11 Best Fried Fish Sandwiches In NYC
When you think of fried fish, you think of fish fry platters and fish sticks. The fish sandwich is sort of a forgotten child; a child that, left to its own devices, has been lured into the sewers by a sinister Scottish clown. Yes, it’s difficult to talk about fish sandwiches without mentioning the 500-pound Grimace in the room. McDonald’s Famous Filet o’ Fish sandwich was basically created out of necessity. The burger giant needed a non-beef menu item it could market during the Christian holy season of Lent, and it came up with a hamburger made out of fish. Genius!
If you live in New York City, you don’t need us to tell you there’s a McDonald’s on every other corner where you can get a fish sandwich. But you also don’t need us to tell you that there are much better options out there. Below is a short list of places where you can get the best fried fish sandwiches in the Big Apple. Some of these are elevated takes. Some are steeped in history. Some provide overwhelming bang for the buck. All of them are great.
Fried Fish Sandwich at Crave Fishbar
For more than a decade, Crave Fishbar has been bringing delicious seafood to New York City diners. On the menu, chef-owner Todd Mitgang flexes wide-ranging culinary knowledge that jumps from classical French kitchens to Mexican street food to Japanese izakayas. That blend of influences dazzles both the palate and the eyes. We found some of the more memorable dishes at Crave Fishbar to be those laced with Mitgang’s Asian influences. Notably, that influence can be found and felt in the restaurant’s fish sandwich. Available only at brunch, the sandwich features crispy tempura battered hake, pickles, and shredded lettuce on a potato bun. Yes, you’ll have to wait until brunch for the fish sandwich, but it’s absolutely, 100% worth the wait.
As good as the fish sandwich is, it bears mentioning that Crave Fishbar is heralded for preparations of raw fish that will bring you to your knees. While the brunch menu also features a salmon sashimi tostada alongside the fish sandwich, the dinner menu has an impressive raw oyster bar. Previous menus have featured poke, thinly-sliced fluke crudo, and a chopped raw scallop dressing served with a creamy tamari-lime-sesame mayonnaise.
Fried Codfish Sandwich at Harlem Shake
For more than a decade, Harlem has been changing (cough, cough gentrification). The neighborhood has long been synonymous with Black activism, and while that’s still very true, Harlem has had shifting demographics in the neighborhood. The watershed moment for this sea change seems to be world-famous chef Marcus Samuelson opening his Red Rooster restaurant in 2010. Long-time residents referring to the neighborhood’s recent past often talk about it in terms of "before Red Rooster" and "after Red Rooster".
Harlem Shake is one of the newer, post-Red Rooster restaurants in Harlem that’s dedicated to preserving the history and culture of its surrounding Harlem neighborhood. Since being opened in 2013 by a Croatian immigrant, the restaurant built a star-studded following with its burgers and milkshakes. It’s also worked to carry on the singular spirit of Black Harlem. A Wall of Fame celebrates black celebrities who have come through the doors, from Maya Angelou to Diddy, while the restaurant’s Wall of Fro shows off the afro hairstyles of its customers. According to the official website, the restaurant is dedicated to hiring staff members from the surrounding neighborhood.
While burgers and shakes put Harlem Shake on the map, don’t forget about the restaurant’s top-notch fish sandwich. Made using fresh local cod, the fried fish is much bigger than its bun and features a classic crispy beer batter, and the house-made coleslaw put this sandwich over the top.
Fish Sandwich at Famous Fish Market
Famous Fish Market has been an essential Harlem restaurant since the 1970s, and the long lines of customers that appear every day are a testament to both its longevity and its quality. The restaurant draws a large customer base, so if you’re going, you’d better get there early. When you finally do get to place your order, you can then watch it being fried right in front of you alongside any french fries or the rest of your order.
Biting into the fried whiting from the fish market, the first thing you’ll notice is the crisp, indulgent batter — which is based on an old family recipe. Vice called it the best fish batter in all of Harlem. The batter not only delivers flavor, but it also helps to ensure the fish inside is fresh, flaky, and exactly fantastic.
