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Ginger's Ale House [Fish and Chips]

Ginger's Ale House [Fish and Chips]
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  • Ginger's Ale House [Fish and Chips]

    Post #1 - October 21st, 2006, 3:47 am
    Post #1 - October 21st, 2006, 3:47 am Post #1 - October 21st, 2006, 3:47 am
    LTH,

    Born and bred in Wisconsin Friday fish fry is in my blood, literally, though ever since Clancy's closed I have been floundering about trying to find a substitute. Today, thanks to posts by JeffB and Erik M, I may have just found my new regular, Ginger's Ale House.

    Crisp, greaseless beer battered cod straight from the fryer, moist, meaty flesh, dash of malt vinegar coupled with a comfortable Irish bar, friendly waitress who was as quick with a smile as she was seconds on fish or free coke refills, the memory of Clancy's starts to fade.

    Ginger's Ale House Fish and Chips
    Image

    Fridays are all you care to eat for $9,
    Image

    Mike G commented favorably on the beer list, and Pigmon seemed to enjoy his, I stuck with coke though will be back, and soon, for a touch of the Irish.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Ginger's Ale House
    3801 North Ashland Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60613
    773-348-2767
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #2 - October 21st, 2006, 6:37 am
    Post #2 - October 21st, 2006, 6:37 am Post #2 - October 21st, 2006, 6:37 am
    As far as I can tell, there's only a few major variables to good fish in "fish n chips"; freshness of fish being the most important, followed by a flavorful batter, and then a crispy, greaseless coating.

    Cod is a remarkably bland fish.

    Ginger's Ale House no doubt has fresh fish and they also nail the crispness/greaseless element beautifully, as Gary's pictures accurately point out.
    Unfortunately, I thought the batter suffered on the blandness front. I found myself playing the culinary juggler, constantly reaching for the salt, then the vinegar, followed up by the lemon, and then back to the salt again, etc. Maybe this is supposed to be the routine with a dish like fish and chips. I don't know.

    I still enjoyed the cod quite a bit, though.
  • Post #3 - October 21st, 2006, 4:48 pm
    Post #3 - October 21st, 2006, 4:48 pm Post #3 - October 21st, 2006, 4:48 pm
    G. Wiv is right about the great fish fry at the late, lamented Clancy's. All you could eat with either so-so fries or terrific home made potato salad and a Memphis type cole slaw. The main ingredient, and only liquid, in the batter was Guiness Stout. That, plus a few spices, made for a very rich and delicious piece of fish that even people who didn't normally order fish would enjoy. As small a Clancy's was, they still churned out 200 to 300 fish dinners every Friday.
  • Post #4 - October 22nd, 2006, 2:31 am
    Post #4 - October 22nd, 2006, 2:31 am Post #4 - October 22nd, 2006, 2:31 am
    G Wiv wrote:LTH,

    Crisp, greaseless beer battered cod straight from the fryer, moist, meaty flesh, dash of malt vinegar coupled with a comfortable Irish bar, friendly waitress who was as quick with a smile as she was seconds on fish or free coke refills, the memory of Clancy's starts to fade.

    Mike G commented favorably on the beer list, and Pigmon seemed to enjoy his, I stuck with coke though will be back, and soon, for a touch of the Irish.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Ginger's Ale House
    3801 North Ashland Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60613
    773-348-2767


    Hmm. I like Ginger's, though I havent tried the Fish and Chips - they look
    really good in the pics above though.

    The food I thought was only ok, however, in the couple of times Ive eaten
    there. Tried the burger - no biggie. Tried the Irish Breakfst, which was
    solid, but not spectacular IMHO. Great variety of stuff on tap, of course.

    Its a fine place to watch soccer (and presumably rugbly, or even
    NFL football presumably). Ginger's was once votied the #1 soccer
    bar in the US, or some such. I actually watched a couple of World
    Cup Soccer games there (England played Portugal int he QFs on a
    Saturday morning, at about 10am. Friend wanted to watch it at a
    pub, so off to Ginger's we went - I told him it was a QF game, and
    England, we oughta get there early... but despite my warning, we
    only got there about 30 minutes prior to the game. Ginger's, as youve
    seen, has 3 big-sized rooms.... and 30 minutes to gametime, every
    single one of those rooms was full to overflowing, standing room
    only, not a table or seat or barstool to be had! We ended up standing
    wedged against the wall in the third room for the entire game :-)
    The France-Portugal semis also drew a full house, but not one that
    was overflowing - I got a seat at a table, next to a table of French
    college students (it appeared), who kept singing "Allez Allez Les
    Blues" whenever they surged forward in attack :-)

    Ginger's shows soccer from around the world - English Premiership
    every Saturday morning, I think. I think I'll have to find out if the
    do the Fish-n-Chips then, and maybe drop by oneo f these
    weekends for it :-)

    c8w
  • Post #5 - October 22nd, 2006, 8:24 am
    Post #5 - October 22nd, 2006, 8:24 am Post #5 - October 22nd, 2006, 8:24 am
    PIGMON wrote:Cod is a remarkably bland fish.


