Fried fish sandwiches are common throughout much of upstate New York. A visit to Doug’s is convincing evidence that this is regional food to take seriously. Choose either a sandwich, a fish dinner, or a fish onion dinner. The titles are misleading because the sandwich is in fact two or three large hunks of fried fish piled in and around a modest, no-account bun that in no way is large enough to hold even half its alleged ingredients. Like a tenderloin from the southern Midwest, the presentation pushes the envelope of what, exactly, a sandwich is. A fish dinner adds beautiful chunky French fries to the pseudo-sandwich. A fish onion dinner means onion rings.
The fish is moist, sweet, and gentle-flavored, encased in a sandy crust with just the right amount of crunch. It comes with pickly tartar sauce that is surprisingly unsweet. Sweetness comes in the form of Doug’s superb cole slaw, which is finely chopped and fetchingly spicy.
Service is eat-in-the-rough style. Place your order at the stand-up counter (from which you have an appetizing view of fish and fries coming out of the hot oil), pay for the meal, and wait for your name to be called. Fetch your own utensils from a table in the center of the dining room that holds plastic forks and knives, ketchup and mustard, and malt vinegar for spritzing on fries.
Bonus: Doug’s is a source for excellent soft-serve custard, dense and alabaster-pure. Throughout the warm weather months the custard is a foundation for warm fruit sundaes. The available compote, made right here from the fruit of the season, begins with strawberries and blueberries early in the summer, then moves to peaches and finally to apples in the fall. Glorious!
Note: the original Doug’s is located in Skaneateles, NY. Doug’s also serves its fish fry in the Horticulture Building at the New York State Fair, starting in late August.