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ulrath

ABC Canteen - The Washington DC Area's Best Fish and Chips and Tacos with Fresh Tortillas in the Former Arthur Treacher's Space in Fairfax Circle - Closed

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I will accept your thanks in advance as I am now full and can't breath.  I caught wind of this place on the cesspool that is Fairfax Underground and decided to check it out on my way back from DC today.

The old Fairfax institution Arthur Treacher''s has gone the way of the dinosaur.  Gone are the days of frozen deep fried fish and chips.  Instead lets say hello to the days of fresh deep fried fish and chips.  I showed up at 1 this afternoon and there were about 5 tables filled.  Since this was a scouting mission, I jumped on the grenade and over-ordered.  See the things I do for this community?

Fish and Chips - Fries - a solid 6, but nothing special.  The fish.  A solid 8 +.  Light batter and the fish was fresh and firm (that's what she said...)  They use Cod.  Tarter Sauce is homemade and good.

Hushpuppies - two gripes - they should throw a couple of these in an order of fish and chips.  Also, these would be better with some kind of butter or honey butter which was not offered.  Regardless, I got the appetizer and they were actually good.  Crispy, fluffy and not greasy.

Of course, they sell tacos so I got two of those.  Come on.  I dare you to name a single fish and chips joint that does not also sell authentic mexican street tacos....  Anyways, I had the Carnitas and Barbacoa.  Both were actually very good and the fresh tortillas were nice as well. The Carnitas had a good flavor and were not dry.  The Barbacoa was spicy and tender.  They also do chicken, chorizo and fish.

Now I am full thanks to you guys.  I would write more but I am going to hit the treadmill to see if I can regain some of my self esteem.  In the meantime, if you are in the area and need a cheap lunch - skip Chipotle and check them out.  When I go back, I don't know what I will get because everything I ordered was a standout.

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Thanks to ulrath's post, I stopped by for lunch today. Since I thought my wife would like me to bring lunch home, I ordered enough for two. As it turns out, she wasn't going to be home, so I ordered way too much food, but got to sample a variety of items.

I'd rate the fish at least a 9, particularly since this is a fast casual (I don't really like that term) restaurant. The fish was perfectly cooked, fresh, and quite delicious. The fries were cooked properly, but unremarkable.

Coincidentally, I ordered a barbacoa taco and a carnitas taco. Both were ample portions, and I agree that the fresh corn tortillas were tasty.

I also ordered a chicken mole tamale, which was obviously house made. It could have used a bit more seasoning, but it was also satisfying.

The lady running the register was incredibly friendly and helpful, and the restaurant was very clean and modern looking inside. Great to see a promising new spot in the area.

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Please note this message on their website:

Please do not buy any gift cards for ABC Canteen from any website.  

We have not issued any gift cards and we are not working with any websites on sales of gift cards for ABC Canteen  

We have seen offers of fraudulent gift cards for our restaurant and we have no idea who these companies are.  

We cannot and will not honor these fraudulent gift cards.

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I would've never stepped foot in ABC Canteen. Thanks to the reviews, I'm looking forward to checking them out!

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My daughter and I stopped by ABC Canteen for dinner last week after a not-as-bad-as-I-thought-it-would-be orientation session at college.  It was during one of the many recent downpours we've been experiencing, so I expected the place to be slow.  We found it completely empty at 6:30PM!  With some trepidation, we decided to go in and order anyway.  It was a great decision.  We over ordered and brought home stuff to reheat the next day.

The owner (I think) talked to us a bit and told us he had been opened for about three months. He also told us that the tortilla are hand made with every taco order, which meant I had to order them.  The salsa bar was right next to the register and had a nice selection.  In addition to great salsa fresca, they had several different heat level salsas as well as cilantro, lime and some other toppings.

Here's what we got:

Fish and Chips.  As mentioned above, the fish is outstanding, but the fries are nothing special.  You can just order fish by the piece, which I might do next time we go.

Fish Taco.  Wonderful fish and a good tortilla..  I moved here from SoCal, so I'm used to getting cabbage and a white sauce on the taco.  This one comes completely plain and there is a salsa bar to dress it yourself.  Still would have liked some cabbage though.

Carnitas Taco.  Very moist and tasty pork with a good tortilla.  Once again it was served plain and you dress it at the salsa bar.

