To call Chicago’s Catch Fish & Chicken “modest” would be an understatement.
Situated in a former Subway in a busy strip mall in far north Fort Worth, it has only a few tables and, after being open for two months, doesn’t yet have a neon sign — which is actually a refreshing break from the garishness of the rest of the shopping strip.
But the place — which indeed originated in Chicago, where Chicago’s Catch was founded by six brothers — is generating some buzz in this ever-growing section of Tarrant, largely because of its food. It’s the kind of place where the offerings are displayed in large pictures on the wall; there’s also a printed, takeout menu that’s a little easier to process. Despite the “Fish & Chicken” part of the name, burgers and sandwiches are most prominently displayed on the print menu.
But we were interested in the fish and chicken, especially after being told that the catfish has been the most popular thing on the menu. We ordered it in the seafood combo version ($9.99), which comprises two pieces of fish, four battered shrimp and fries or coleslaw. Don’t let the fast-food vibe fool you; we were told, accurately, that this would take about 15 minutes to prepare.
The catfish came in two large fillets, flaky and well-seasoned (the restaurant uses a lemon pepper that gives a citrus tang to a lot of its items) and generous for the price. The shrimp, in a crunchy, tempura-style batter but more buttery, was unusually elongated — the straightest shrimp we’ve ever seen — but while the batter was good, the shrimp got a little lost in their cocoons.
The crinkle-cut fries weren’t housemade, but they had perfect crunchy-on-the-outside/soft on the inside texture, and the lemon-pepper seasoning made them addictive. A couple of pieces of garlic toast were more garlic than toast, and while that might please some people, it made my dining companion give up on them after a couple of bites.
We did a two-piece fried chicken, leg and thigh, $3.99 with fries or coleslaw included in that price. The chicken was close to perfect, a crunchy dark-gold crust leading to tender meat. The only quibble was that some areas of the thigh were overseasoned, to the point of being a little too salty. But the chicken is still calling us back. The coleslaw, which came in small prepackaged containers, was about as ordinary as it gets.
On another visit, we tried the Chicago beef sandwich ($4.99 or $6.99 for a combo), a sub/grinder-style sandwich that benefited greatly from a minimalist hot giardiniera sauce (in this case largely consisting of pickled peppers and carrots) that gave it a pleasant spiciness. Even though there was a liberal amount of beef, it was almost overwhelmed by the bread, as if the Subway that used to occupy the space was haunting Chicago’s Catch.
The menu also includes nine other sandwich items; we’ll return to check out the Chicago-style hot dogs, as well as the crispy Philly chicken sandwich one of the employees recommended. We’re also curious about the burger menu, which has seven choices, including such offbeat offerings as a “Godfather” burger (Chicago beef, American cheese, cheese sauce and giardiniera sauce) and a gyro burger.
There is a turkey burger, but there is not much on the menu for vegetarians other than a few sides. Because Chicago’s Catch is small, takeout business was brisk during both of our visits, but this place takes its time, so calling ahead is a good idea. If you’re a tea drinker, be aware that as of our visits, Chicago’s Catch did not yet offer iced tea.
During a lunchtime visit, all the tables were occupied and a tabloid-TV show blared — not the best thing for comfortable dining, although the pregnant mom-vs.-deadbeat dad content did have some diners’ attention.
All that volume was unpleasant and unnecessary; Chicago’s Catch is a place where the food does perfectly fine speaking for itself.
CHICAGO’S CATCH FISH & CHICKEN
8653 N. Beach St., No. 205
10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday