This has most certainly been the busiest week I’ve had in the past couple of years. I am not complaining. The MacDonald family has been blessed/slightly cursed with too many birthdays in the month of February and as I age we meet more who join our extended family. It’s uncanny.
The month begins with my Aunt Lynn. She’s a fave. My brother-in-law’s brother Wally is Feb. 11. Then it’s my sister, Andrea; her birthday is Feb. 12. My old man would have been 63 on the 13th. Valentine’s Day was its usual 14th. My birthday was the 15th. My nephew John Brooks’ always falls on the 16th. And I cannot leave out my Lagniappe family: Ashley Trice’s birthday is Feb. 17.
It’d be great if we could just get the Dallas, Laurel, Mobile and Fairhope folks all under one roof for a single soiree but that won’t happen. So my sister and I decided to spend our birthday celebration at a Dave Chappelle show with her husband, John, and our brother, Big Al. For our Mobilians, Ashley and I were the honored guests Thursday night at the newly opened Chuck’s Fish.
Chuck’s Fish in Mobile is the third location for this small chain, which began in Tuscaloosa and was followed by a Birmingham location. It’s also a part of the family of restaurants that includes Five Bar, a Dauphin Street neighbor to Chuck’s. The common factor is that all of the seafood comes from their wholesale seafood market, Harbor Docks of Destin, Florida. All are owned by Charles Morgan III, who named the restaurants in honor of his father, a civil rights attorney during the 1960s.
Obviously known for its fish — hence the name — Chuck’s Fish has a rather small dinner menu that barely outsizes its Five Bar counterpart. I like that. Focusing on some top-notch items and throwing in a special or two is the way to go. Between Rob, Beth, Ashley, Frank, Catherine and me, we managed to cover a good portion of it. But when you flip the menu over there is a sushi section that dominates!
We decided to order appetizers and share. Frank and Ashley went straight for the Crack Fries in a bag ($5). “Fries worth $5?” you may ask. You bet they are. Thin fries served in a bag with seasonings and Parmesan cheese, fantastic. Beth had the Uptown Shrimp ($13), which is a lot like the Uptown Chicken at Five, served over Asian slaw in a wonton bowl. A couple of these would make a meal.
Rob was head over heels for the West Indies Salad ($16) and I could tell why. After he claimed it the best he’d ever had, I stole a forkful. I will say it does Bayley’s proud.
Catherine didn’t put up much of a fight when I ordered Fried Oysters ($14). She’s not the biggest oyster fan I know, but she’s coming along. While these are nothing like the famous Queen G version, they are fantastic. Topped with a dash of thick hot sauce, these eight or nine bad boys were arguably better than the West Indies salad. The sauce was so great that leftover fries were used to sop up the remainder.
Ash and I, being the birthday queen and king, were on the same page and identically ordered the Red Snapper with artichoke hearts ($32). We both felt the same about it. The artichoke hearts with the fish were really a great idea and the lightly breaded snapper was OK but could have been a bit crispier. The snap peas were stellar, but sadly the chef’s risotto (tonight’s was pearl onion) was cold and a little on the gummy side. It wasn’t inedible. We just thought it could have been a touch better.
Beth is the smallest carnivore I’ve ever known, so of course she ordered the Filet of Beef ($34). This 8-ounce center cut was ordered rare and came out almost blue. That was a nice piece of beef any chop shop would be glad to serve. Her garlic butter mashed potatoes weren’t too shabby, either.
Now here is the game changer.
Everyone else at the table ordered from the sushi side. There is an appetizer section on this menu, but we were already appetizered out. I remember Rob had the Nigiri Combo ($31), which came with three each of tuna, yellowtail and fresh salmon. I was treated to one of the tuna and was in love.
Catherine let me try a piece of her Rainbow Roll ($15), which I sometimes find a bit boring in other establishments but loved this one due to how fresh the tuna, yellowtail and salmon were on top. She was a bit stingy with her Kenji Roll ($13). This seems to be her favorite and I believe she has ordered it every time we’ve been to Chuck’s. It’s tuna, bacon, green onion, fried tempura and spicy sauce topped with avocado, sweet soy reduction, Japanese mayo and fresh ground black pepper. Next time we will order two.
Frank was ordering like he knew what he was doing. He had a conversation going on with the sushi lady and was spouting off sushi facts and figures like an expert. TNT Roll ($16) was his poison for the evening. Tuna, green onions, spicy sauce and fried tempura on the inside are compounded with flavors of more tuna, avocado, sweet soy reduction and sambal chili paste on top. He also grabbed a single piece of salmon nigiri ($4) and tuna sashimi ($14). It was the happiest I’ve seen him since I took him to the barbecue place.
Although we were stuffed to the gills, they brought out a Blondie Sundae ($7) served with Cammie’s Old Dutch vanilla ice cream and caramel. Holy smokes, that was great.
So I couldn’t get my entire family together for one night, but I got most of my Mobile family together. Chuck’s is the real deal. Don’t delay. Visit as often as you can afford. Service is attentive and not overbearing, food is great, sushi is spectacular and the price is what you’d expect.
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