Tamale - Pork with green sauce.  This was my least favorite item, but it was still one of the better tamales I've had in this area.  The pork was good but the masa was a little dry and I couldn't find any evidence of a green sauce.  I grabbed hot salsa from the salsa bar to doctor it up, but it was actually too hot for me!  I'm a ghost pepper kinda gal, so that is saying a lot.

Hushpuppies.  They were good, about 10 large ones in the order.  As mentioned above, they were fluffy and not greasy at all, but some type of a honey butter would have been a welcomed addition.

Flautas.  This one I didn't get to try.  We got them to go and they came in a large container covered with lettuce, sour cream, and salsa.  My daughter heated them up the next day and said they were good.  Not as good as the rolled tacos we got almost every day in Cali the beginning of July, but she said she would order them again.

Overall, my daughter and I really like this place and are planning a return visit.  I hope business starts to pick up for them soon and they stay around.  We can really use more places like this in this part of Fairfax County.

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My wife and I had the pleasure of eating lunch here yesterday. The summary is - we'll be back! She had the flautas app as a meal, and it was. It's essentially a big salad with five flautas underneath. She enjoyed it; I'm glad it wasn't my meal, but it wasn't bad. Thankfully, as mentioned above, there are a selection of salsas, jalapeí±o, radish, and pico de gallo at the bar. I had the three taco combo - chicken (marinated thigh), chorizo and carnitas. There were all terrific, with a tasty tortilla. My faves were the chicken and chorizo, both of which were very flavorful.

The hush puppies took me back to South Carolina. I've been looking for puppies like these for a long time. Light texture, strong corn flavor, great crunch, not too greasy but just right. Personally, no condiments were needed or desired for my tastes, but I've always preferred plain puppies.

I think their new sign arrived as we were leaving, so the sketchiness factor will be seriously diminished. The place is spotless inside and they have 2-3 outdoor tables, too. It must've taken them days of cleaning to scrape the scunge that covered the floor, walls and ceiling when Authur Treacher's lived here. The gentleman (seemed like an owner/manager) at the register was terrific. There was a group of ladies gathering for a birthday get-together who walked in singing "we're baaaack". I can see why.

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Went back for a return visit.  The owner took my order and asked how I learned about the place.  I said I had been here before and liked it so much I left a review about it.  When I told him where he started quoting my review at the top of the thread.  That was pretty cool.

The fish was still great.  The tacos were still great.  The fries were different from last time.  This time they were shoestring potatoes more reminiscent of McDonalds (Back when the fries were good).  A nice improvement.  If you have not been here yet, you are missing out.

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I will give this place a try this weekend.  Too bad I didn't read it earlier, I was in the vicinity and would have swung by to pick up a tamale.  I am a big fan of Guatemalan tamales, since mcbriden says they are dry I assume not Guatemalan, but never had a chicken mole tamale before.

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The owner and I actually talked about the tamales.  He does them in small batches and when they are out, they are out.  He and I both agree that most tamales served in restaurants just are not very good.  I almost bought one on the spot to try it out but I couldn't even finish the fish and chips.  

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Are the puppies white or yellow? I mean, I'm going to make a visit regardless, but I do crave some nice white puppies. My understanding is that there isn't much, if any, difference between white and yellow corn meal, yet I always prefer the taste of white puppies. Maybe it's psychological or maybe it's just a coincidence that white ones tend to include other ingredients that I prefer.

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You guys are the greatest! I can still give restaurant recommendations to my coworkers from almost 3,000 miles away. My husband will be so sad to hear that decent hush puppies have come to town and he can't have them, but it's nice to know that our friends will get to eat them! 

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Are the puppies white or yellow? I mean, I'm going to make a visit regardless, but I do crave some nice white puppies. My understanding is that there isn't much, if any, difference between white and yellow corn meal, yet I always prefer the taste of white puppies. Maybe it's psychological or maybe it's just a coincidence that white ones tend to include other ingredients that I prefer.

White hush puppies?!?! What the hell kind of abomination is this?!?! Never in my years of growing up in the Carolinas, mostly South, did I ever come across a white frikkin' hush puppy! I. Just. Can't. Even.

Sorry, I can be reasonable now that the bile is out. They're yellow hush puppies...as they damn well should be! ;-)

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I think their new sign arrived as we were leaving, so the sketchiness factor will be seriously diminished.

At least as of a week and a half ago, the new sign wasn't up, yet. The truck I saw was removing the Arthur Treacher's lantern from the signpost.

