Roadfood warriors Bruce Bilmes and Sue Boyle pointed us to Joe Tess place (no possessive apostrophe), which bills itself as “Home of the Famous Fish Sandwich.” It is a restaurant, tavern, and fresh seafood market on the south side of Omaha that serves a fish little-known on dining tables outside the region: carp. Like the herring that swim upriver in North Carolina, carp are fish-flavored fish that get deep fried long enough that their fine bones become part of the soft, juicy flesh underneath the crunchy batter crust.
Fried pieces of carp are available on rye in the famous sandwich or doubled up in the double fish sandwich. (The connoisseur’s condiment is hot pepper sauce.) Or you can have a dinner-size portion bedded on rye on a plate with cole slaw and discs of cottage-fried potatoes, the latter known here as jacket fries. Catfish is another specialty. Like the carp, mudpuppies are trucked in live from Minnesota and you can see them swim in the tanks of the live fish market. For those with a less adventurous palate, the Joe Tess menu offers chicken (white or dark), grilled salmon, and fried shrimp.
There is a full bar’s worth of beverages to drink, plus the western working man’s version of a bloody Mary, known as red beer: beer and tomato juice. Beside pineapple upside down cake larded with pecans, the dessert menu includes a swell cream cheese bundt cake.
Ambiance is all-fish, all the time and everywhere. The bar is shaped like a boat and walls are decked with taxidermized fish of every size and shape as well as pictures, posters, and nautical memorabilia celebrating underwater life.