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June 26, 2013

Taste Bud: Not quite a fishburger

No one likes a fish sandwich more than my dad. Growing up in Southern Indiana, we were frequent carry-out patrons of Clarksville Seafood. And had I known what a tasty fish sandwich Home Run Burgers has on its menu, I’d have taken him there for Father’s Day. (Sorry, Dad, maybe next year.)

The thought of fish-meets-burger is confusing, though, isn’t it? Truly, is there anything less intuitive than ordering a fish sandwich at a burger joint? All that conjures up for me are images of the processed fish squares at McDonald’s, those tasteless globs that look like they could be cooked in a toaster, like fish-flavored Pop-Tarts.

(Pardon me. I just wretched a little at the thought of fish-flavored Pop-Tarts.)

Sorry. Now, where were we? Oh yes, the Home Run Burgers fish sandwich. Here’s the thing: After a buddy tipped me off to how good this fish sandwich is, I consulted Google and quickly learned that Home Run Burgers founder Bob Kiper is the same guy who started the Hungry Pelican chain many years ago. Before that, he worked a number of years at the now-defunct Louisville mainstay known as Cape Codders.

And the aforementioned Clarksville Seafood is a direct descendant of Cape Codders, having once been a franchise of sorts. See the connections there? Makes it far less surprising that Home Run Burgers has a delicious fish sandwich, eh?

Anyway, I took my friend’s sage advice and, against every fiber of my being, ordered a fish sandwich in a place that actually has the word “burger” in the name. It felt like ordering a chef salad in a steakhouse, for crying out loud.

The $5.99 lunch special netted me a single-piece of fried Atlantic cod on a bun (white or wheat) and a side of hand-cut french fries or coleslaw. I waited, enjoying the baseball-themed décor and random calls of “Batter up!” from the staff (which apparently is akin to “Order up!” in other establishments), still pondering what demon inside me equated fish with Pop-Tarts.

When my food arrived, I immediately noticed that my hand-battered (seriously, there are photos of the cod being hand-battered on Facebook, so it’s not just meaningless restaurant-speak) slab of fish had been deep-fried crispy and brown — a great first sign. I knew the fries would be delicious, so I paid immediate attention to the sandwich: a healthy-sized piece of cod on a lightly toasted bun smeared with an ample amount of homemade tartar sauce, complete with big green chunks of pickle relish. So far, so good.

I squeezed a bit of lemon onto the other side of the fish (I know those lemons at the drink station were meant for iced tea, but I decided to improvise), replaced the bun, and then took my first bite. Score. The fish was flaky, moist and flavorful, just like the stuff my dad used to feed me from Clarksville Seafood.

So, is the recipe a descendant from Kiper’s days working at Cape Codder as a teenager? Partly. I queried Kiper’s daughter and Home Run Burgers co-owner Kathy Scannell on Facebook, as well as sending a general inquiry to the Home Run Burgers Facebook page. Here was the response:

“Yes, the way we do the fish sandwich is from Mr. Kiper’s days at Cape Codder/Hungry Pelican.”

Hmm. Is it a blend of the two? Or were they essentially the same? Either way, I’m a fan of the sandwich. And if you get the large size, that’s two hunks of fish and not just one. Sort of like a double fishburger, but not quite. If you order it, bring your appetite.

Meanwhile, I’m going to try to get the thought of a fish-flavored Pop-Tart out of my head. I don’t know why I do this to myself.

I’m curious to find out

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