At the Table: Schenectady’s Off the Hook Fish Fry a reel treat for fried feast

Fried shrimp dinner from Off the Hook Fish Fry. (Caroline Lee)

Fried shrimp dinner from Off the Hook Fish Fry. (Caroline Lee)

SpongeBob SquarePants would not feel out of place at Off the Hook Fish Fry on Union Street in Schenectady.

The marine-blue walls, anchors, ship’s wheels and other bits of nautical decor liven up the tidy strip-mall space. Though they don’t offer Krabby Patties, there are lots of other things on the menu to please our porous pal.

Off the Hook offers fried seafood such as shrimp, clams, scallops and fish as dinners (with coleslaw, french fries and cornbread) or as rolls; add sides like mac and cheese and baked beans. All the best fried stuff is here: calamari, mozzarella sticks, mushrooms. You can get a burger for the amazing low price of $4, add small fries for $2.50 and you might as well drive right past the burger chain. A beer-battered fish fry is $5.50; homemade New England clam chowder is $6 for a large serving.

Off the Hook opened in May of 2019. They have in-store dining, takeout, delivery ($25 minimum) and curbside service.

“Something smells delicious,” Eric said as I arranged the neatly packed bags on the back seat of the car. And they did, all the way home.

The fried stuff is a nice change of pace, especially when it’s done well. We haven’t had real french fries since last summer, and the ones at Off the Hook were worthy of breaking the fast: thick sticks of well-cooked and salted potatoes, just a little browned and dusted with spices.

Once home, I transferred the neatly arranged dinner trays onto baking sheets and heated the oven to 400 degrees — and learned that the temperature needed to bring the fries back to glorious crispness was a bit too hot for the onion rings and scallops.

Off the Hook gets points for carefully arranged takeout platters. The scallops were arranged just so, the onion rings alongside, from largest to smallest.

We headed to the living room and had a drink in front of the fire, then sat down to our fried feast.

Eric had a small cup of New England clam chowder ($3.25) to start. I’d tasted nutmeg and saw the thyme leaves as I transferred the soup into a bowl. “It’s a bit salty in a good way and quite creamy,” he reported. “The clams are fairly tender and there are lots of small pieces, a very generous amount,” he added. It had a bit of heat, which he approved of, as well as bacon and potatoes. He called it “delicious.”

I’d been stealthily taking french fries from my shrimp platter ($14.25) as I prepared the meal. They’d returned to their golden brown deliciousness and I was in heaven.

The shrimp, eight of them, were outstanding. Large, butterflied, with tails for handles, they were pink inside with a thick, shell-like coating and exceptionally good. They come in frozen, the only part of our meal not made in the store. Eric called them “really good, maybe my favorite part of the meal.”

He had the scallop dinner ($17) with onion rings subbed for the fries. The rings did not live up to their appearance. They were battered and thick, browned and beautiful, but the onions should have been sweet and their flavor more prominent. They were the only part of the meal that was a bit oily.

The scallops were “pretty darn good,” said Eric. They had a panko-breaded crust and a smooth texture, slightly sweet and tender. “All that scallops are supposed to be,” he said.

The coleslaw was made with red and green cabbage and carrot bits, and was well-seasoned. “It’s creamy,” he said approvingly.

The cornbread held up when buttered without falling apart like mine, while having the exact right tender texture. It had that shiny top and was slightly sweet, about an inch thick. The mac and cheese side ($3.25) “had quite a bit of cheese in it,” said Eric. It tasted like sharp cheddar and he called it “just right.”

All in all, it was a quick, convenient and tasty on-the-go meal, perfect for a Saturday night. “The chowder was my favorite part,” said Eric, who now had two.

Oh, and “off the hook” is slang for fresh, cool, trendy, excellent, a cute play on words for the name of the restaurant. It’s apt, too: We can tell you that Off the Hook’s food was off the hook.

Off the Hook Fish Fry

WHERE: 1599 Union St.,

Schenectady; 518-280-5972;

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

HOW MUCH: $41.04, plus a tip in the jar.

MORE INFO: Parking in rear accessible via driveway next to restaurant. Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover. ADA compliant.

Categories: Food, Schenectady County

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