By Rina Rapuano
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
It's nearly impossible to leave Fish in the Hood in a bad mood. The cash-only Park View storefront emits the welcoming aromas of a seaside shack. Not only is dinner in the bag, but you briefly feel as if you're on vacation.
Owner Bill White likes to rib newcomers and regulars alike, flashing a mischievous grin. The 51-year-old Washington native lives in the same building as his 141
2 -year-old shop. He credits his North Carolina-raised mother with his from-scratch culinary skills. "I used to raid the kitchen," he says, "and you better learn how to cook if you want that good cooking."
The space where you wait 10 or so minutes for your takeout order is barely big enough to hold two tall tables, four chairs and a glass case filled with rows of fish on ice. Luckily, there are a few tables outside. A basket of fresh lemons, a giant (fake) mounted hammerhead and a TV showing the news round out the scene.
Customers choose from what's available on ice, and then it gets fried or broiled to order. While both are tasty options, the fried fish - coated with White's seasoned cornmeal crust which stays crisp even after a car ride - wins every time. Try the fried clams (75 cents each), which are opened and then cooked in the shell; succulent butterflied shrimp ($18.99 per pound); or perfectly crusted trout ($8.99 per pound) or catfish ($11.99 per pound).
Among the broiled varieties, salmon ($13.99 a pound) and scallops ($18.99 per pound) are excellent options. White uses sweet butter and a doctored Cajun seasoning but says everything is customizable; he can just as easily use lemon-pepper seasoning with olive oil. The broiled jumbo-lump crab cakes ($11.99) are wide and practically free of filler. We like White's philosophy: "If you taste the bread in the crab cake, it's no longer a crab cake."
White uses local distributor E. Goodwin & Sons Inc. of Jessup, but not all seafood is locally sourced. "All the bonefish is local," he says. "We carry the red snapper, the [rockfish], the spot, croaker, black bass, porgy and fresh ling."
If you're not in the mood for fish, try the wonderful fried pork chop ($4 each) or White's fall-apart barbecued chicken wings ($6 for five). Soul-food-inspired sides include excellent candied yams ($2.75), very good pork-free collards ($2.25) and so-so mac and cheese ($2.75).
Spring for one of White's three varieties of sweet potato pie ($3 for a quarter-pie slice; $8 for a whole pie). So far, we've tried only the delicious plain version, but we suspect the one spiked with cream cheese and maple is yet another way White will lift your spirits.