April 19, 2017

Fried Fish on Broad Street, and Panaderia Tacuari's New Watkinsville Digs

Grub Notes

Photo Credit: Austin Steele

The Fish Shack

FRY KING: It’s been awhile since we had a non-fast-food option devoted to fried fish in Athens, other than the occasional Friday special (at, for example, the UGA Hotel and Conference Center’s Courtyard Café). Thankfully, The Fish Shack (1660 W. Broad St., 706-521-8333) is here to remedy that problem. Ensconced in the itty-bitty building at Broad and Hancock that was most recently Preserve and previously housed Broad Street Coffee, a hot doggery, JB’s Ribs and BBQ, Walter’s Barbecue and, in its original iteration, The Arctic Girl, it operates Wednesday through Saturday, providing you an excellent alternative to Captain D’s.

Its owners—Monica Huff and her family, who wear sailor hats and smiles as they hustle up orders—had two previous seafood restaurants in Athens: one farther down Broad, where Saucehouse BBQ now sits, and one on Tallassee Road, where Rashe’s Cuisine has been for a few years. They didn’t go out of business because they didn’t know how to cook fish, and their expertise is evident. Even on Friday, when the place is hopping, orders come out at a good pace.

The menu is small, the way it should be. You can pick from whiting, tilapia and catfish, available in two- or three-piece meals, all of which come with fries, coleslaw and hushpuppies, plus small pre-packaged containers of tartar sauce. That’s about it, except for the slices of homemade pound cake that sit in plastic wrap on the counter for impulse buys, and the option to get your whiting as a sandwich. In this era where choice paralysis is a real thing on the reg, it’s nice to have such stripped-down options.

The catfish is probably the best of the three—firm-fleshed and with a good balance between breading and interior—but everything is good and straightforward. The hush puppies have just a hint of sweetness, and the coleslaw isn’t sugary. Seating inside is still limited, and the restaurant seems to do a fair percentage of its business in to-go orders, but the booths under an awning outside remain, providing an option if you want to eat on-site.

The Fish Shack is open from 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m.–4 p.m. on Saturday. It serves no booze, but does take credit cards.

GREAT MIGRATION: Unless you’re a regular customer of Panaderia Tacuari, aka Tacuari Bakery, the wonderful Uruguayan spot that used to be in a commercial building it shared with a CrossFit business hidden away on Fritz Mar Lane, off Newton Bridge Road, you might not realize that it has moved. Now occupying a space in the small strip of businesses in front of the Watkinsville Publix, at 2131 Hog Mountain Road (706-705-6333) in Butler’s Crossing, it hasn’t changed all that much, with one major exception: air-conditioning. The lack of AC was a pretty solid reason for moving, I have to admit, and the new location is certainly more visible, with an entrance on either side.

The baked goods, always exceptional and profuse, are still both of those things, arranged in a large display behind the counter. If you are dragging a cute munchkin with you, you may be treated to a free cookie made with rice flour—a delicate, crumbly cloud of a thing that is also, magically, gluten-free. You could pretty much close your eyes and point at random to the array of cookies, pastries and sweet breads and make out much better than just OK.

The tortas (with good fillings but seriously excellent bread) remain, as do the delicious empanadas, filled with ham and cheese, spinach, chorizo and egg and other options. Breakfast is now served all day, so if you want a big, fluffy omelet packed with vegetables for your lunch or dinner, you can get that, and there is now a full kitchen, enabling Tacuari to expand its menu options in the future. A kids’ area has a little table and chairs, plus toys and coloring implements, and there seems to be more seating; TVs tuned to soccer are still an important part of the experience.

Best of all, Tacuari’s ridiculously low prices haven’t budged. You can have an absolute feast for four people for something like $25, including dessert (there are cakes in the refrigerated case). The bakery/restaurant is open from 7 a.m.–9 p.m. daily—no more Saturday closings—and is easier to see from the Publix side, where it has a side with its name, than from the Hog Mountain side. Watkinsville, I am officially jealous.