Paul’s PBR Review: The Flying Fish

If you’re looking for a place to get some good, reasonably-priced seafood in the Downtown Memphis core, you can’t go wrong with the Flying Fish. The Fish is on Second Street, across from the Peabody Hotel. Not only is the Fish a great place to get seafood, it’s also a great place to get a PBR.

At the Fish, you order and pay at the cash register as you walk in. You are then given a “pager” that lets you know when your food is ready at the counter. As you stand in line to order, you pass a refrigerated cooler full of beer. You can pick out a beer to pair with your food, and you can even pop it open and drink it as you wait in line. For several years after the Fish opened, you could choose not only a PBR from the cooler, but the rarely-seen PBR Light which comes in a blue and green can, as opposed to the blue and red associated with regular PBR.

PBRNowadays, however, there are no PBR cans to be found at the Fish. That’s not a bad thing, for they have installed PBR on draft. You can get a PBR in a large heavy goblet for under $3. They pour your draft when you place your order at the cash register.

SIDE NOTE: Before I continue with the review, I should mention that the Fish is the “sister” restaurant of the Flying Saucer down the street. The Flying Saucer has over 70 beers on draft and another 130 in bottles. Unfortunately, none of those beers are PBR. I wish they’d carry it but “it is what it is” I suppose.

SIDE NOTE: I could take a note here to mention which of the girls at the Saucer are my “favorites” and how they are beautiful and their smile lights up my day, you know, the way some bloggers do. I could, but I won’t, because that would be unrelated to my review of the Flying Fish. Also, it would be rather creepy.

billybassAs you walk in the Fish, you will notice a large number of plastic fish mounted on the left wall. These are the singing, battery-powered Billy Bass (and his friend, Travis Trout and similar) that were once popular items for Christmas gifts. If you bring them a Billy Bass, they will put it on the wall with your name under it and give you a free fried catfish basket.

SIDE NOTE: The photo above is of my Billy Bass, one of the first to be brought and in the bottom row. It reads “Prof. Paul Ryburn” because manager John May called me “Professor Paul” when he called Flying Saucer trivia. That’s a carryover from the days when I taught at the University of Memphis. Technically, though, I was a full-time instructor rather than a professor.

SIDE NOTE: That’s also from where my “PROFPR” handle at Buzztime trivia at Max’s Sports Bar derives.

SIDE NOTE: Max’s, by the way, serves PBR.

Grilled salmon with sides at the Fish

Not surprisingly, the Fish is best known for, well, its fish. Some of my favorite dishes there are the grilled fish dishes, paired with rice and beans and grilled squash and zucchini. The tilapia and the salmon are perhaps my two favorites. One really cool thing they do is they give you a little cup of pico de gallo with your grilled fish. I like to shovel some fish, rice and beans, and pico into my mouth and then wash it down a sip of PBR, which I derive great pleasure from it.

In addition to grilled plates, they also have fried baskets available, with choices ranging from catfish to chicken to fried oysters. They even have frog legs, a Southern delicacy. For those who like to dip their fried foods, they have a condiment bar with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, and ketchup.

The fries that come with the fried-food baskets are decent, meaning that they are average in taste compared to other restaurants that also serve fries. At your table you will find five different hot sauces you can sprinkle on your fries, if you prefer something with a little more “kick” than ketchup. They range from a mild green sauce to a super-hot habanero sauce. Just be sure you have a full PBR before you try the habanero sauce, for you will need it.

Whole red snapper Vera Cruz
Whole red snapper Vera Cruz

One day, exhibiting my adventurous side, I decided to go for something a little more exotic than the Fish’s grilled filets. I ordered the whole red snapper Vera Cruz, which is a whole fish covered in a delicious tomato sauce with peppers. As you can see in the photo, the fish’s eye is covered with a slice of lemon which tastes delicious when squeezed on the entree. Just be careful not to wash down this dish with your PBR too quickly, because you could very well be swallowing bones!

