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Fish in the Hood, Petworth - Bill White's Seafood Hut on Georgia Avenue - Closed

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A tiny storefront on Georgia Avenue, Fish in the Hood would verge on being one of my favorite new restaurants this year if not for its mysterious hours and a bit of brusque service.

The first time I walked over there, at about 12:30 on a Thursday, the place was locked, though the lights were on inside. It was a crapshoot, since I haven't been able to find their hours listed anywhere, either on their "website" or Yelp. Some workers who'd been contracted to fix their sign were out front, and also chagrined since they couldn't get in touch with the manager or any staff. After chatting with them for about 10 minutes, I moved on (and ended up with an excellent roti from Rita's down the street).

I got lucky the second time, stopping in at about 6:30 on a Friday night, and it was hopping. The interior is dominated by a glass case featuring 10-12 types of raw filleted and whole fish on ice and a high counter behind which the magic happens. There are two or three tables inside, but they're really there more for waiting than for eating. (In any case, I don't recommend lingering inside unless you relish smelling like a fryolater. The patio outside will be a nice place to eat in good weather.) The lady behind the glass case was impatient to take my order and irritated that I didn't know the ordering protocol and had to keep asking her to repeat herself because I couldn't hear her over the din.

I ended up ordering six fried shrimp and one fried fillet of pollack--which she rejected out of hand as not enough so she gave me three. I also ordered the greens, mac and cheese, and potato salad (I needed to sample a quorum!).

A little less than ten minutes later, a man with a big smile (proprietor, I think?) called me over to pick up the goods. He says, "Have you ever had my mango sauce before?" No, sir, I haven't. "Well dear, you take that home and have your man open it up, dip that fish in it, and feed it to you. That'll give you the makings of a good night right there."

With no man at hand for the experiment, I fed it to myself, and holy mackerel (ha), was I in heaven. The crust--cornmeal batter--was still crackling after a 10-minute walk home, the fish and shrimp were well cooked, and that mango sauce is a dream. A dream. So good that I'm not even embarrassed to admit that a fair amount made its way into my mouth via my finger. Seriously: order extra mango sauce (a fancy place would call it a mango aioli or some such). The tartar sauce is also really, really good, and its served with a couple of pieces of bread that are average but which somehow makes for a pretty good sandwich.

The potato salad was pretty good, the mac and cheese was okay, and the greens were pretty eh. Prices are good, and you can also get the fish broiled or take it out raw.

Now just post your hours somewhere, folks, and I'll become a regular.

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Just the very existence of this thread, created last December by qwertyy, strengthens my already strong faith in donrockwell.com.

Profiled very positively in today's WaPo, this was my first time ever hitting a spot new for me on the same day it was featured in a major media pub. I wasn't sure what to expect but was in the area and always game for some good fish.

First off, lots of questions circled in my mind as I took some initial bites.

- Why this place for this week's Weds Food Section?

- How does WaPo even choose spots to profile since no doubt there are dozens in less developed neighborhoods that would benefit like this one surely will at least initially.

As already reported, this place is small. Just two tables and the thought of them being more for waiting than eating is further supported by the chairs being turned sideways so you can't face a table if eating there.

Unlike area spots like Qualia, Three Little Pigs and Moroni, this is not a new place run by energized, accredited and talented young artisans. Rather, this place may easily be 20 (if not 30 or more) years old and, as the Post explained, it's run by someone who knows and loves fish from his own upbringing in the south. Didn't meet the owner today but the large wall menus with 60s era fonts, cracked tile floor, golden plastic hammerhead shark over a cooler, the smell of oil frying and a host of other cues make clear this really is a spot of and for "the hood" in the best of ways.

I'd have to agree with qwertyy about the service. I dealt with the same woman. I didn't have too much trouble but she was a bit hard to understand and a tad impatient with first timers. Her male team member at the fryer was much nicer.

They surprisingly (given the Post coverage) weren't that busy when I was in for lunch around midday. Maybe 8 customers in total during the 45 min or so I spent there.