    Rob,

    I would be willing to say that cod is a relatively mild flavoured fish but I definitely would not be inclined to call it bland. As is the case with all fish (discounting the ones that are preserved in one way or another for long keeping), freshness is everything and fresh cod has to my mind a really nice flavour, even mix of flavours (some parts of the fish being more flavourful than others). Of course, haddock is excellent for fish and chips and many prefer it in that application and generally to cod, but to my mind both are excellent.

    It should be noted too that real cod isn't all that plentiful anymore, especially on this side of the Atlantic, and I believe other (inferior) fishes are sold by some under the name, perhaps, e.g., pollack.

    On my recent trip to Europe, I had cod a couple of times in Germany; the fresh Baltic cod I had there was really outstanding but on returning hither and doing a little research on this fish, I was upset to learn that the Baltic cod population is crashing and its existence is gravely threatened. See, zum Beispiel, this very recent piece:
    http://www.panda.org/news_facts/newsroo ... wsID=83500

    Do you know whether the fish is fresh and freshly battered at Ginger's? If it is and they're using real cod, I definitely would like to get over there.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #6 - October 22nd, 2006, 9:04 am
    Post #6 - October 22nd, 2006, 9:04 am Post #6 - October 22nd, 2006, 9:04 am
    I think Gary can field this question more accurately than I can. But from what I gathered through his discussion with the chef that morning, he was taking alot of pride in the condition of his fresh fish.

    I'm pretty sure it was freshly battered.

    Antonius wrote:
    PIGMON wrote:Cod is a remarkably bland fish.
    It should be noted too that real cod isn't all that plentiful anymore, especially on this side of the Atlantic, and I believe other (inferior) fishes are sold by some under the name, perhaps, e.g., pollack.

    On my recent trip to Europe, I had cod a couple of times in Germany; the fresh Baltic cod I had there was really outstanding but on returning hither and doing a little research on this fish, I was upset to learn that the Baltic cod population is crashing and its existence is gravely threatened. See, zum Beispiel, this very recent piece:
    http://www.panda.org/news_facts/newsroo ... wsID=83500

    Do you know whether the fish is fresh and freshly battered at Ginger's? If it is and they're using real cod, I definitely would like to get over there.

    As far as getting "real cod", all one has to do is read Mark Kurlansky's book "Cod" to get your point, loud and clear, that getting tasty, real cod is becoming an exercise in futility these days virtually anywhere.
  • Post #7 - October 22nd, 2006, 9:38 am
    Post #7 - October 22nd, 2006, 9:38 am Post #7 - October 22nd, 2006, 9:38 am
    PIGMON wrote:As far as getting "real cod", all one has to do is read Mark Kurlansky's book "Cod" to get your point, loud and clear, that getting tasty, real cod is becoming an exercise in futility these days virtually anywhere.


    Yes, indeed; I read Kurlansky's book several years ago and enjoyed it very much, despite the depressing nature of much of the content. A fine book.

    The collapse of the Atlantic cod in the fisheries on this side of the Atlantic happened some time ago. The Baltic cod --there are really two varieties present in the Baltic: in the saltier western and southern waters, the Atlantic cod is found and in the east occurs another indigenous variety that thrives in the brackish water -- is now on the verge of collapse as well. EU desires to keep some fleets going with slightly more limited catches will probably lead to disaster, since there is a lot of underreporting and out and out illegal fishing (as well as piracy!).

    The Baltic is generally in bad shape, which is a real shame, since it is the home to many tasty species.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #8 - October 22nd, 2006, 6:34 pm
    Post #8 - October 22nd, 2006, 6:34 pm Post #8 - October 22nd, 2006, 6:34 pm
    Caballeros,

    I find cod to be a pretty mild-tasting creature, even bland -- but it's the inherent mildness of the flavo(u)r which allows it to be used in a multitude of preparations of varying taste and seasoning. Bacalao, anyone?

