It’s a little crazy that I haven’t done a review on the Flying Fish yet – I’ve eaten there more often than any other place in the River Market. It’s the place that Jess and I will usually take friends from out of town for a quick lunch, and it’s a perfect place to either begin or end an afternoon of bar-hopping. Upon entering, you might think of the Flying Fish as just another fried food palace, but there are some healthier options available for all you calorie conscious folks out there (but yes, the fried stuff is pretty tasty). The prices are very reasonable – especially given that some of Little Rock’s priciest restaurants are within walking distance of the front door. The kitsch factor is pushed up all the way to eleven as well with an entire room lined with defunct Big Mouth Billy Bass plaques – and when I say “lined,” I mean from almost floor to ceiling. Rush times can be a bit hectic, but don’t let the pushy folks who want you to order and shut up get you down – take a bit of time over to the side to check out the diverse menu, and you’ll be sure to find something delicious.
During a recent trip to the Fish, one of our dinner party ordered one of my favorites, the catfish and shrimp basket. The catfish is classic Southern style – cornmeal dipped and deep fried. The unfortunate thing you run into at so many catfish places is that they leave the fish in the the fryer too long, which dries out the ends to an inedible crust – that’s not a problem here. The fish is tender and moist, and the cornmeal has a good bit of seasoning to it that flavors the fish well. The shrimp are huge, butterflied open and coated similarly to the fish – and the slightly sweet taste of the firm shrimp comes through nicely. A word to the wise: you might be tempted to ignore your hushpuppies, and let’s be honest – not a lot of places do good hushpuppies. But don’t do it, as the Flying Fish has the best hushpuppies this side of my mama’s house.
My own entrée was the Oyster Po’ Boy, and while it wasn’t as good as some others I’ve had, it’s still a respectable sandwich. The bread is firm and chewy and grilled until the outside is crunchy. The oysters were fresh tasting and good, and there was a good bit of spice to them (ask to “make it snappy” or “snappy snappy” for added heat), but there just weren’t nearly enough of them to keep the lettuce, tomato, and onion from overpowering their delicate flavor. The oysters weren’t that large, and really would have preferred about double the number on my sandwich; but it’s also true that I’m an oyster fiend and can’t get enough of them.
Jess ordered the Fish Tacos, and these are my favorite things on the menu. There are two places where I love to eat fish tacos – La Hacienda in Benton and the Flying Fish. The first thing to love about these fish tacos is that they’re served in crispy taco shells, not flour tortillas. The second thing to love is that they’re loaded with perfectly cooked pieces of fried catfish. The third thing to love is that the toppings – cole slaw, pico de gallo, and a creamy sauce – actually accentuate the awesome nature of these fish tacos instead of just being extra filler for the taco shell. It all comes together to make a taco so good that we based our own version of fish tacos off the Flying Fish version. If a fish taco sounds strange to you – try these, and I’ll bet you’re hooked.
The Flying Fish is located at 511 President Clinton Ave. in the Little Rock River Market. They’re open from 11:00am-10:00pm Monday-Thursday and 11:00am-11:00pm Friday and Saturday. Enjoy!