A couple of weeks ago we met up with our restaurant buddy, G, and his partner (the business kind, not the life kind), W, for dinner. We were in the mood for something casual and decided to go to Laurent Tourondel’s Fish Shack of the BLT empire, which had G’s stamp of approval from a previous visit. I went in a bit skeptical after having been disappointed by the genre of cheaper sister restaurants before. However, I am happy to report that the food, service, and ambiance were all wonderful at the sister restaurant of BLT Fish.

I was the last of our four to arrive and after being greeted by a smiling host and hostess, found the others drinking at the bar. I hopped onto a bar stool and contemplated which glass of wine to order. The range and selection of by the glass wines was really good and after internally debating between the Sancerre and Chablis, I went with the Chablis. After ordering, I joined the conversation but admittedly did more looking around at the space than listening (I hate joining a convo in the middle!).

The restaurant is quite small and dressed up like a casual seafood joint that might be found in Nanutcket. I think that the moniker ‘shack’ is a bit of an understatement though. After all, the napkins are still cloth and the raw bar looked pristine – nothing like the fittingly ravaged raw bars you’re likely to encounter seaside.

Instead of peanuts and pretzels, the bar offers delicious salt and vinegar chips — those alone were almost worth the trip. After Jason managed to pry me away from them, we were seated and were offered more free food!

Warm sesame crusted bread smothered in garlic and butter…need I say more? You could get your fill here for the price of a Guinness on tap. Alas, man (and woman, at least this one) cannot survive on bread and salt and vinegar chips alone. So we continue on our culinary journey.

Despite his initial desire to relive his youth and order the fish sticks from the children’s menu, Jason, along with our non-bottom feeder eating friend G, ordered the fish and chips. I, on the other hand, could eat bottom feeders all day. Give me a platter of oysters and clams and I’m as happy as a pig in…well, I won’t say what but you get my point.

Imagine my elation upon seeing that the special on Wednesdays is ‘all you can eat mussels.’ With a choice of TWO broths! W was also happy with this special and ordered his with the inventive beer broth with caramelized onions and bacon. I quickly followed suit.

But wait. Would I hate the beer broth? Would I have to finish the entire thing before switching over to the more traditional white wine broth even if I hated it? W was generous enough to put me out of my equivocal state by changing his order and saying we could go halfsies. Or maybe he was saving our waiter from having to wait any longer while I tried to make up my mind.

As it turns out, my indecisiveness worked out in the end because I liked the beer broth more and he preferred the white wine. I think I would have also preferred the traditional one had it not been too salty for my liking.

The waiter said the mussels were PEIs but I have seen that designation on menus all over the place from nice restaurants to sports bars so even though it should, ‘PEI’ does not imply quality to me. The fat, sweet, briney mussels spoke for themselves though. They were some of the highest quality that I have had in the city and I will definitely return for them.

Jason also sang praises for his fish and chips. I only had a tiny forkful but the fish was fried well and reminded me of a lighter version than those found in some pubs in London which have beer batter that is much too thick and soggy inside.

A debate sparked when W said that the only complaint he had with his meal was the fries served with all of our entrees. They were the shoestring type fries that are thin and crispy versus the thicker style steak fry. G and Jason disagreed with him and said the fries were perfect, but I am in the same boat as W. Give me a hearty fry any day I say!

One and a half bowl of mussels and half a basket of fries later, I could not justify ordering one of the cupcakes that were under glass domes by the raw bar no matter how good they looked. So you sweet junkes will have to wait for my next trip for a dessert review.

Despite the fry disagreement, we all agreed that our meal got a big thumbs up.

I propose a group french fry tour around Manhattan to settle the thin versus thick debate. We would have to walk to offset the guilt I would have after eating though. Who’s with me!?

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