Solid. This is a very good business to bring to Goleta. I’m really glad it’s opened.
It’s not fancy or fine dining. It’s in a strip mall, so is subject to the usual plastic aesthetic, although they’ve added some fishnets here and there and buoys to give the impression of an old salty diner. It’s a valiant attempt, but it is still a strip mall.
The food is super fresh, that’s the important thing. Everything coming out of the kitchen looked beautiful, piled up on plates. Light, crisp looking batters on the fried dishes, baking sheets with crusty loaves of bread waiting to be broken apart and dipped into seafood hotpots, and nearly all the wall space near the counter scrawled with assorted specials of the day.
McMarko and I didn’t order any of the more traditional fish and chip items, we each had our own missions. I was on the seek for interesting fried chicken wings and sweet potato fries. My friend wanted to be healthy. We got:
* grilled fish with salad, rice, mango salsa.
The grilled fish was perfect. Nice char on the outside, beautifully fork-tender and flaky inside. The mango salsa was tangy sweet, a good complement, it cost in the $14-16 range.
As for my lunch, the wings are yummy! And unique to Santa Barbara’s chicken wing scene (as far as I know). Instead of the hot sour buffalo style, they’ve got a very light tempura batter with asian flavorings and dressed with some sesame seeds. It’s not spicy hot and it is sufficiently sauced, it doesn’t need any dipping sauce.
Nikka is also a fish market, providing sushi-grade fresh fish which you can pack up to go like a regular market, of they’ll grill your purchase to eat there for $5 extra (1 pound minimum purchase).
The music inside might be subject to the whims of its staff. I like my AC/DC, perhaps not so much over lunch with office-suit types.
Overall, I’m very happy with Nikka. If you’re used to paying $10 or less for a gut-buster lunch, you might find this expensive. But if you prefer quality over quantity, this satisfies. The Elder Jellies (my parents) dined here a few weeks after I did, groused that their meals cost a little over $25 (on par with my lunch experience), but did admit the food was very good and they were very happy with their fish.
Logistical note: Nikka Fish and Grill is tucked behind some pillars and well-shaded, it’s not easy to spot from the street. It’s also not to be confused with Nikka Market, which is across the street. Best landmark to use is Trader Joe’s because *everyone* knows where that is, and it’s almost directly across Calle Real from there.
Cesar’s is part of my Taqueria Tour of Milpas, and this is my second visit. Their front door sign says fish and chips and Mexican food, and it’s unfortunate that fish and chips are placed at the top of the placard, because one might assume that this is their specialty. Really, the popular items there are the seafood cocktails.
But since it’s up there on the big placard, we thought it was time to give them a try. We ordered the fish and chips, and also a milanesa torta.
The fish and chips was made up of a lot of chips, and the most interesting thin and wide pieces of breaded fish I’ve ever seen, practically covering all the chips. The large surface area made for a lot of crunch! I can’t say that this is among my favorites in town, but it’s also not the worst. It’s hard to go wrong with lots of fried breading, and I bet I would have liked this when I was much younger. But now, naw, I’m not crazy about such thin pieces of fish that they’re hardly noticeable. However, the dish also comes with a good portion of salad.
Also on order was the torta, and we picked the milanesa as our meat, but there are a handful of other filling options. We went with milanesa because we’d never tried it before. It seems that torta bread comes in two shapes, the long roll variety and the round roll variety. I happen to like the round roll more, and this is how Cesar’s does it – soft, but not doughy. Their torta includes normal sandwich fillings like lettuce, but also refried beans. It was oozy and yummy. The milanesa filling itself was tender spiced meat, pounded very thin. It reminded me of gyro meat. It cost about $6, making it one of the deals on the table.
On both visits there was a basket of complimentary chips and two kinds of salsa. I liked the tomatillo salsa more than the tomato. As we were paying, I saw them ladle out the tomato salsa from a big can, so maybe the commercially produced tomato salsa is why it’s not tops on my list.