    But the fishy fishy fishy fish (it went wherever I did go) I love in fish and chips is Plaice, no doubt. There's a little Imbiss-budde in the deep dark heart of Kreuzberg, Berlin, called Al's Plaice (ha-ha) that makes the non-pareil version: 2 big filets of Plaice, golden fried and greaseless and piping hot, over a big handful of Belgian/Dutch Frites with lemon slice, homemade remoulade, curry mustard, and horseradish ketchup as the dipping sauces. The best British concession to Germany since Neville Chamberlin.

    -- Jolly Ol' Reb
  • Post #9 - October 23rd, 2006, 9:38 am
    Post #9 - October 23rd, 2006, 9:38 am Post #9 - October 23rd, 2006, 9:38 am
    Glad you guys finally tried the fish and chips at Ginger's.

    Somewhat like Hopleaf, Ginger's is a remarkably real bar that happens to have a solid kitchen. It's likely too smoky for many, but that has a lot to do with the hard-drinking and smoking European and neighborhood crowd.

    Gingers has been voted #1 soccer bar in the US 3 years running, and the Irish breakfast often is the best in the city, depending on the somewhat variable kitchen. I much prefer the "raw" ingredients, bangers, black & white, rashers, beans, here to other places around town that are known for Irish or English breakfasts (even the fancier spots like Fitzer's).

    As for the fish, I made my thoughts known some time ago. I think its probably the best going right now. Only a notch below the late, great, ahead of its time rocker/mod themed Ace Cafe in Roscoe Village. Those were fantastic fish n chips. I douse my fish n chips in hot sauce and vinegar, or sometimes "curry sauce", the goopy Irish Heinz gravy meets powdered curry mix that is so right on fries, so I can't appreciate the blandness issue.
  • Post #10 - October 23rd, 2006, 9:52 am
    Post #10 - October 23rd, 2006, 9:52 am Post #10 - October 23rd, 2006, 9:52 am
    Fish and chips shouldn't taste like cod, they should taste like malt vinegar, in my book, so what matters is how good a vehicle the batter is for that. Ginger's were all right for that, but not quite at that perfect point where the coating soaks up maximum vinegar flavor while maintaining its structural integrity. (In other words, by the time it was vinegary enough for me, the stuff was falling off the fish.) Still, a nice lunch, excellent service, a friendly place with a definite personality, no arguments here.

    I too miss the Ace Cafe, I don't know why it didn't make it, but while it lasted I preferred its burger (and food generally) to the venerable Village Tap (whose food is not that great, I think, aside from good falafel and hummus, oddly enough), or the newer Riverview Tavern (which has that ersatz Irish/Chicago nostalgia thing going-- I saw the construction, it was practically built out of a kit-- but nevertheless makes a quite good bar burger and chicken sandwich with marinara).

    Village Tap
    2055 W. Roscoe St.
    773-883-0817

    Riverview Tavern
    1958 W. Roscoe St.
    773-248-9523
    (Incidentally, Metromix says lunch weekends only, but in fact it's open at 12, kitchen included, every day.)
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  • Post #11 - October 23rd, 2006, 10:01 am
    Post #11 - October 23rd, 2006, 10:01 am Post #11 - October 23rd, 2006, 10:01 am
    Mike G wrote:or the newer Riverview Tavern (which has that ersatz Irish/Chicago nostalgia thing going-- I saw the construction, it was practically built out of a kit-- but nevertheless makes a quite good bar burger and chicken sandwich with marinara).


    That location's previous incarnation as a bar with an Italian restaurant in the back (started with an "S", it think) turned out a pretty good version of a wood burning oven style pizza.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #12 - October 23rd, 2006, 10:14 am
    Post #12 - October 23rd, 2006, 10:14 am Post #12 - October 23rd, 2006, 10:14 am
    Sipario. It was pretty good, but I think the space made irresistible economic sense as Yet Another Faux Irish-Chicago Sports Bar.
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  • Post #13 - October 23rd, 2006, 10:35 am
    Post #13 - October 23rd, 2006, 10:35 am Post #13 - October 23rd, 2006, 10:35 am
    I'm curious to see what you guys think of the Fish 'n Chips at Elephant and Castle (either one since I think they're identical).

    The batter is super light and airy and slightly sweet. It's kinda like wrapping a Kripsy Kreme around a fish. I really enjoyed it, but it's far from the typical dark brown "Arthur Treacher's style" batter you can soak with malt vinegar.

