[revisit] chef john’s fish and chips

Earlier this month Jake wanted to check out a taco shop called Tacos Al Pastor over in the Lemon Grove/Spring Valley area. It was kind of in the middle of nowhere, in a tiny strip mall amongst a lot of houses. Sadly it was closed and Jake couldn’t realize the dream of trying out this tiny shop. Since I was getting to the point of no hunger return, we opted to go to a place we’d been before. A little place called Chef John’s Fish and Chips. Surprisingly we hadn’t been back to Chef John’s since our last visit back in 2012. Has it really been that long?

Chicken Wings at Chef John's Fish and Chips

[chicken “legs” and wings / $8.49]

We had T with us that day who immediately gave off the “oh god, I don’t like fish” vibe as soon as we told him where we were going. I basically don’t believe him since I have seen him enjoy some seafood (like fish and chips, fried catfish and fish tacos) but he still insists he doesn’t like it. We ended up ordering a basket of chicken “legs” and wings. I put legs in quotes because uh… do you see any chicken legs in here? I’m guessing they are considering those little drumettes to be chicken legs but that’s not what I was thinking when we ordered this. You get 10 pieces of wings and fries for the price.

The batter wasn’t too bad – it wasn’t thick and it gave the chicken a nice outer crunch. The chicken was a tad greasy though and it had just a fair amount of meat on the wings. Not awesome but not terrible, either. Just middle of the road. 

Fish and Scallops meal at Chef John's Fish and Chips

[fish and scallops combination / $12.49]

Jake and I shared the Fish & Scallops combination. Fried scallops sounded like a mighty fine idea that day. 

Fried Scallop at Chef John's Fish and Chips

The scallops were on the small side – they used the same tempura batter on the scallops as they do on the fish. The batter could use a little seasoning as it tasted a bit bland. The scallop itself was just okay. The scallops were not that sweet or tender. They really hardly had any flavor and the scallops were a bit on the chewy side. 

I had a tiny bit of the fish but again, lack of seasoning as the fish also tasted a bit bland to me. They do still have their sauces here that they make (tarter sauce and ranch) so maybe that would improve the flavor. But shouldn’t it stand on it’s own?

Hush Puppies at Chef John's Fish and Chips

[hush puppies / $2.99]

The hush puppies were still pretty good, but I wasn’t as in love with them as I was during our first visit. These were on the drier side and a little dunk in some honey helped them out a bit.

Some non-fried side dishes would really go a long way here to shake up the menu a bit. More seasonings would also be in order. I’m not sure we’ll be back after this visit which is sad because we really like mom and pop shops and really still wanted to like Chef John’s. Maybe catfish or another item is really the star of the show here? Lots of people on Yelp love this place and say it’s always busy – maybe the food gets cooked just right on those busy nights? During our visit it was fairly empty with only a few other patrons who were sitting and waiting for their orders. Everything is cooked to order so it is freshly made so I’m not sure why it felt like such a miss during this visit. 

Chef John’s Fish & Chips
8047 Broadway
Lemon Grove, CA 91946
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 11AM-8:30PM

Author: Mary

Mary is a San Diego native and has been a food blogger for 11+ years. She is an avid reader, a lover of puppies, and loves trying new food. Foods she loves: sweets, peanut butter, pasta, Triscuit crackers with cream cheese, and extra nuts on top of her sundaes. Food she dislikes: pickles, really spicy food, runny eggs, olives, and too much arugula.

4 Replies to “[revisit] chef john’s fish and chips

  1. Oh that’s sad it wasn’t a better meal. I agree that you shouldn’t have to use sauce to improve the flavor of something that should stand on it’s own – particularly scallops. That being said, I do LOVE tarter sauce though. Hey btw, I think you don’t like pickles – so are you ok w/ tarter sauce?

    1. Hi Faye – I know… I was expecting something better. The tempura batter is usually something I love but it wasn’t just tasting right to me that day. Maybe it’s just a fluke or maybe it tastes better when it’s busy and they keep cranking it out. No, I don’t really like tarter sauce either. Sometimes I will use a tiny bit of it and flick any relish/pickle off but most of the time I don’t use it. What a surprise, huh?!

  2. Oh no, chewy scallops = sad panda. I have this place bookmarked since Lemon Grove is one of the neighborhoods that Bert, TC and I haven’t explored yet. I will still give this place a try but maybe not the scallops.

    1. Hi CC – Yeah, I’d definitely say don’t try the scallops. I was wondering if their catfish was any good. Most of the Yelp-y people like just the regular fish. I still wanted a little more seasoning on everything! I haven’t explored Lemon Grove too much. There’s plenty more to check out.

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