Overall, I liked Cesar’s, although I wouldn’t consider it to be the best food on the street, and the competition is indeed fierce. What’s provided in exchange is an extensive menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it’s a very family friendly place with full table service, comfortable and ample seating, while most of the Mexican restaurants around Milpas are very casual hole-in-the-wall types. In fact, I don’t believe it’s possible to declare any one place as “the best.” There are favorites, and my favorites vary by what I’m looking for. At Cesar’s, it’s the seafood cocktails and tortas.
Any dining spot that adds something unique to the area gets my vote, and Mac’s British style fish and chips fits that.
And by British, I mean specifically with a Scottish flair.
The chips are as close to British chips as ever I’ve tasted. Thick-cut, soft inside, and about 30% of them soggy outside as well. Really, in holding up photos of Mac’s chips and the ones I ate in England as recently as a week ago, I cannot tell the difference.
Ok, I can. The difference is that Mac’s meals are served in an “old school” wax paper printed like an English newspaper – which was how they were served until some time probably in the 80s. But I almost wish they were served in real newspaper, because the paper allows the chips to off-steam. An issue with *all* British chips is that they’re now served in this waxy paper and once the take-away is wrapped up, the steam just gathers in the paper and that’s what turns the chips soggy. However, sogginess = reality. So if you’re looking for that experience, you’ll get it. The thought of a fat packet of take-away chips, drizzled with salt and malt vinegar always makes me salivate.
Another difference: the chippies in the UK always seem to charge 20p per packet of ketchup. So, thanks Mac, for making the ketchup and brown sauce free condiments.
I ordered the regular fillet (please pronounce the T, btw) of fish, with chips and a side of mushy peas. Don’t be scared by the deceptively liquid state of the peas when you’re armed only with a fork. It is firm stuff that’ll not fall through your tines, even in an inebriated state.
Kudos for having sausage rolls and, one of my comfort faves, battered sausages! I wasn’t able to have one during this round of tasting, but just you wait…after a couple pints I’ll be good and ready.
And lo, there’s Bass and Fuller’s on tap, in case you need any in-house guidance a more jolly state.
The sausage meat comes from Whitefoot Meat Market on Milpas just down the road, and Whitefoot is one of the last remaining small business butcheries in town.
I also tried one of Scotland’s desserts, the deep fried Mars Bar. Not the American Mars Bar, the British one. Sticky, crisp, battered, fried goodness. Pair that with an Irn-Bru, made from girders!
Finally, why aren’t there trashcans through the dining area? Well! I actually know the answer to that. Mac’s wrappers and baskets are all recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable, but rather than have three sets of bins all throughout the establishment, they are under the counter.
Price: about $15 for the regular fillet of Alaskan Cod, chips, mushy peas and a deep fried Mars bar. That’s just under about £10, about what you’d pay for the same in the UK.
Well done. Can’t say the same for England’s football team!
Mac’s Fish and Chips
Fish and chips were a fast and moderately cheap meal option during my poor student days. We even worked out a system of cruising by the chippie in Kew near closing time, when they would sometimes add another fillet into the takeaway packet for free. We’d walk over to the park, sit on the swings and munch away at our greasy goods. Of course, to eat end-of-the-day fish, we needed strong stomachs. Not a problem on my side.
But for just a two week trip, with so many wonderful things to eat, we only had a limited number of meals to spend at the chippie, so we needed to be selective.
Phil recommended Fryer’s Delight, which wasn’t far from our homebase. It’s been around for ages, and is known for having exceedingly good chips. Unlike the move to healthier options, which is ironic in a way for chips, these are fried in beef drippings. Oh my!
The prices posted on the board are takeaway prices, they are a little higher to eat in. We sat at a booth, and shared a haddock and chips, and a battered sausage and chips.
Now, I have a little comfort thing for a deep fried savaloy, but the battered sausage was just as good. Mellow in flavor with a subtle hint of spices that an over-seasoned American tongue might pass over as bland, but I loved it. Mmm, fried.
As usual, packets of tomato ketchup, brown sauce, mayonnaise or tartare sauce cost extra, but there was plenty of malt vinegar for free at the table. That was all we needed. Great chippie!
