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Restaurant Review: J Hot Fish

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Restaurant Review: J Hot FishPhotos by Walker Evans.
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It’s taken too long to get to J Hot Fish. Some people might know the Olde Towne East location as the former home of the very popular Hot Chicken Takeover (now holed up in the North Market). Others might know it as a longstanding fresh fish market, United Provision. On Thursdays through Sundays, the address is serving up fried seafood from J Hot Fish.

There’s a walk-up order window and a picnic bench for outside eaters. There’s also sturdy four-tops inside the joint for dining-in.

While watching efforts to figure out the protocol at the walk-up window on Ohio Avenue, the operator took pity, opened the door and walked outside to offer a brief tour of the business (thus literally breaking the fourth wall). The walk-up order window is fully functional, but guests can also order inside at the tables. Both locations feature giant sign boards with the menu items clearly posted. It’s pretty easy.

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The fish platter is a basic go-to option ($10). It’s a menu fixture based on tilapia. And although tilapia is the sort of fish with a gross-out background equivalent to hot-dogs, it’s hard to deny the goodness of the fried fish in the platter itself. It’s wrapped in a rusty reddish, crusty crumb coating, instead of that thick, overwhelming beer battered stuff that’s common in Columbus. The treatment ensures a greater fish-to-stuff ratio, offering lots of mild, smooth tilapia in every bite.

The platter comes with a giant pile of peel-on fries. The menu says they’re hand-cut, and that’s believable. They’re straight-shooting second fiddles to break up any potential monotony of the fried fish. And order also comes with something kin to a Wonderbun (soft, grocery-style slider roll), and some finely chopped unremarkable sweet slaw.

The main thing, though, is the fish. All the rest is background stuff.

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There’s also something called a Shrimp Bucket ($5). Ordered with the platter, the price goes down to $4.50. It delivers a heaping handful of bright red, sautéed shrimp. Guests are warned that the shrimp is not batter-dipped (perhaps the expectation). The cooking process yields plump crustaceans with an uncommon and addictive brine. They’re more munchy that the house fries, even.

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Guests can count on a few daily special options too. During the visit, the extra options were Perch and Walleye. The Perch sandwich ($7) presented pieces of perch accompanied by two wonder-bun things; it turned out to be the table favorite. There is so much fish in the order, it doesn’t come close to fitting inside the buns. Inside the now-familiar coating, the perch is flaky, savory, and has a better biography than tilapia.

The Walleye sandwich ($9) is skip-able. It’s a thicker, sturdier filet; not as velvety as the tilapia or the perch. The fried walleye requires a little more effort to power through, where the other two fish options just disappear.

You can find J Hot Fish Thursdays through Sundays at 1117 Oak Street. The hours posted indicate that it’s a lunch-time only operation on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. On Fridays, it stays open until 9pm.

For more information, visit jhotfish614.wix.com/jhotfish61.

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