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White hush puppies?!?! What the hell kind of abomination is this?!?! Never in my years of growing up in the Carolinas, mostly South, did I ever come across a white frikkin' hush puppy! I. Just. Can't. Even.

Sorry, I can be reasonable now that the bile is out. They're yellow hush puppies...as they damn well should be! ;-)

Most of my extended family is in middle TN and I grew up eating white hush puppies when I visited. My 2 minutes of Google research today led me to believe that white is a southern thing and yellow is what the rest of the country does, so a bit surprised to hear your NC roots gave you the yellow experience. I guess that's just how you were raised. You can overcome!

I will hopefully find out this week if I approve of ABC's yellow puppies.

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Went back for a return visit.  The owner took my order and asked how I learned about the place.  I said I had been here before and liked it so much I left a review about it.  When I told him where he started quoting my review at the top of the thread.  That was pretty cool.

The fish was still great.  The tacos were still great.  The fries were different from last time.  This time they were shoestring potatoes more reminiscent of McDonalds (Back when the fries were good).  A nice improvement.  If you have not been here yet, you are missing out.

You all are getting the attention of ABC Canteen.

To the owners: I hope you'll come join our little band of culinary mavericks - we're a friendly, educated bunch that respects both restaurants and each other. Having you here would be a plus-plus-plus for us, for you, and for our readership.

Honestly, when I read your tweet, I felt like a proud parent, even though this is hardly a parent-child relationship - we're all equals here. It would be wonderful to have access to you here in case someone has questions about what they should order (okay, okay, I'm being selfish - *I* would love your opinion of the menu items you're most proud of). :)

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The hush puppies are yellow because we use self rising corn meal and I've only been able to find it in a yellow cornmeal.  We could make it ourselves with white cornmeal, but I just don't have the brain cells or the patience to try to calculate the correct  portions  for baking powder and salt.  The recipes online did not work well.  I truly believe that cooking is an art and baking is a science.

I'm happy to hear you are enjoying the hush puppies regardless of their color.

If anyone have a recipe for self rising white cornmeal, I would love to try it.

Be well and Enjoy!

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I enjoyed these lightly yellow beauties today and took a pic to let you all choose whether they're yellow or white. From the boss, I hear they're yellow...and they're delicious! No ketchup. No honey butter. Perfectly salted. Perfectly GBD. Oh, and the tamales are fantastic!

post-6926-0-04547400-1440728513_thumb.jp

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On DrXmus's recommendation, my wife and I stopped in to ABC Canteen for lunch today.  Our experience was consistent with what others have posted, including talking to the owner about the tortillas and tamales (and this board).

We each went for the three taco combination, each getting the fish and carnitas.  Both very good, the pork tender and flavorful and the fish really nicely fried (although like noted above I wouldn't have minded some cabbage on it).  I really enjoyed my chorizo taco, with good spice even without any toppings.  My wife enjoyed the barbacoa taco but found it a little stringy.  The tortillas were very good on all, light but strong enough to hold all of the fillings, even when moistened with sauce.

We're not really fans of hush puppies but had to get an order, based on the buzz here.  They were very tasty, not at all greasy.  They're really filling when combined with three tacos, though, so I may have to pass on them in the future.

Overall a very nice find and worth the trip.  Thanks DrXmus and others who have posted.

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Say hi next time.  My sister and I stopped in for lunch today, too.  She got the fish & chips, and I got the three taco combo, fish/chorizo/barbacoa, and then we split an order of hush puppies. these are the best hush puppies I ever remember eating.  Very light and fluffy inside and wonderfully crisp & crunchy outside.  Agree with jpbloom that a little cabbage or coleslaw on the fish taco would be a nice addition.  The salsas from the taco bar were all nice and fresh.  I'm not one for super-hot chili levels, but the barbacoa definitely needs the hottest of the sauces available to set it off.  It's a wonderful deep rich flavor on it's own but the heat would be a good counterpoint.  Chorizo was good but I have to admit to being spoiled to Stachowski's chorizo so anyone else's recipe doesn't seem right to my taste buds. The fish and chips were both well fried but the french fries are pretty basic.  Going back, if I wanted the fish and not tacos, I'd make an a la carte plate of fish, hush puppies and cole slaw and leave the french fries out of the equation.  Obviously a proud owner, deservedly, and very welcoming place.

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Went with the family Friday night. Overall impressions are definitely a thumbs up and we all discussed that we'll go back. Affordability is big to me right now and ABC Canteen is right on target there. My family of 5 could have got out of there for $30 but we wanted to add on some appetizers and sides and pushed it up to $40. Great value! And, like others have reported, the owner (my assumption) takes the time explain what they do and seems very kind.

