Life is not always about smoothies, salads and low-fat substitutes.
Every now and then, it’s about fried something. Not necessarily a hot, greasy mess. Fried food can be an art as well as a science. Hook Fish & Chicken in West Palm Beach gets the idea of fried food as fine food.
From the outside, it’s a boxy, utilitarian place in a neighborhood that’s seen better times. Inside, it’s all white tile and stainless steel. But that’s fine – most people aren’t eating here, although there are a few tables available. They’re coming in to order, picking up call-ins or hitting the drive thru, and it’s nonstop action. If you think fried food is fast food, think again. It’s work to get the oil to the right temperature, to get the coating to stick and the spices right. The method should be fast, to keep food from absorbing too much oil, but the magic in getting it all balanced takes time.
So if you happen to come inside, inspect the homemade desserts (cheesecake, red velvet cake, lemon, German chocolate, banana pudding) while you wait for your meal. There’s a multitude of choices, ranging from crab cakes, wings, chicken (tenders, livers, nuggets and gizzards) to shrimp, fish (catfish, tilapia, grouper, perch, red snapper), oysters, conch and sides such as okra, corn nuggets hush puppies and cole slaw. Get some fresh lemonade to wash it all down; this food and beverage combo was meant for each other. Coming into Hook is like walking into a Southern fish fry, except there’s four walls and a roof instead of picnic tables and flies.
Prices are not fast-food cheap here. Platters and individual portions come in small and large sizes, with most platters (except seafood) under $10, including fries and bread. Family meals, side orders of most items, raw seafood and combo platters are also available. No matter what you order, it’s a lot of food. Portions are generous and the fry batter is light, grease-free and well-seasoned without excess salt. And there’s no oil taste, a sign that the fryer is cleaned and changed often.
A warning if you take this food to go: your car will have that fried batter smell in it for days. Not that it’s a bad thing.
Hook Fish & Chicken, 1001 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, West Palm Beach, Florida. Phone (561) 835-9035 or 9036. Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Other locations in Miami, Miami Gardens, Deerfield Beach, Sunrise and Lauderdale Lakes.