And, they were unapologetically out of a lot! No red snapper for me. No cake for another woman who left in a big huff when told. No crabcakes for two others who pivoted 180 degrees and left upon hearing the news.Fried chicken wings, inquired a local mechanic? Nope, out of those too.

The large, room-dominating glass case with all the fish was interesting. Salmon were plentiful but wrapped in portions in plastic and clearly farmed. Fin fish lay on ice in plastic trays with eyes mostly covered making it a bit more difficult to assess freshness. The couple of fish more visible seemed okay with just the beginning of clouding in the eye and ever so slight rippling of the skin. I chose a rockfish/bass that looked freshest and asked for it to be fried since the Post had really highlighted the corn flour coating. I also ordered some cornbread and sides of collard greens and mac & cheese. All these things were served in generous, larger-than-average portions. All were also served in styrofoam which confused me a bit since they made it a point to ask whether to stay or go. Guess if I'd said to go I'd have gotten a bag?

Everything was a solid OK or meh for me.

The corn breading was a bit thick and not especially redolent of the corn or any seasonings. The fish itself was fine but nothing for which I'd drive across town. Mac & Cheese? Same. Fine and fresh but a bit greasy and bland. The collards were decent.

The few other customers I saw all got a chuckle out of acknoledging we'd all seen the Post piece that day. Two of them, who stayed to eat as I did, had fried shrimp. They had a similar reaction to me.

All that aside, while I won't be a regular here, I did enjoy the experience and might stop again if I had to be in the area and was craving fish. It's a place with some history and reminiscent of thousands of old style lunch counters and small, non-chain, metro lunch bucket spots that exist(ed) in most American cities.It's not great but nor is it bad. It's honest food. It's not meaningful to compare this with other seafood places in the area. And, tough to really criticize a spot that knows its market and has sustained itself longer than most restaurants have and longer than dr.com has existed. For my part, I'm glad it's here. I respect it.

A final tip: if I make it back here again, I'll be ordering my fish broiled and might suggest others do the same if the fish looks especially fresh.

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This place has been under the radar for many years - I have lived a few blocks away for years and did not go in until late last year. As soon as I did, I knew it was only a matter of time before it was "discovered."

I have only gone in the evening and have found it not too crowded but always well stocked. The owner is quite the salesman and always friendly. I can say without hyperbole that the crabcakes are some of the best I have ever had. So good, in fact, that I rarely get anything else. The mango sauce is also quite good - I tend to save any leftovers to put on sandwiches the next day. I've also had fried oysters and most of the sides, which are all solid and taste like homemade. But seriously, get the crab cakes!

I hope that the new interest in this place will help them survive the influx of new hipster restaurants and bars that must be driving up rents along that stretch of Georgia.

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Man, this place is a gem that I should have tried eons ago. What's especially great about the fried fish is that the (very clean, simple) batter doesn't overwhelm it -- it's all about the freshness of the fish (catfish in this case, although I hope to try other options on future visits). And yes, the mango sauce is a must.

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Fried shrimp, clams (fried in the shell!) and chicken wings were all fresh and nicely cooked.  Everything is very simply done...this isn't food to blow you away, but for what it is it's a great little place (though the fries suck).  It's nice to be able to choose your meal from the pretty wide variety of fish they've got in the cooler.  The owner is super nice and fun to talk to while you wait.

Special kudos to Mr. White for realizing a seemingly simple fact of physics that for some unknown reason eludes the vast majority of other restaurant owners out there -- steam is the enemy of fried foods.  The instant I saw the holes poked in my Styrofoam takeaway containers he rose a couple notches in my book.  I'll be back.

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On 1/16/2015 at 10:57 AM, DonRocks said:

I still prefer the name "Fish In The Hood" to the new name.

But not for the reason you think - there's a game Matt used to play as a small child called "Fishin' Around" (a word play on "Fish In A Round," in case you hadn't thought about that), and it reminds me of the game.

Does anyone know when they changed back from "Fish in the Neighborhood" to the original "Fish in the Hood?" I think the cave-in to gentrification was awful.

We know about the 2017 fire, but people may not know there's still an active GoFundMe page:

Screenshot 2018-03-06 at 11.10.28.png

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