The idea of Fish City Grill sounds suspicious: a seafood franchise originating in landlocked Dallas, a Houston location in a West U strip mall, overly cheery waitstaff who greet everyone repeatedly, and a something-for-everyone menu without no stylistic focus. Yet it fills a particular need.
For a long time, I have wanted a mid-priced seafood restaurant, near my house, with a broad selection and simple preparations that emphasize the fish. This is hard to find because most Houston seafood restaurants fall into these niches:
-high-end expensive seafood (Pesce, McCormick & Schmick's, Oceanaire);
-highly spiced, buttery Cajun seafood (Pappadeaux, Zydeco Louisiana Diner, Goode Co.);
-fried seafood joints (Boudreaux's, Rajin' Cajun);
-Mexican/Chinese fried seafood joints (Mambo, Golden Seafood House, Connie's Seafood); and
These restuarants don't specialize in good, cheap, simply cooked fish.
But Fish City Grill does. In fact, it has almost every common preparation of seafood, except sushi. On their basic menu, you can order shrimp, catfish, tilapia, and Atlantic salmon. You can get it grilled, blackened, fried, on a salad, on a sandwich, or on pasta. You can get flavorings like Mexican (oyster nachos and fish tacos), Cajun (po-boys, blackened fish), Asian (Thai coconut shrimp, Thai chili oysters, grilled salmon salad with Asian noodles), or you can get just the fish. These menu items are all under $10. But I have avoided them because fish like catfish, tilapia, and Atlantic salmon are usually inferior. They are farmed, and, unless you fry them or smother them in spice, they usually taste too muddy or too much like dog food.
So I gravitate to the slightly more expensive specials board. It has 8 or 9 different kinds of fresh seafood, like grouper, flounder, roughy, and scallops. They are usually priced between $10 and $16. Last night, I had macadamian crusted orange roughy with pineapple salsa. The crust was very light and the salsa gave just enough flavor to make the dish interesting, without overwhelming the high-quality fish, which was flaky and not overcooked. The sides were mixed quality. I loved the green beans with strips of red peppers, cooked al dente with a little vinegar. But the fried new potatoes tasted like they had been recently frozen.
Fish City Grill is a family restaurant. From the kid's menu, my daughter ordered chicken strips and waffle fries, and then ordered a key lime pie. She liked it all.
Of course, like most family restaurants, the wine list is lousy. It is dominated by over-oaked California chardonnays.
Fish City Grill has little character, originality, charm, or style. But it has inexpensive, good quality seafood, cooked almost any way you might like.