Doug’s Fish Fry (Skaneateles)

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Published on: October 4, 2010

Wall Street’s RecommendationBuy

The Executive Summary:  What has become nothing short of an institution in the town of Skaneateles is, in my opinion, an above average seafood shack and worth visiting should you be in the area.  I can’t bring myself to give this the Strong Buy many might look for in this review…perhaps this is because I grew up on John’s Atlantic Seafood fried haddock (formerly in Mattydale Plaza, now on 31 in Baldwinsville) and have a childhood predisposition to that recipe.  However, the fact remains that the breading lacks the texture and flavour that I find more pleasing to the palate that John’s provides.  Couple that with John’s stellar sides and Doug’s moves firmly into second place.  But this is not a review of John’s so…

The Full Report:  Took the wife and kids out for the weekend to enjoy an autumn walk thru the Skaneateles shopping district and decided to try “the original” Doug’s as I’d been told that the former hub in Clay with the same namesake paled in comparison to the one on the Lake.  It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and while the streets were bustling, there was at least 50% of the seats in the place empty.  Perhaps this isn’t the prime time for the joint…

The decor is typical of this sort of joint, no-frills, focus-on-the-product which I’m fine with.  Felt more comfortable with the kids in a place like that anyways.  We got a couple of fish dinners, side of fries and side of rings, a large soda from the fountain and a tap beer.  Bill was a whopping $24 to feed 2.5 people.  We had to sit down for about 4-5 minutes while they made the meal, hinting at it’s freshness which was confirmed when I picked it up at the counter:  everything was piping hot from the fryer.

The fries were quite tasty, very homemade i.e. skins still on and none of the “crispy-shell outside, mashed-potato inside” typical of packaged fries.  They weren’t properly salted but maybe that was intentional as there were plenty of salt packets (along with the typical tartar sauce, ketchup, malt vinegar, etc.) on the condiment bar.  The onion rings were well above average, with a light, crispy and lightly-seasoned batter, if a bit oily.  I found myself nearly finishing those before touching the fish.

As for this fish, it was a large, plate-length fillet as one usually finds at a haddock fry shop, placed comically on a puny seeded hamburger bun.  It was cooked perfectly and was high quality fish as I expected, however anyone used to the distinctive flavour and texture profile of John’s might be disappointed.  Now I pretended I’d never had that and looked objectively at the offering and found it certainly ranks up there and a John’s-virgin could easily say this was the best around.  For me, second best.

I will say, however two other items ranked above any I’ve had previously:  the coleslaw included with the meals and the tartar sauce.  The latter has an extra ingredient (I believe it’s dill) that brings this rather mundane condiment to the next level.  Found myself dipping the fries in it.  Same with the coleslaw…it uses (as any true slaw in my opinion should) celery seed or salt to again set this apart from the typically mayo-heavy or vinegar-heavy offerings that most places sell.

Kids got antsy rather early in the meal so we weren’t able to sample anything further from the menu.  If we go again I’ll be sure to get some more sides and update the review accordingly.  In summary, it’s a good meal and I would recommend that anyone passing nearby Skaneateles and in the mood for a quick, cheap meal definitely give it a try.


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