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It’s Not Summah in New England Without Fish & Chips

plate of fish and chips

Photo Credit: Belinda Fontes/Shutterstock

This piece is part of a month-long series in July to celebrate National Culinary Arts Month, in which we asked writers to share with us a memory of a particular chef or restaurant that they admire — and have been dreaming about patronizing — ever since the global pandemic made dining out such a challenge.

A New England summer to me means smelling the sea-salt air, sitting outside on a restaurant patio, and enjoying a hot plate of fish & chips. While fish & chips is a British tradition, it is also a menu staple in almost every New England restaurant: from clam shacks to 5-star dining. The fish is typically scrod, which is a generic term for white fish, usually meaning either cod or haddock. The dish is rounded out with thick steak fries, lemon wedges, and a side of creamy coleslaw, making it my perfect, go-to summer meal. (Vinegar is also available to douse on the fish & chips, if that’s your jam.)

My favorite place for fish & chips is at the Black Whale in historic New Bedford, Mass. The restaurant is situated right on a commercial-fishing dock, alongside the boats that hauled in that day’s catch. I find every dish at the Black Whale enjoyable, but the fish & chips are entirely something else. Eaten in the dining room or the open-air patio, the breaded fish is crisp on the outside and buttery and fork-tender in the middle. The fries are gloriously golden brown, and the coleslaw provides that perfect palate-cleansing bite.

The Black Whale is my “impress the guests” restaurant, where I take relatives or friends who are visiting from out of town. I can’t wait until I can take my family from Chicago there to get some chowdah or lobstah rolls, enjoy drinks and appetizers with friends, or just have a date night with the hubby. While I love cooking and can whip up fish & chips anytime in my own kitchen, it’s not quite the same. The ocean breeze, the waves lapping on the docked boats, and fresh-caught fish are all part of the magic unique to New England summer nights.


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