I got the fish and chips and agree with others here. The right amount of batter and fried lightly golden brown. Fries definitely reminded me of McDonalds but with probably half the salt. Wife ordered a chicken mole tamale and a pork tamale and really enjoyed them both. I've never been a fan of the dough on tamales, so I just tried a bit of the filling and both were really good. We also added some chips to her order and tried all salsas. Chips came out hot, but I can't say that the "hot, hot" salsa was hot. I didn't really detect much heat in any of the salsas.

Hushpuppies! Based on the pics above and what I ate, I probably would have called them "white" but there's definitely a hint of yellow and the owner says they use yellow corn meal so I'll now say they're "yellow". The important thing is that they're good. Just the right amount of sweetness and not too cornmealy for my tastes. And you get a lot for the $ which is great when taking out a family on a budget. Just a couple weeks ago, we were in Yorktown, VA, and a side of 2 hushpuppies was $3.50. Here, you get about 8-10 (I didn't count) for $2.50. Maybe the ones in Yorktown would have been significantly bigger, but still. I'm not sure if I'll ever go here and NOT order a side of puppies.

Kids ordered off the kids meal. The 8 year old is picky about his mac n cheese and decided to not take any chances and went with the quesadilla. He can also be picky about his quesadillas (apparently Chipotle uses too much cheese, some places the wrong cheese, etc.) but raved about this one. The other two kids (10 and 12) ordered the chicken tenders. The 10 year old said it was really good and the 12 year old said "Eh". The 12 year old probably needs to be ordering from the rest of the menu. I'll steer her towards some tacos next time. I'll stress again here the affordability. Kids meals are either $4.25 or $4.75 and include fries, drink, and a surprise dessert (we got oreos...interesting). Now, the kids meals aren't exactly high quality. The chicken tenders were likely frozen, but I'm ok with that as long as the price matches, which it does. Some places will charge you a few dollars more for a kids meal and serve the same frozen tenders and not include a drink or dessert. So, I consider this a win on the kids meal front.

We also added some cheese fries for the kids. Nothing special. Could have used more cheese. Oh, and they have birch beer which is cool.

Saw a few other people there who ordered tacos and they looked really good. That's likely what I'll order next time...with a side of hushpuppies.

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This sounds like a place my husband and I would enjoy, and it's so close to us! Are there enough items on the menu that are not deep-fried for a gluten-free eater like me to try? If not, I might just guide my husband there to try the fish and chips, a dish he loves. My sensitivity to gluten means that anything fried in the same fryers that have been used for items with wheat flour batter or coating would make me sick. So even if there's a dedicated fryer for non-wheat items, if it remains from the Arthur Treacher days, I couldn't chance it. OTOH, the tacos and tamales sound very tempting to me.

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There are the tacos and tamales, and there are 4-5 salads on the menu.  It's probably worth a call ahead, but I think you should be able to put together a meal or two that fits your needs .   

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This sounds like a place my husband and I would enjoy, and it's so close to us! Are there enough items on the menu that are not deep-fried for a gluten-free eater like me to try?.

Tacos, tamales, quesadilla (I guess that may be a flour tortilla, but I bet they could do something), Mexicali meal (haven had it yet, but sounds like a burrito in a bowl), steak sandwich (without bread), et al. Don't sit near me, though, because I'll showers you with gluten-laden hushpuppies crumbs as I plow through my meal!

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Hello ScotteeM,

If you send me an email, @ abccanteen1@gmail, I'll email you a copy of our menu.  There is an asterisk to denote gluten free items.  You'll need to also avoid the fries, chicken flautas, and tortilla chips because though gluten free, they are fried.  Tacos and Tamales are all made with corn masa in a gluten free work space.  All the toppings for the taco bar are made in house and gluten free.

Please let me know if I may be of service.

Wes

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Hello ScotteeM,

If you send me an email, @ abccanteen1@gmail, I'll email you a copy of our menu.  There is an asterisk to denote gluten free items.  You'll need to also avoid the fries, chicken flautas, and tortilla chips because though gluten free, they are fried.  Tacos and Tamales are all made with corn masa in a gluten free work space.  All the toppings for the taco bar are made in house and gluten free.

Please let me know if I may be of service.

Wes

Wes, can you post it here? If not, email it to me and I will.

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