actually a little better. Most who remember Rocky Mountain Drive-In across from D.I. and who try Cafe 300 might agree.

RE: Fish and Chips. The East and West Coast is where you'll find the best.  Check our "Best Fish & Chips in Los Angeles" (we found two incredible places of well over a dozen we've tried that were rated the best over a several year period by visiting Brits and UK ex-pats).  Elsewhere off the Sacred Coasts . . . check for Best Fish & Chips in Vegas for one pretty good place only. 

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