I’m not ashamed to say that the logo made me do it.
During a night of doomscrolling and jumping grabs by Facebook pundits, a cartoon logo of a happy sea otter clinging to its lunch of fish piqued my interest. A timeline cleanup? Definitively. A new independent local spot? Yeah. A place to satisfy fish ‘n’ chips cravings? Absolutely.
Otters Fish & Chips is a 14-month-old neighborhood fry in a shopping center on Jamieson Parkway in Cambridge. It’s a bright little place with a handful of seats for those looking forward to dinner.
Opening a chippie wasn’t what its owners had in mind, but it was the answer for the group of new grads who entered the workforce when COVID forced closings and hiring freezes.
“We all graduated in different fields around the same time when the pandemic happened,” says co-owner Sherry Wang. “It was really, really difficult to find the job you dreamed of (but) we found that we could open our own business at that time. Sometimes risk can lead to opportunity.
For this group of graduates in accounting, architectural engineering and petroleum engineering, a common penchant for fish ‘n’ chips was their opportunity. After more than a year of planning, their opening coincided with an easing of restrictions and the return of diners to restaurants.
However, the pandemic continued to overshadow the past year. For Otters, their first year of rebalancing and adjustment has come with additional costs specific to COVID-19 and the ebb and flow of dining restrictions. They have also been hit by supply chain issues, namely soaring ingredient prices that have forced them to change menu prices: the costs of cod, haddock and pollock have increased by 50%, and they’re paying more than double for halibut and frying oil than 14 months ago.
Some customers criticized them for raising prices to meet costs. Others stayed by their side as they found their place. Although they offer familiar options such as cauliflower bites ($4.99), mushrooms ($3.99) and zucchini sticks ($3), their homemade dishes keep people coming back. .
You won’t find minnow-sized square portions here. You’ll find meaty five-ounce pieces of hand-cut Atlantic cod, haddock, halibut, or pollock. The batter crisps up beautifully in the air fryer and coats their jumbo shrimp and fruit fritters.
Fish and shrimp are customer favorites, and both are on their haddock platter ($18 with fresh-cut fries, plus 50 cents for extra sauce). The batter is key: thick enough to allow the fish and shrimp to be the heroes with steamed tender meat and thin enough to provide a satisfying crispy crunch. Their regular fries are a prepared coated product, but for an extra $1.50 you can get fresh cut fries. Fresh, crisp coleslaw in a sweet, creamy dressing completes the platter, along with your choice of sauce. It is an important and satisfying dinner.
As Otters finds its feet, customers will suggest new options for the fledgling business. “The idea for Newfie Fries came from our customers. Many came to claim them. We didn’t know what they were. Our customers introduced them to us,” Wang said.
Their version of the East Coast poutine (fries with gravy, freshly made dressing, fried peas and onions) lets you add bacon, haddock nuggets, chicken and cheese. The dish (large, with cheese, $11.85) brings salty, salty, and sweet flavors together in an expected substantial dinner (or multiple dinners for us little eaters).
If you’re looking for a sweet snack or dessert, their French Fried Apple Ring Lace Rings ($3.99) are drizzled with chocolate sauce. At home, it’s a tasty ending, served with a scoop of vanilla.
In every life a golden brown delight should come, and the golden brown delight at Otters does the trick. Without a doubt, opening a restaurant in times of uncertainty is a challenge, but it is a challenge for Wang and his partners. I’m rooting for them.
Otter Fish & Chips
900 Jamieson Drive. Unit 7, Cambridge
Hours: Tuesday to Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Monday: Closed.
Menu: Casual fish ‘n’ chip shop, with hand-cut and breaded pollock, cod, haddock (halibut available at market price) and shrimp with a choice of coated or fresh-cut fries. Newfoundland fries. Sides include breaded and fried cheese and vegetables, mashed peas and coleslaw. Gluten-free fried fish, prawns and fruit fritters (cooked in a separate fryer) are available the second Tuesday of the month.
Drinks : Pops and juices.
Payment: Cash, debit, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Apple Pay.
How to get your food: Dinner: small indoor seating area available on a first-come, first-served basis. Pre-order pick-up: Call to place your order. Curbside pickup available for cash orders. Walk in. No delivery.
Accessibility: No automatic door opening. Tables can be moved to provide additional space for wheelchairs etc. The menu is clear and easy to read. Free parking.
The law project: $52.34 for three sides, two dinners and a dessert.