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Booze also plays a major role in what may be the most expensive plate of fried fish and chips in the city: the $22 champagne-battered cod at the Gaslight Grill in Leawood. This isn't just any old cod, mind you. It's fresh from Georges Bank, a famous Cape Cod fishing area for 400 years. For all the fuss with the fish, though, the fries aren't cut on-site — they're just the standard frozen variety. At least the hoity-toity fish can be dipped in a house-made tartar sauce, flavored with chives. An additional $5 at Gaslight Grill lets diners upgrade their fish and chips with a battered diver scallop and a jumbo shrimp, adding up to the ritziest Captain D's platter ever.
Of course, you could always just go to Captain D's, where $5.29 gets you the Fish 'n Fry Combo. At the faux "New England"-style outpost at 6308 Troost last week, my combo included two skinny battered pollock fillets, each about the width of a Dollar General hair comb; two hush puppies (the most boring and unnecessarily fried doughy balls ever created); and a mound of lukewarm fries, all served on a shiny black-plastic plate.
If that's your bag, ask for it in a bag — to go. The Troost Captain D's has an ambience best summed up in a single word: not. It's not particularly friendly, not very clean (the place has aged badly over two decades), and not even really a bargain. And don't get me started about anyplace that requires me to pump my own condiments into white paper cups. Even Oliver Twist didn't have to do that.
After that, I needed a more traditional, English-style fish-and-chippery dinner. I figured I'd find it at Matt Poulton's six-month-old Queen Lizzy's Fish and Chips, in Lawrence. Poulton, a cheery native of Surrey, England, moved to this college town with his wife and decided that what it really needed was, he told me, "a proper fish-and-chip shop." There are other dishes on the menu, including sausage rolls, sliders and battered chicken strips.
I walked into the two-story restaurant at 7:15 p.m. on a recent Friday, and the first thing I overheard was Poulton telling Nicholas, the bearded, skinny waiter on duty, that only a handful of fish orders remained. Without looking at the menu, I buttonholed Nicholas and laid claim to one of the in-demand dinners. Then I sat down at an uncomfortable window counter, took a sip of water and looked up as he switched off the neon "open" sign.
"I thought the restaurant stayed open until 10 tonight," I said.
"When the fish is gone," Nicholas said, "we're closed."
"During Lent?" I asked.
Nicholas looked at me quizzically. "It's already Lent?"
Ninety percent of Poulton's sales are fish and chips, which means that the restaurant closes immediately after the day's last cod fillet plops into the fryer. Having eaten the fish and chips, I'm not sure I'd want anything else. The signature dish here is damn good. Poulton batters his generous hunks of cod in a mixture of egg, flour and Foster's Southwick Ale. His fries, before frying, are hand-cut and brined in water, vinegar and what Poulton says is his own special seasoning mixture. The results are outstanding.
Poulton pushed a bowl of the traditional dish called "mushy peas" at me. I couldn't take more than a taste — they were too, well, mushy.
"This is how the queens in England eat," he said. The queens around here do it differently, but I'd send a footman back to Lawrence for more of Lizzy's fish and chips.