    Elephant and Castle
    111 W Adams St
    or
    160 E Huron St
    Chicago
  • Post #14 - October 23rd, 2006, 11:08 am
    Post #14 - October 23rd, 2006, 11:08 am Post #14 - October 23rd, 2006, 11:08 am
    Ginger's is the bar where all of the British expats in Chicago go to remind them of home. Followed closely by The Globe.
  • Post #15 - October 23rd, 2006, 3:00 pm
    Post #15 - October 23rd, 2006, 3:00 pm Post #15 - October 23rd, 2006, 3:00 pm
    ...if home is Dublin.
  • Post #16 - October 23rd, 2006, 7:43 pm
    Post #16 - October 23rd, 2006, 7:43 pm Post #16 - October 23rd, 2006, 7:43 pm
    JeffB wrote:...if home is Dublin.


    ... funny, my friends from London seem to love it, they say it reminds them of home.
  • Post #17 - October 24th, 2006, 9:12 am
    Post #17 - October 24th, 2006, 9:12 am Post #17 - October 24th, 2006, 9:12 am
    Have you been? It's my corner bar. Place is plastered with Irish flags, the barkeeps are all Irish, with brogue, and the regulars include a sizeable number of Irish contractors, construction workers, etc. Smithwick's and Guiness are the biggest sellers, I'd bet. My only point is, it is an Irishbar in a city of Irish-themed bars. Maybe it seems more like a real pub than other places. I could see that.
  • Post #18 - October 24th, 2006, 11:16 am
    Post #18 - October 24th, 2006, 11:16 am Post #18 - October 24th, 2006, 11:16 am
    Yeah, I went there with an English friend and he was practically in tears it made him so homesick.

    Maybe for Brits and the Irish, the farther away from Britain and Ireland you are, the more you see the similarities in those country's pubs instead of the differences.

    Personally it reminded me of a great pub in Toronto. :wink:
    Anthony Bourdain on Barack Obama: "He's from Chicago, so he knows what good food is."
  • Post #19 - October 24th, 2006, 4:53 pm
    Post #19 - October 24th, 2006, 4:53 pm Post #19 - October 24th, 2006, 4:53 pm
    It seems somehow wrong not to mention the Red Lion (2446 N Lincoln) as another fine purveyor of fish and chips in the city. Along with other typical pub fare (sheppards pie,bangers and mash, bubble and squeak , trifile etc) they really do a good job with this dish and a plate of these with a hard cider (or tap Guiness) makes a nice lunch on nasty late fall afternoon.

    A special advantage this place has over other establishments serving similar fare, particularly relevant at this time of year, is that it's haunted. Really, it is.... (or so the legend goes). While lesser venues have to rely on the intrinsic character of British food itself to provide stomach turning horror, this place has an actual ghost roaming around upstairs. So to my way of thinking, if you're looking for fish and chips during the last week of October, there's really only one place to go.
    Last edited by kuhdo on October 25th, 2006, 9:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #20 - October 24th, 2006, 10:09 pm
    Post #20 - October 24th, 2006, 10:09 pm Post #20 - October 24th, 2006, 10:09 pm
    JeffB wrote:Have you been? It's my corner bar. Place is plastered with Irish flags, the barkeeps are all Irish, with brogue, and the regulars include a sizeable number of Irish contractors, construction workers, etc. Smithwick's and Guiness are the biggest sellers, I'd bet. My only point is, it is an Irishbar in a city of Irish-themed bars. Maybe it seems more like a real pub than other places. I could see that.


    No, I haven't been. I waited in line to watch the last England World Cup match, but ended up leaving to head to Mystic Celt instead.

    It's a bit of an inconvenient location for my bar-crawling; too far to walk to easily, a bit of a bus ride, and kind of isolated. Being only 3 blocks from the Hopleaf, I'd rather just head there :D
  • Post #21 - October 25th, 2006, 8:44 am
    Post #21 - October 25th, 2006, 8:44 am Post #21 - October 25th, 2006, 8:44 am
    The kind of isolated part is a virtue in this particular neighborhood. Southport and its roving frat pack is only a few short blocks away. On the other hand, Ashland between Addison and Irving has its charms. In that short span or nearby, you have some mighty fine bars and some passable-to-good eats. Diner Grill, the Long Room, Ten Cat, Ginger's, Biasetti's, Palmito, or if you are really feeling edgy, El Gato Negro and a bucket of chix from Popeye's, followed by a smoking break with the kids from Lakeview at the hookah bar on Irving, then on to Tai's Til 4 .
  • Post #22 - November 6th, 2006, 7:48 pm
    Post #22 - November 6th, 2006, 7:48 pm Post #22 - November 6th, 2006, 7:48 pm
    For some reason, even though they were less than my platonic ideal (whatever that is; it's been too long since I've been to England, or even Ireland, to have a firm idea of what fish and chips should be), the fish and chips at Ginger's has had me on a bit of a fish and chips kick, at least I've ordered it once since at a second place and eaten a few bites of an order my wife ordered at a third place.

