Friday Night Fish Fry.
It means going out to dinner, for a change. It means starting with a salad of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, dressing, followed by heaping platters of crispy, golden-fried fish on top of french fries — and a couple of beers spread throughout. It means looking good and smelling better, and probably running into people you know. It means the weekend’s here.
Until Western New York state came into my life at about age 10, I had never heard of Friday Night Fish Fry. But I quickly realized it’s not just dinner out. Sure, the restaurant changes, and people come and go. But no matter what, going out to fish fry with my grandparents is always, always an occasion.
This time, Friday night was an occasion for the venue, as well: the Nickel Plate Depot, owned by a local family by the name of the Delcamp’s, was celebrating its grand reopening night. Beers were flowing, the whole place was jovial: Mylar balloon bouquets, an electric train choo-chooing on its route suspended in the air, a full-sized shuffle board table in the bar room (!!) … all offset our wait for a table.
I get why they’re waiting. Everyone’s socializing, and when we were seated, the server played along. And then there was the food.
For a moment I almost went for the crab-stuffed walleye (one of the rules of fish fry is you can pretty much order whatever you want), but I decided I’m just not in fish fry territory regularly enough to get anything but the special of the house.
And here’s why it’s special: For $10.50, my regular-sized order of the NPD Fish Fry — “fried Icelandic cod, dusted in flour, dipped in beer batter and fried golden brown,” and served with salad (family-style) and my choice of two sides — came with a hot, hulking, filet of fish, beautifully battered and fried.
So giant was this filet that although I sucked every morsel down that I could, I still couldn’t get it all down. And that’s after sharing tidbits with family members who I caught eying the meal that was clearly the pride of the table. I learned a long time ago that at some point you just have to acquiesce. And revel in your satisfied fullness.
Nickel Plate Diner (NPD), 131 Central Ave., Brocton, N.Y., 716-792-4400
A photo of the crab-stuffed walleye that I almost ordered after the jump: