A Final Fish Fry Supper

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris April 01, 2024 10:19 in Dining Diary

After a Lenten season chasing local Fish Frys all over town, I found myself in Los Angeles on Good Friday. For dinner that day we went to a longtime favorite seafood restaurant in West Hollywood called Connie and Ted’s.

The place is built on the site of a greasy spoon institution, and Connie and Ted’s managed to capture that diner-esque quality and incorporate it into their sleek and glamorous 21st-century homage to the owner’s parents and New England birthplace. It is very cool.

We were a party of six and only three of us were over ten, so we were seated away from everyone in a gigantic wraparound banquette in a front window. I wish such a thing existed everywhere.

It’s been a while since I have been to Connie and Ted’s, and I had forgotten how perfect a place it is. The Raw Bar has unique things like cockles and mussels and sea urchin (Connie and Ted were born in England) in addition to the regular items for less adventuresome diners. The menu is smallish but adequate. And everything is expensve.

We started with housemade Parker House rolls. The Friday special is gumbo which we had to get. If Fish & Chips is on the menu I must have it. Halibut was part of the order, as was a lobster roll, and a shrimp pasta was ordered for the kids. I also had to have the crabcake. 

This was an absurd amount of food for only three adults, but these kids are adventuresome eaters. Just not so much that night.

The Parker House rolls with Maldon Salt were not as good as the originals in Boston or even the ones here at Brennan’s, but Parker House Rolls are by definition great, though they could have benefitted from freshly melted butter. There was none. Still, these were gone in minutes.

The gumbo arrived and it was huge, and dark, with okra piled high. A shrimp, a link of andouille sausage, and large shreds of chicken made a very authentic statement. The smell emanating from this confirmed it. Two people could have eaten from this very heartily. It was literally boiling around the edges when it arrived. Here was a very good version of our local classic. Dark, rich, and spicy, it was a modern version of the everything-style gumbo served at Bozo’s, though much better.

I was not a fan of the crabcake that arrived next. It was a flat and large round disc of crab stuffing. It was flavorful  and likely broiled, but I figured in a place with New England origins it would look more like their version of this delicacy. This came with a nice amount of coleslaw, the creamy kind. It was thinly sliced vegetables, very traditional, and good in a basic way. This was a nice plate of food and would have been a sufficient entree, even though it was on the app menu. I also liked the tartar sauce that accompanied it.

The shrimp pasta is hard to describe, There was a lot going on here, including poquillo peppers and breadcrumbs. The bucatini was too al dente for my taste, and the sauce was more like a sludge. There is nothing appealing about the word sludge, but I do mean it that way here. It coated the pasta in a way that hinted at sauce, but it was just light enough to impart flavor. The starch from the pasta combined with a hint of tomato and vegetables to make for an interesting and unusual combination of textures and flavors. And important to me, the shrimp were not too big. The consensus at the table was that it was salty, but that is a flavor I like. 

There were two large slabs of cod in the basic Fish & Chips preparation served over their wonderful housecut fries. Not British with the peas and Malt Vinegar, this was a traditional and expertly done American version of the UK classic. Loved it.

Across the table from me sat the unassuming-looking lobster roll that might be the best version of this I have ever encountered. It is available in a cold or hot preparation, and we chose the hot buttered kind. It was not exploding with large bits of lobster as I am used to seeing. The pieces here are smaller and moist, but not at all chewy. How did they accomplish this? I have not had a lot of lobster in my life, mainly because I don’t care for its texture, even right out of the water in Maine and Canada. But what was this? Tender and flavorful morsels of the crustacean. I could love lobster. Who knew?

The last savory thing on the table was simply sublime, as halibut is. We ordered it for the kids without seasoning. Just salt and pepper and a light bit of oil, this thinner-than-usual slab of a halibut reminded me why I call it the gem of Pacific Northwest waters. Perfection.

It was served with macaroni and cheese. Their dense version was cheesy but not especially creamy, with a layer of breadcrumbs. This was pretty ordinary, an anomaly at this table.

Most everything else came with terrific fries, which was the best side imaginable for this casually-served, very well-done seafood. 

Often when dining with kids the meal comes to an abrupt end when they are done. This happens with Tom too, so nearly all my meals are like this now. My son loves the Blondie at Connie & Ted's, and the crowd was moving toward the exit when it arrived. This grabbed them back for a bite, staving off the exodus. It is indeed a pretty great version of a Blondie, served à la mode with a layer of caramel sauce over the ice cream. It hit the spot for Jude, though he hurriedly inhaled it.

Connie & Ted's is definitely an L.A. seafood restaurant, even though the owners hail from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. But there is nothing working class about this place. With Maldon Salt and a $46  halibut alone, this Friday Fish dinner was a bit more upscale than the ones all season, and it was a great way to conclude Lent.