Unfortunately, after two visits, I'm afraid we're going to be
Fish City Grill is a chain that originated in Dallas about a decade
ago. I didn't realize that it was a chain until I did some Googling
before writing this review. To their credit, it doesn't feel like a
chain (although I expect some of the problems I have to be related to
the fact that it's a franchise).
It's not a huge place -- there are maybe a dozen or so four-tops
crammed closely enough together that you have to be careful sliding
your chair back from the table lest you ram a neighbor. There are
booths arranged around the walls as well (all but one were four-tops
as well, plus a large corner booth that would seat six I'd guess.
There's a long bar with maybe 15 chairs, and you can eat at the bar if
you so choose. The clamoring for new restaurants in the area is such
that on weekends, you're going to wait 1 hour+ for a table (it was 35
minutes tonight on a Thursday). The drinks are poured strong, and the
bartender is friendly and attentive. The wine list is about what you'd
expect -- serviceable standards in the $20-$40 range.
Our first visit was the first week they were open. We started off with
the Oyster Nachos ($6.29) (which we were skeptical about) - but were
fantastic. Six small, but plump fried oysters on tortilla chips with a
chipotle tartar sauce and a nice fresh pico de gallo. We also had the
Blue Crab Stuffed Mushrooms ($6.99) which were tasty, but didn't
really have all that much crab in them.
With fond memories of The Crazy Cajun in Port Aransas, we had the
Shrimp and Crab Leg Boil for two ($27.99, with new potatoes, sausage,
and corn on the cob). This was the first hint that trouble lay ahead.
First of all, I realize that it's hard to get good corn on the cob in
January. But for god's sake, if all you can get it a tasteless,
starchy, not-at-all-sweet ear of corn, perhaps you shouldn't serve
corn that night. The corn wasn't helped by the fact that everything
had apparently been boiling for many, many hours. The corn was
tasteless mush, the new potatoes were waterlogged, and the crab had
been boiled so long that you could actually tie a knot with a leg.
They provided claw crackers for the legs, but all they did was deform
the shells. I had to repeatedly bend the legs back and forth, folding
them completely against themselves, like I was trying to break a
credit card in half, before they'd open. The shrimp were tasty
(although overcooked), but were of a size that would cause my
grandmother to sniff derisively and proclaim "Them's bait shrimp." The
new potatoes were mush.
On the up side, the staff was friendly and gracious, and the service
was good. We decided that it we should try again in a few weeks after
they had a chance to settle in, and went back tonight.
Tonight we started out with the Thai Chile Oysters ($6.99), a cup of
New England style white chowder ($3.49) for my wife, and a bowl of the
special Crab Bisque ($6.95 I think, I didn't write it down). My wife's
chowder was excellent. My bisque was awful. It had a sour back-of-the-
tongue bite to it that made me immediately think of queso in a jar. It
was a glutinous mess, reminding me a failed experiment with béchamel.
I took two bites, had my wife try it to confirm that it did, indeed,
require immediately eating something else to kill the taste, and gave
I told my waitress that I didn't like it, and she took it back and
removed it from the bill. Then she came back and asked, in tones of
pity, "Haven't you ever had bisque before?". I thought about waxing
rhapsodically about lobster bisque at Commander's Palace, or (more
locally) shrimp bisque at Gumbo's, or the fact that I save all the
shrimp shells that I cook with for months in the freezer until I have
enough saved up to make a really great, concentrated stock for my own.
Instead, I just said "Yes, I make it occasionally."
This led to a visit from Brian, a member of the management team, who
sat down at the table to explain that the bisque didn't have cheese in
it, and that they got their milk every 2 days, and did I wish to
discuss the preparation of bisque? No, not really, but I appreciated
the gesture. I'm perfectly willing to admit that perhaps my tastes
just differ from theirs, but I have a hard time believe someone could
put that in their mouth and think it was good.
So, moving on, the oysters showed up. The table next to ours had just
eaten a dozen raw oysters. I commute every month from Austin to San
Francisco, and have turned into a serious oyster snob, but the ones on
their table looked gorgeous. Unfortunately, instead of using these
beautiful, plump oysters to fry, they used what were literally the
smallest oysters I've ever seen in my life. I'm away that not all
oysters are huge. Of the six on the plate, four of them were smaller
than the last joint of my little finger. The flavor was great, but I
was starting to get the sense that this was not going to be added to
our list of regular haunts.
The final straw was the entrees. My wife had the Tabasco Shrimp Pasta
($9.99), and I had a blackboard special of Grilled Scallops in a Honey/
Orange Glaze ($16.95?). The shrimp in my wife's pasta were once again
"bait shrimp" (I'd guess 30 count at best, maybe smaller), and there
were only 5 or 6 of them in the whole dish. My scallops were a
travesty. They had taken *two* scallops and sliced them into rounds
about one-quarter inch thick. Also included on the plate were maybe
three-quarters of a cup of brown rice and some nicely steamed mixed
When I order scallops, I expect a whole, plump, scallop. And when I'm
paying $17 for a plate of them, I damn well expect more than two (and,
if there *were* more than two on here, they are getting bent over by
Just last week, HEB had 15-20 count gulf shrimp for $6.99 a pound.
Three of these shrimp ($1.50 worth in food cost if they paid retail)
would have doubled the amount of shrimp in my wife's pasta. They also
had gorgeous, plump scallops for $7.99 a pound. Figuring a goal of 25%
food cost, they needed to spend no more than $4.25 on my entrée. The
rice (which was a crazy-small amount considering it costs practically
nothing) and the vegetables might eat up 50 cents of that. There was
nowhere near a half-pound of scallops on the plate (again, assuming
they had to pay retail).
When the entrée was delivered, the waitress said she'd be right back
with bread. This was the last we saw of her until the check, and when
I called her on the bread, she said "Oh yeah, I guess they never fired
We spent, with the bar tab from waiting for a table, around $80. And I
went home and immediately had a bowl of cereal because I was hungry.
Next time, we make the extra drive in to Gumbos, or Origami, or
Mansun, or any of a number of places that can deliver far, far better
bang for the buck.