The quality of the food and service at Famous Fish Market has carried the restaurant through all kinds of difficult times. More recently, the historic Black neighborhood has had to deal with challenges coming from gentrification. Over the past few years, the market has also had to navigate all the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. But this delish establishment perseveres and continues to draw long lines of customers — for a reason. The fish sandwich, and all the other items, are fantastic.
Beer Battered Fish Sandwich at Seamore’s
With five locations in New York City, Seamore’s is a restaurant that prides itself on offering sustainable seafood. If that raison d’etre sounds a bit preachy or holier than thou, it’s not meant to be. CEO Jay Wainwright told Nation’s Restaurant News that Seamore’s is dedicated to combining a focus on ocean health with "fun beachy vibes." Wainwright said the goal isn’t to tell people how to think around sustainability issues, but rather for the restaurant to have a positive impact on the world. Seamore’s aims to do this by offering the daily seafood fishermen are catching, and not necessarily offering the seafood that’s been proven to sell. The restaurant’s unofficial motto is, "It’s not about the fish, it’s about the dish."
Some people confuse sustainability with eating less-than-delicious food. If that’s you, the food at Seamore’s should clear up any confusion. Yes, you can get a grilled fish filet with steamed vegetables, but you can also get a rich fish curry or a decadent lobster roll. The beer-battered fried fish sandwich — served with tartar sauce, pickled vegetables, and shoestring fries — is delicious. Oh, the fried fish sandwich isn’t the only popular sandwich at Seamore’s, as the restaurant’s churro ice cream sandwich has a cult following all its own.
Red Snapper Sandwich at Sea & Sea Fish Market
New York City may be home to a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, but there are also plenty of places to score cheap eats in N.Y.C. To be clear, the term "cheap eats" doesn’t necessarily mean bad eats. Getting the most bang for your buck is important regardless of the price point. Whether you’re spending hundreds of dollars on omakase sushi or a few bucks on falafel, it’s important to walk away from a meal feeling like you got great value.
Open since 1982 in the heart of Harlem, Sea & Sea Fish Market is one of those N.Y.C. gems that provides great bang for your buck. It also has great variety. Fried fish sandwich options include catfish, waiting, porgie, bluefish, flounder, red snapper, and kingfish. Each sandwich comes with two or three pieces of fried fish on white or wheat bread. All of them range between $5.50 and $7. At a time when people are cutting back on their food spending, that’s a bargain worth hunting.
Sea & Sea Fish Market also offers more of an upscale option: You can choose your fish from the display case and have it grilled or steamed along with a side of vegetables. This option costs about twice as much as the fish sandwich but it can be a great change of pace.
Fried Fish Sandwich at Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Let’s be brutally honest here: The main reasons people go to the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant are the historic surroundings and the oysters. The restaurant has also been open since 1913, which is the same year that trains started leaving the historic Grand Central Terminal around it. The restaurant features vaulted ceilings that hint at the influence of New York City during the Gilded Age in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As for the oysters, the menu features up to 20 varieties of bivalves and it is stamped with delivery dates to show diners that only the freshest oysters are being served. Clearly, this is one of the best train station restaurants in the United States.
Freshness matters when it comes to seafood. Because the fish at the Grand Central Oyster Bar is brought in daily, the fried fish sandwich is one of the best in New York City, and worthy of the beautiful, historic surroundings. Because it’s located in midtown and has a main thoroughfare for tourists, you do pay a premium at this restaurant. But the food and experience can be transcendent, as is the fish sandwich.
Fish Sandwich at A Salt & Battery
Voted Best Fish and Chips in New York Magazine, A Salt & Battery is more than just a restaurant with a questionable pun for a name. It’s a celebrated restaurant that New Yorkers flock to when they crave British-style fried fish. British ex-pat and head chef Mat Arnfield got his start frying fish at his family’s chip shop. He has helped to build and maintain the reputation of A Salt & Battery by focusing on consistency.
