Excellent | Worth a Detour
Charlie’s Fish Market
Review by: Michael Stern
Charlie’s is a no-frills, mostly take-out fish joint. It sells bream, whiting, and mullet to bring home and cook, and it fries up what customers want for eating right away. You can even bring in fish you’ve caught (and cleaned) and the cook will fry it for you. There are tables here, but meals come wrapped and ready to take away.
It is a pleasure to watch a meal created – a process so basic, and so right. First, two or three or four pieces of fish are selected from the cooler. They are dredged in minimally seasoned cornmeal and tossed into an immense black skillet full of bubbling hot oil. With expertise disguised as nonchalance, the cook pokes and prods them as they cook and, when they’re done, he uses tongs to hoist them out of the oil and lay them atop a sheet of butcher paper. He will apply mustard and hot sauce if you wish, and pile a couple of pieces of white bread atop the fish. The package is gathered up in the butcher paper, then in newspaper – wrapped and ready to take to a table; or it can be packaged in Styrofoam if it’s going far.
Of the three main fish on the menu, mullet is the standout. It is oily and unctuous, all about the delectable contrast of creamy meat and crunchy crust. The bones that remain in the semi-filleted pieces are fairly easy to eat around. Brim is tougher to consume – lots of rib bones to deal with – but its flesh is sweet, and the crunch of its crisp-fried tail is an extraordinary pleasure. Whiting is easiest of all – virtually boneless – mild and pleasantly fishy. French fries and hushpuppies that come on the side are cooked in their own oil and are serviceable, if not memorable.
Freshly-made cake sometimes is available. If not, ask for Little Debbie Nutty Bars.
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