A fish and chips joint isn't supposed to be fancy. Joints are never fancy.
And believe me when I say there's nothing fancy about Crispy's Fish and Chips, a family run spot located on Fort Lowell Road just east of First Avenue. The space has been the home to several casual restaurants over the years and Crispy's continues the tradition of bare bones décor and quick counter service.
The kitchen area takes up the majority of the small space. Lighting comes from bare fluorescent tubes that give off a pallid glow. Cases of soda are stacked atop the refrigerator case. Styrofoam to-go containers take up a good part of tables behind the counter. The counter itself holds another refrigerator case filled with desserts (not made there), a tray of every conceivable hot sauce, a container filled with slices of huge lemons, more to go containers and a stack of paper menus. A backlit menu hangs above the counter right next to the one big screen TV.
The only real "décor" are two charts displaying an assortment of fishes and a review from the local paper. The outside has more color than any place else in the space with huge generic photos of baskets of fish and chips, fried shrimp and French fries. They're big enough to see from the street as you drive by. There are maybe six tables inside with 10 more on the shaded patio that sits just feet from the constant traffic on Fort Lowell Road.
But you don't come to a place like Crispy's for an upscale vibe. You come for the food and for the most part Crispy's didn't disappoint.
In two visits I had just about everything on the menu. The fish (cod) and chips combo ($8.99), the shrimp tacos ($5.99), the 7 piece chicken strip combo ($8.99), and the 8 piece wing combo ($8.99). I also ordered a side of onion rings ($3.99). The combos come with fries and a soda (and hush puppies with the fish and chicken.) It should be noted that I didn't get any fries with the wings, but they weren't really missed as I had plenty with the chicken. The only entrée I missed was the fried shrimp.
If the above combos and prices aren't to your liking all the entrees come in different combo portions, by the piece or in huge Family Meals. The prices are all reasonable.
The cod was a nice balance of flaky white fish and hot puffy coating. I've had my issues with French fries lately; it seems no one knows how to make decent fries any more. But Cripsy's fries were done right and like the fish (and everything else I ate there) were sizzling hot and crispy. The two hush puppies that came with the meal also made the grade. They may not have been the best hush puppies I've had, but they were tasty enough that I wished there were more. The cole slaw on the other hand was pretty generic.
The whole thing could've used malt vinegar, but I couldn't find any on the tray. It was only on our second visit that I was offered some in a soufflé cup. Now I know to ask.
The shrimp tacos could've use more shrimp and not as much toppings (pico de gallo, cabbage, mayo), but the shrimp itself was both crunchy and tender. The flour tortillas had been warmed just enough to make them pliable and sturdy.
Calling the chicken strips "strips" is doing them a bit of a disservice. The pieces were enormous, more like a breast sliced in half rather than the tiny tenders that most "strips" are made of. Different than the coating on the fish the chicken crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, resembling a Southern fried-style.
The wings were a little disappointing. They arrived at the table bathed in a buffalo sauce that was vinegary and spicy hot, but they hadn't been coated in anything and the skin was still pimply making them appear under cooked. Biting into them revealed some veins which proved they were undercooked. I call that "army chicken" at my house.
Service on both visits was pleasant and sincere. Like the décor, staffing is bare bones as I watched the young woman who took our order fill condiment cups when business was slow. And while we were the only people dining in at dinner, there was a steady flow of get-and-go orders. That'll be the way I go for my next visit and for sure there will be a next visit..