    Second place was Four Moon Tavern, near my house, which I have never been that wild about the food at, but which, on a Friday night when I need to grab something, was bound to be a lot less busy and sports-TV-dominated scene than any other bar within short walking distance, a more relaxed Wisconsin bar vibe that suited my mood better. Fish seemed like it was probably pre-breaded in a package, but it worked all right as a malt vinegar sponge. Still, I left being more impressed by Ginger's for actually making the stuff by hand.

    Third place was Elephant & Castle downtown; apparently this is a chain, though what other Elephant & Castles it's related to would be hard to say. Basically the concept seems to be to be the real fake Anglo-Irish pub that Bennigan's is a fake fake of, and I must say that at that feat of Baudrillardian simulacrumism they do quite a good job.* In fact the food reached a genuinely English standard of blandness, the steak and ale pie needed not only seasoning but some of that slow-braised deep rich goodness I'd recently imparted to some short ribs, and the fish and chips, while perfectly textured (according to my dim memory), and soaking up malt vinegar admirably, were so flavorless in themselves that they didn't give the malt vinegar the little salty greasy boost it needed. In a certain sense you have to admire them for not Americanizing things to death (Try our new Monterey Jack Steak & Kidney Pie Bagelwiches!®) but maybe they could have French-chef-ized them just a smidgen....

    * Interesting too that they pull fairly authentic pub-ishness off in a space I've now eaten in when it was dressed as Italy (Becca d'Oro, memorialized in this old and rather catty Chowhound post) and the Southwest (Red Rock something or other).

    Anyway, Ginger's Ale House still comes out ahead, even if they're less than exactly what I remember from Leo Burdock's, not that I remember it that well, as I say.

    Four Moon Tavern
    1847 W. Roscoe St., Chicago
    Tel: (773) 929-6666

    Elephant & Castle
    160 E Huron St
    Chicago, IL 60611
    (312) 440-1180
    (also 111 W. Adams, (312) 236-6656)

    Leo Burdock's
    2 Werburgh Street
    Dublin 8
    Tel: 454 0306
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  • Post #23 - January 3rd, 2007, 11:19 pm
    Post #23 - January 3rd, 2007, 11:19 pm Post #23 - January 3rd, 2007, 11:19 pm
    In the further adventures of trying fish and chips around the Chicago area, a few days back we took the kiddies first thing in the AM (to beat the madding crowd) to the LaSalle Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier:

    Image

    Then, as we did last year, took them to Riva for lunch after, rather than fight the madding crowds in the food court. There's just enough nautical bric-a-brac around-- actual ship's wheels, that sort of thing-- for them to feel like it's got a theme for them.

    Image

    I've never eaten grownup-style at Riva, only after doing giant inflatable slides with the kids, so my experience of the place is probably somewhat diffferent than the average expense-accounter's. Oddly enough for a seafoodish place, there aren't even fish sticks on the kids' menu, just dogs and chicken tenders. King's Thursday had a pretty nice squash soup and a baby octopus salad in which the octopus was very nicely done but the very tart vinaigrette was apparently applied with a firehose:

    Image

    She had to move everything out of the vinaigrette and onto high ground to eat it.

    But you asked about fish and chips. Good quality fish, of some sort, hard to tell, but the batter was the most amazingly bland batter I've ever tasted-- even once soaked in malt vinegar, it seemed flavorless. Am I the only one who thinks salt and pepper should be added to fish and chip batter? Is that heresy, somehow? Anyway, I pretty much had to dunk the stuff in their spicy cocktail sauce to feel it had any flavor at all.

    I was fine with Riva for lunch, given the alternatives in the food court or even the other restaurants at Navy Pier (Bubba Grump Shrump Frumpany), but if I paid big bucks for a meal this inconsistent-- good fish, good cooking, poor seasoning-- I'd not be a terribly happy guy. They were busy with Winter Wonderfest crowds, but not SO busy that that should be their excuse. Is it just impossible to rise more than about a step and a half above mediocrity in a setting like Navy Pier? Maybe.

    Image

    Riva
    Navy Pier
    700 E. Grand Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60611
    312.644.7482
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.

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