Fryer’s Delight (Bloomsbury)
Freshly arrived in Portland, and hungry. Our hosts are Anne and Chris, although they were both out of town when we arrived. Luckly, Portland is terribly easy to traverse with public transportation, and we found our way to their home in the Southeast without any issue.
Chris recommended the two pubs near us for good eats. After dropping our bags and befriending the cat, Mika aka Meep, we walked the 2-3 blocks to the Horse Brass Pub in hopes of noshing on a Scotch egg.
Similar to the pubs in England, the Horse Brass was a casual yet boistrous social hub for the neighborhood. Families, friends and co-workers were settled comfortably into their booths or tables, sipping a pint and grubbing some food. The selection of beer on tap was amazing, with a heavy emphasis on Oregon-made beverages. When we were undecided, they let us sample a few until we found the beer we wanted.
Sure enough, the Scotch egg was on offer, cut into wedges and served warm with mustard and potato chips. It was fancier than I’d ever had in England – which was mostly eating out of a paper bag from the deli or butchery. I’d also never had them warm before.
T got the fish and chips, half portion of the fish. A half portion was more than enough. The fish was a firm flavorful halibut. Wow, that was great fish.
I had the bangers for dinner. Served with a green salad and white bread and butter. I know, you’d have expected mashed potatoes with it. Again, a little surprising, but I am good with getting some leafy greens instead of more stodge. We had the chips with the fish meal as well. This food was fine, but the winner of the night was the fish. Good stuff!
Horse Brass Pub (Southeast, Belmont)
Ted and Nik did a videoshoot all day, and I attended the small wrap-up drinks and food at Dargan’s. Plus, it was Friday, a good day to head downtown for a swift half and a nibble regardless.
I had the fish and chips, which I’ve eaten before. This time, the batter was more crisp, this was an enjoyable meal and good to share round the table.
Ted had the fried chicken, which had tempted both of us. It came with mashed potatoes and sauteed greens. I nibbled on some of it, but my fish meal was so ample I had little room for the fried chicken goodness. Prep time for this meal didn’t take too long either, it came out roughly the same time as everyone else’s food. This seems rare for fried chicken, where many other places have a longer prep time to fry-cook the chicken pieces. Go figure.
Past entry: 22 July 2009
Dining out on Mondays is often a struggle, as most good restaurants are not open. We’d walked round and around downtown, looking at options and we finally settled on Dargan’s.
This is really Murphy’s stout, served in a Guiness glass. Can’t tell the difference? Yeah, I couldn’t either. I’m not much of a stout person, although the way I eat, I should be somewhat stout. haw haw haw.
I ordered the fish and chips, on recommendation from the waitress. It was *okay*. The batter was not particularly crisp by the time it reached my table. It certainly was a generous portion, though, and I ended up sharing some of my plate with Ted.
And Ted got the Irish stew, which was thick and hot. Perhaps not the most ideal item to order on a sweltering summer evening, but there certainly were no leftovers.
Sorry, I’m not feeling particularly verbose on this. I’m still bummed about this dining-on-Mondays dilemma.
I haven’t been to Stacky’s since a job I had in Carpinteria, but I went recently after a wonderful afternoon at Summerland beach. Kite flying at the beach is tough work, you know, holding that string and standing there, I had to top up my energy with some fish and chips.
Left: fish and chips. Right: burger and fries.
I got the Sam Adams beer battered tilapia – 2 piece – with chips and coleslaw, for about $8. My friends got the quarter pound burgers, with fries and onion rings – their meals came to about $15 total.
The ambiance is like a beach shack, and I love the weathered wood tables and benches outside, the walls decorated with fishing nets and crabbing buoys. The dining crowd was mostly young hip folks. Um, must have been tourists since Summerland is a crotchety old witching community. Ha! Anyway, everyone was friendly and chatty.
My fish was very juicy and tender, very flaky, almost too flaky to dip into the tartar sauce. It was good, but I’ll try the other battered tilapia next time. Beach season is only just beginning, patience, my little tummy.
We pretty much inhaled our food and then went home in a fried food stupor.
Btw, that little three wheeled car outside, wot?