950 Geary Street/Polk,
hearing at our table
it's nice to sit in one place for a pre-trial hearing and meal. Edinburgh
Castle offers this luxury. The Castle has long been one of my favorite
bars, and when I discovered their fish and chips I was even more enamored.
Technically, they aren't their fish and chips, but those of Old Chelsea,
a tiny grimy place around the corner. The exact terms of their agreement
are unknown, but I know the Castle waitress places a call and some time
later an Old Chelsea employee comes through the back way, arms loaded
with newspaper-wrapped meals.
the three-piece ($7.25), the largest order you can get. That's three fried
pieces of fish atop a pile of "chips," or thick, slightly soggy french
fries. Having never been to, say, England, I don't know what a proper
batch of fish and chips should be, but this is what I envision. These
soft, thick fries seem right, especially for absorbing the requisite malt
vinegar. The fish came out of the newspaper piping hot and plentiful and
fresh -- at least the first two pieces. I grew despondent when chewing
through the third, which featured a whole lot of breading encasing a distinct
lack of fish. From the outside it looked just like the other two! Was
I the victim of the old bait and switch? Apparently. But I'm calling it
a fluke (which is also a kind of fish, otherwise known as summer flounder),
because on several previous occasions my fish has all been there.
of that, I heartily endorse this classic Tenderloin pub. Particularly
before a show at the Great American Music Hall around the corner. Stop
in for a beer or two and some fried nourishment before a big night of
rock and roll. Or for no reason at all.
Another trip to (just
off) Polk Street found us dining on simple fare done right, just like
Bob, your uncle, used to fry up. Old Chelsea is on Larkin just half an
alley away from the Castle, and features a limited menu (fish, prawns,
oysters, scallops, fries, mushrooms, zucchini and onion rings, hmm, maybe
that is enough). You order from the cocktail waitress at the EC and are
served the fresh hot fried fish you've been looking for, right there in
I don't know enough
about fish and chips to call Old Chelsea traditional, but from my experience
living across the pond I'd say it's authentic, fresh fried and wrapped
in newspaper. The fish is flaky and after a bit of batter and some frying
they come up with that perfect texture, nice and crunchy, not too heavy.
The chips are greasy and just waiting to be drenched in vinegar.
The portions are touch
and go, snack vs. meal, depending on the appetite you bring. You can order
1-3 piece combos ($4 - $7.25). I had the 2 piecer and it did me justice
that night. The atmosphere at the Edinburgh Castle is great: a mix of
homey/cozy warm friendliness, lots of wood, lots of booths and large open
hall, big space with pool and pinball in the back, and more places to
hang up stairs.
If you're looking
for a good time, the Castle boasts "San Francisco's #1 alternative venue"
and a wonderful fish-n-chip meal. Pop on in and enjoy.
There used to be a
parrot that lived at the end of the bar at Edinburgh Castle, and I, for
one, have no idea what happened to it. It's gone.
But pretty much everything
else seems to remain from the old days, which keeps the E-Castle one of
the finest pubs you are likely to find in this town. Or Glasgow, for that
matter. It's like stepping back in time! To an ancient Scottish ale house,
to hoist tankards with Rob Roy, or Mel Gibson with blue paint on his face!
Or maybe that was one of the colorful Tenderloin denizens of the night.
Anyway, it's a great
pub with a dark, wooden, old-timey atmosphere, featuring Scottish trappings
such as tabors attached to the walls. A full bar stocked with all manner
of libations will wet your whistle until you grow peckish. That's where
Old Chelsea comes in. Through a symbiotic relationship, newspaper bundles
full of greasy goodness are shuttled into the Castle for your consumption.
I guess you could get the fish and chips directly from Old Chelsea (somewhere
around there), but I'm pretty sure the atmosphere pales in comparison,
and I doubt you'll find the live music and other cultural events being
performed in the kitchen.
I can't say I've had
much better fish and chips. Nice crunchy batter on the moist, tender flaky
fish, and solid logs of fried potatoes to douse with malt vinegar and
salt. I douse it all with vinegar and salt, myself, but you could choose
from some other condiments, like catsup! But that would be wrong. There's
not much else to say about fish and chips. I mean, I don't know what kind
of fish it was (cod? haddock?) but it was white, flaky, and tasted pretty
fresh to me. And yes, the chips are limp and kind of soggy, but somehow
that seems right with this kind of dining. I'd guess they were freshly
cut, too. I'd recommend getting the two-piece order instead of going the
gluttony route Judge Vardigan and I did. We both got one kind of wimpy
fish piece while paying two bucks more for the honor. Coincidence? Perhaps.
But really the two-piecer should satisfy most folks, especially with a
couple Sierra Nevadas in your belly. Oh, and if you want scallops or oysters
or prawns, you'll find those on the menu as well.
Edinburgh Castle really
is a prized SF institution, and anyone who enjoys a pint with some tasty
fish and chips now and then should definitely get in there as soon as