Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 12:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
Credit Cards: Not accepted.
Reservations: Not accepted.
Prices: Appetizers $1.25 to $6.50. Most main dishes $8.50 to $12.
The world changes faster and faster, and today's hottest items will be sold at clearance prices tomorrow. Is there nothing constant, no solid rock to hang on to in this maelstrom of fads and fashions? Sure. There's Kushner's Seafood Restaurant, where nothing ever changes--not the decor, not the menu, not the waitresses, not the food. And the food is as reliably good today as it was a decade or two ago.
Kushner's can give you pangs of nostalgia for the 1940s and 1950s if you're old enough to remember. If not, note that this is what lots of restaurants looked like in the days of "American Graffiti."
First, take in the "modern" sign outside. And the Coke decal over the door handle. When's the last time you've seen these? Notice that Kushner's doesn't deck itself out as a pirate's den or a fisherman's shed; no nets or nautical claptrap. Plain formica tables, paper mats, bright fluorescent lighting. Be sure to check out the walls. No, kids, that's not paneling extruded at the plastic factory, it's real knotty pine, the kind people used to have in their rec rooms.
The decades haven't changed the ritual of eating at Kushner's, either. That's comforting. First comes the basket of good, big, yeasty rolls--some sugared and cinnamoned, some plain. And the obligatory bowl of dill pickles. These pickles, we should point out, are as genuine as the knotty pine. Which means they come from a barrel, not a jar, and they fairly reek of fresh garlic. Heavenly.
Next come the choices. To begin with, have a go at the soups, which are cheap and good. The crab soup is thick, rich, peppery and crammed with vegetables. A lump of meaty crab shell is added for flavor. Plenty of flavor and vegetables in the clam chowder, too, although little clam.
Broiling a fish is not a complicated task. It mainly requires knowing when to remove the fish from the heat, and, when the time comes, remembering to do it promptly. It's amazing that so many restaurants broil fish so poorly. And reassuring that Kushner's never seems to lose the touch. The rockfish, for example, is a gem--perfectly fresh, flaky, succulent and flavorful.
Frying seafood is another skill that remarkably few restaurants seem to master but one that Kushner's has down pat. Impressive fried shrimp, scallops and fish: delicate batter, quick frying in fresh oil, a golden color and no greasiness on the plate or the tongue. It may not be tempura, but it's commendably close. The one frying disaster has been the crab cakes--brown, greasy, leaden.
Crab imperial is a beauty. Big lumps of snowy backfin crabmeat with no excesses of mayonnaise or filler. It could use a little mustardy zing, but that's a minor quibble. The crab stuffing that's optional with the broiled fish, incidentally, is just as good, so don't hesitate. Norfolk-style dishes--shellfish sauteed in butter--are well executed but a bit pricey compared with the rest of the items on the menu.
Among the choices that accompany the entrees are good french fries and a fresh, unrunny coleslaw that's sweet but not cloyingly so. Beware the canned, olive-drab green beans, undefiled by any flavoring whatsoever. And if you want dessert, stop somewhere else on the way home.
Kushner's is lovable. And if you let it do what it does best, it's formidable. We hope to be able to visit it a decade from now. And that it's exactly the same.