I love it when stumble upon a little gold star menu item in a place I'd never expect. Coffee News is a cute cafe over by the Macalester campus off Grand Ave in St. Paul. It's great for coffee (no surprise there - try the iced Chai) and a neighborhood stop for good breakfast. What you wouldn't expect is that they serve one of the best fish n chips platters in the Twin Cities.
It's long been our secret lunch spot. When classes are out, there is plenty of seating inside and out on the busy sidewalk. Matt has always gotten either the hummus platter or the fish n chips. I've not been nearly so loyal with my choices and usually flit around the menu like a bored hummingbird, until finally, he insisted I try the fish.
I'm loathe to admit that I'm not a big fish person. It would seem to me that someone who grew up on a lake would somewhere along the way have learned to love a fish or three, but no. Except for a brief, youthful love affair with the Gorton's Fisherman, I'm just never been able to get down with my finned friends. They're usually too... fishy. This dish, this one right here, is my exception. It's amazing. Unlike a traditional fish n chips platter this is made with catfish, breaded in nuts and panko and quickly fried so that there is no trace of oil. Not only is the dish not overly fishy, or at all greasy - it's highly flavored. The superb crunch of the nuts and crispity bread crumbs burst around the flaky, tender fish fillets. The caper and cornichon flecked tartar sauce is good, but wholly unnecessarily. In fact, for me that's usually just an extra condiment for the fries.
Oh, man, I haven't even told you about the fries yet! Hold onto your hats, kids, because these are possibly some of the best around. Really. That rumor about the killer fries at Salut? Lies. Totally. These are freshly fried potatoes that they then sprinkle with freshly minced garlic before serving. Granted, sometimes they can be a little snarky, not fit for Twilight fans, garlicky. Usually, though they are highly addictive. I remember when I introduced my friend Heather to these puppies she quickly went from, "Sure! I'll share with you!" To, "Oh my gosh - I can't believe I ate them all." She did. She ate them all. I held it against her for moments. (Bad share-er!)
Now is the perfect time to go check this out. The kids are gone, the sun is shining and I'm sure there's room outside for you to loll away what should have been a working afternoon, munching hot garlic fries and unbelievably good fish.