Located in the West Village, A Salt & Battery mainly serves four different kinds of fish: cod, haddock, whiting, and sole. The menu also features scallops and shrimp. Occasional specials feature fish like red snapper, and each fried filet comes out with a crisp coating and moist, flaky flesh. The batter is also built to last, as the fish will stay crisp even after 20 or 30 minutes wrapped in newspaper.
British chip shops are famous (or infamous) for frying just about anything. Arnfield flexes his chip shop roots on the menu by featuring artery-tightening classics like deep-fried sausage and deep-fried candy bars.
Fish Sandwich at Eastwood
Serving Middle Eastern food, wine, and beer, Eastwood is emblematic of the new family-friendly Lower East Side. The restaurant invites guests in with long wooden bench seating and large windows that pour in buckets of natural light. Although the joint serves beer and wine, it is more of a neighborhood spot for day drinking than a date night destination.
Eastwood is known for its Middle Eastern dishes that feature lamb and beef, but if you are reading this, then you are probably going for the fish sandwich (as you should). Light and crisp without being oily, the fish sandwich is served on a sesame brioche bun with sliced tomatoes, butter lettuce, and a side of house-made tartar sauce. It’s low-key one of the dishes that keep people coming back again and again. We also have to note that Eastwood also has some of the best french fries in the city.
Catfish Po’boy at Cornbread Farm to Soul
Whether or not you like the food at Chipotle, you can’t deny that the burrito chain helped make the fast-casual restaurant concept wildly popular. In fact, research shows that Gen Z prefers to dine at fast-casual restaurants. Cornbread Farm to Soul is one fast-casual restaurant that’s taking the Chipotle formula and applying it to soul food, with delicious results. Developed by Adenah Bayoh and Zadie Smith, this Black women-owned chain has three locations, including its newest location in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. With a focus on sustainable sourcing, the restaurant has been getting rave reviews for its classic soul food, including fried chicken, yams, mac-and-cheese, collard greens, and peach cobbler.
But arguably one of the best things on the menu is the catfish po’boy. The restaurant’s take on the New Orleans classic features fried catfish in a crispy, herb-laced batter served on a small baguette then dripping with thick tartar sauce. Crown Heights might be more than 1,300 miles from New Orleans, but this simple sandwich will instantly transport you to the Crescent City.
Fried Fish Bun at Baby’s Buns & Buckets
One of the best things about cosmopolitan cities like New York is finding classic dishes in the most unexpected of places. Case in point: Baby’s Buns & Buckets is a food stall in the DeKalb Market Hall known for combining American and Thai classics, but its fish sandwich can go toe-to-toe with any of the versions from local British chippies or celebrated soul food spots.
Created by sisters Sage and Senna Lau, Baby’s Buns & Buckets serves dishes like Thai-style fried chicken, fried fish, and honey pork on either buttered brioche buns or in paper buckets, a la KFC. The food stall’s fish sandwich is a tour de force. Like many other fish sandwiches in the city, a fried filet is served on a buttered brioche bun, with baby lettuce and a tomato slice. But this fish sandwich stands out for its use of distinctly Thai flavors. A combination of garlic mayonnaise and chili dressing gives a sweet-spicy kick, elevating the sandwich into something special. Available for a low $7, this dish provides a staggering amount of value for your dollar.
Fried Fish Po’boy at Tir Na Nog
Ireland is known around the world for its three greatest exports: whiskey, poetry, and theme pubs. In these here United States, it’s hard to swing a shillelagh without hitting one of these Guinness-pouring, dark wood-stained drinking establishments where patrons regularly try on an Irish accent (sorry to the Irish).
Joking aside, Irish pubs are some of the more reliable places to get fried fish in New York City, and the fried fish po’boy at Tir Na Nog is a cut above the rest. Conveniently located in Penn Station, Tir Na Nog was recently named Global Irish Pub for 2018 by Irish Pubs Global, notes Irish Central. The Irish pub’s — ahem — po’boy features beer-battered cod, house-made coleslaw, and Old Bay remoulade. Yes, Tir Na Nog is in midtown and right by Madison Square Garden, but between the fish sandwich and its regular crowd of first responders, it feels closer to a neighborhood pub than its address might indicate.