It was a happy accident I will explain later, but walking into Lexington’s Smithtown Seafood for the first time was like walking into a New York deli — but with way more fish. The narrow space featured a short-order-style counter with hanging menus and a cashier station, with furious fry cooks busting their butts in the background.
The smells were incredible, and the sheer magnitude of our menu options had my girlfriend Cynthia and I overwhelmed instantly. But in a good way.
We had spent some time at Blue Stallion Brewing and had gotten hungry. We discussed waiting on a promised food truck to arrive, but finally decided to head to West Sixth Brewing and the adjacent Smithtown to give it a try (and give our bellies a reprieve from the hunger pangs). Like I said — happy accident. I’m sure the food truck would have been tasty, but I had not tried Smithtown in my previous visit to West Sixth, and now I wish I had.
Anyway, for a place so small, it has quite a harrowing selection, and since it is a farm-to-table establishment that sources locally as much as possible, the selections can be ever-changing. For instance, I ordered fried flounder only to learn that cod was that day’s replacement. Luckily, I’m cool with cod.
But the selections run to shrimp, oysters and catfish, all served in myriad ways with various breads, sides and sauces. There is always a fish of the day selection. There are the “Jack Crab” cakes, fish tacos, pupusas, fish nachos, salads and beer cheese. You can even get a burger or a hot dog, such as the delicious sounding Beer Slaw Dog, featuring a Kentucky Proud Marksbury Farm dog with Wallace Station bourbon mustard, West Sixth beer slaw, West Sixth Smithtown Brown beer cheese and pickled onions. Just $7.95, and that’s with hand-cut fries.
Meanwhile, sides range from coleslaw to veggie of the day to carrots tangier and barley tabbouleh. Heck, you can even choose from three varieties of African-style whole tilapia. Yeah, that’s right, you can even get tilapia face at Smithtown.
We weren’t hungry enough to eat a whole fish or even its face, but we were still plenty hungry. Cynthia went for the Weisenberger Mill Southern-style, cornmeal-rolled shrimp. For me, it was beer-battered cod. We both got sides of the fries and the beer slaw. Goodness befell us.
Cynthia’s dinner consisted of six large shrimp that were tender, fresh and just generally impressive. The fries were classic skin-on goodness and plentiful. My cod was a 2-inch-thick brick of white, firm, flaky fish that I could barely get enough of, especially when paired with the creamy homemade coleslaw. Honestly, it was kind of perfect in a way, and the fish married perfectly with my Bogan’s Walkabout ISA as we enjoyed our meals at the West Sixth bar (the Smithtown folks will bring your food to you).
We each also got a pair of golf-ball-sized hush puppies that went beautifully with the horseradish cocktail sauce. But the beer slaw is really the must-try here. Fresh shredded cabbage, carrots and capers are crispy and flavorful, with a big vinegar flavor and a lingering sour quality. The first bite is “What the?” — but soon it becomes addictive. I’ll take this over the goopy canned stuff most fish places serve.
“I want this on a hot dog,” Cynthia announced. Yeah, too late to turn back now.
Anyway, what began as an intentional accident of sorts may turn into next weekend’s road trip. Hey, Lexington is only a little over an hour away, and who knows what we might stumble upon next time? Of course, we all know the first thing will be that Beer Slaw Dog at Smithtown.