SIDE NOTE: I remember when I was a little kid and we got take-out from Long John Silver’s. I was told to chew each bite of my fish 32 times, to be sure that I wasn’t about to swallow the bones.

SIDE NOTE: That reminds me of KFC’s recent “I ate the bones! Oh my God, I ate the bones! I ATE THE BONES!” ad series to promote its new boneless Original Recipe chicken. Original Recipe, by the way, tastes great with an ice cold PBR, although you can’t get it at the fast-food chain. You’ll have to go next door to the gas station and buy one out of the cooler.

Hula poppers
Hula poppers

Don’t be afraid to experiment and try more than just the fish items at the Flying Fish, for there are many tasty choices that await you. One such choice is an appetizer, the Hula Poppers. This is jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese and shrimp, and wrapped in bacon. The poppers come with two dipping sauces to complement your food. Of course, it goes without saying that PBR complements the poppers well. Anything wrapped in bacon is a perfect match with PBR.

There are also other non-fish foods that pair well with PBR. The ceviche and the Mexican cocktail will make you feel like you are on a cruise to Cabo San Lucas. A healthy choice is the grilled shrimp salad. By the way, when you order any of the grilled items (whether as an entree or as a topping on a salad), you can request that the cooks “make it snappy.” If you do, your fish will come out covered in a spicy rub, somewhat similar to getting it “blackened” at Cajun restaurants although the taste is not quite the same. The grilled tilapia is one of my favorite dishes to order “snappy.”

Fried jalapeno chips
Fried jalapeno chips

For an inexpensive treat, look to the fried jalapeno chips which are also on the appetizer menu. These are jalapeno slices which are battered and then deep-fried, and then served in a basket with a cup of ranch for dipping. You will need the ranch to balance the “heat” of the jalapeno chips; PBR also works well for this purpose.

There are two dining areas at the Fish, an inner room and an outer room. If you sit inside, the booths against the left wall are a good place to sit. There you will find “fishing tales” of Memphis dignitaries. It can be fun to read them while sipping a PBR. In the outer room, there are garage windows similar to those at the Flying Saucer down the street. When the weather permits, they raise the windows and you can sip your PBR in the fresh air and watch the tourists mill around outside on Second Street. No matter where you sit, the dining is casual, with paper towels provided instead of more formal napkins.

Be sure to look at the board for the daily specials. They will discount dishes like the red snapper Vera Cruz, a pound of boiled shrimp, and all-you-can-eat catfish various nights of the week. When in season (about mid-February to early June) they have fresh boiled crawfish with corn and taters. The crawfish taste great when washed down with a PBR.

SIDE NOTE: You know, another place I had crawfish was at the Overton Square crawfish fest back in April. The crawfish there were good, but they kind of gave me indigestion. Oh well, at least it gave me a story to tell anyone who would listen for the next week.

sundayoystersPerhaps the Fish’s best special of all occurs on Sunday, when they have the “Preacher’s Special,” fresh raw oysters on the half shell for only 50 cents each. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that raw oysters and PBR are a match made in heaven. You can get a dozen oysters and a PBR for under $10, although there’s no reason you should feel required to stop at just one PBR on Sunday Fun Day.

Gizmodo had a recent article on why, how, and where you should start eating bugs. They are a source of protein for people in 80 percent of the world’s countries. If you decide you’re ready to start eating bugs, you can do it at the Fish. They’ve been selling little packets of BBQ crickets by the cash register lately.

SIDE NOTE: However, the Fish does not sell worms. This proves the old marketing saying that you fish with worms because the fish like worms, not because you like worms.

SIDE NOTE: When I was a kid, we took the cat to the vet and she had worms and we had to pay for her treatment. It’s damned expensive to own a cat.

I hope this post has convinced you that the Flying Fish is one of the best places in Memphis to get a PBR. Whether you enjoy it by itself or pair it with items from the Fish’s menu, the PBR at the Fish is a sure winner.