Another regional food that I have been working to appreciate is the Capital District’s unique form of fish fry. A long piece of fish (usually haddock) is breaded and fried, and then served on a simple roll (usually just something like a hot dog bun). The sandwich doesn’t have any other frills, although you can always add the typical seafood condiments like tartar or cocktail sauce.
If you live east of the Hudson like I do, you probably drive up and down Route 4 pretty frequently. And one thing you’ll notice is that there are two fish fry joints directly across from one another. These situations always make me so curious. How do two places with the same type of food manage to survive so close to one another? Surely one is better than the other. I am always dying to do a side by side comparison.
So with only a couple of weeks left in the summer fish fry season, that’s exactly what I did. At both Off-Shore Pier and Gene’s Fish Fry, I ordered the fish fry with a side of tartar sauce, as well as some macaroni salad to split with a trusted taste tester.
At first glance, Gene’s looked more appetizing. The portion was thicker, the price was a better value, and it smelled fantastic. Our first few bites were enjoyable, although we both commented that the fish was a little greasy. The tartar sauce was thick but it seemed to be missing some of the traditional relish chunks. In a way it was almost just a very tart mayonnaise, which wasn’t bad, but wasn’t really what I expect when I order tartar sauce.
We switched over to trying a few bites of Off-Shore Pier’s fish fry, and there was almost immediate consensus that this one was better. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what was the deciding factor, but Off-Shore Pier had a slightly better piece of haddock. Both sandwiches were tender and flaky, but Off-Shore Pier had a brighter and fresher flavor, while Gene’s was dominated slightly more by the taste of the oil. We also liked the crispier cornmeal coating on Off-Shore Pier’s sandwich, and the tartar sauce was more traditional.
In terms of macaroni salad, neither place really blew us away. Both options were adequate, but they were each missing something.
Gene’s macaroni salad was very basic and mild, with a light coating of mayo. Off-Shore Pier’s macaroni salad was more aggressively seasoned with herbs, but we actually found it to be a little too much seasoning. They got points for at least having some noticeable chunks of celery mixed throughout.
Although our takeaway of the day was that Off-Shore Pier has the better East Greenbush fish fry, both sandwiches were respectable. I would have been perfectly happy eating the fish fry from Gene’s if I hadn’t tried their competition directly afterwards. And for what it’s worth, Gene’s has a more fun and casual ambiance for dining in, with a patio of picnic tables off to the side of the restaurant. It’s also worth noting that Gene’s is a seasonal place (only open for a couple more weeks!), while Off-Shore Pier is a bigger, year-round establishment that has a lengthier menu. So there’s something kind of special about visiting Gene’s in the summer months and then waiting for them to open again as the weather turns back around.