Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Naked Fish Market

When I decided to write about restaurant experiences for the benefit of anyone who feels like reading this stuff I started with only three rules:
1. If I was going to name the place I would always say something good. In a few restaurants where this was not possible I have told the manager/owner in person and left it at that.
2. Never write about a friend's restaurant.
3. Never write about a restaurant in my own backyard.

Today I break rules #2 and #3 to rave about The Naked Fish Market in Kingsville, Ontario on the shores of Lake Erie in beautiful Essex County. My friend Rob Taylor owns this little fish and chip shop. Rob and I go back 12 or more years in the restaurant business, and I have always appreciated two things about Rob - his creativity and his commitment to quality. That pretty much describes TNFM.

The menu gives choices of several types of fish combos and other great appetizer and entree offerings (like Pulled Pork). I especially like the self-serve ice cream bar - buy your cone or cup and fill it as high as you want, one trip only. Rob says that's pretty popular with the kids from Kingsville High.

The ambience is cool, with just enough "naked" references to make it fun without being scandalous. You can buy an "Eat Naked" t-shirt for $10, or trade in the one you're wearing and pay nothing. Rob always has a way of taking something ordinary and putting a fun twist to it.

The place is small, busy, trendy, fun and fantastic. Rob is friendly and welcoming and putting everything he's learned from Red Lobster to Applebees and countless other smaller non-chain restaurants over the last decade into making this place work. He's clearly learned what doesn't work and left it out of TNFM. Working in the restaurant business can introduce you to some really amazing people and some pretty unsavoury characters too. Rob has his own story to tell about how he became the accidental entrepreneur after years of sweating it out in other people's kitchens, but I'll summarize for him. When life handed him lemons, he cut them into slices and served them with fish. I had the breaded fish and french fries and my wife had the battered haddock and fries. Both came with coleslaw. You can choose the number of pieces you want in a dinner and the price is reasonable. The fries are fresh!!

It works. It's cool. Sure, it's deep fried trans-fat free so I won't be eating there often. But as the most interesting man in the world from those beer commercials might say, "I don't always eat fish and chips, but when I do, I eat Naked."

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