Issue 28

Omaha Standard: The Dundee Dell’s Fish ‘n’ Chips

Omaha Standard: The Dundee Dell’s Fish ‘n’ Chips

Three-Piece Fish ‘N’ Chips – $10.95

I am no aficionado.

Throughout my youth I had consumed perhaps a dozen pieces or fish prepared in the style suitable for them to be called “English Fish-n-Chips”. Most of those were either at church fish fries during lent, or at the Dundee Dell before it picked up sticks and moved to Underwood Ave. I was a fan. Who wouldn’t be? Fresh cod in a sweet batter fried golden brown and served with a tart little mayo…delicious. I realized my love and affinity for the Dell’s version however in the strangest of places—London.

While not officially the birthplace of either fried fish or chips, London is the official, and undisputed, home of the chippery. I was there for a brief stay in the late fall of 1999. As a proper travelling culinarian, I am compelled in all locales to gorge myself on the local fare. In London, I knew there were but two things that I must try (in addition to ale and gin): roast beef and fish ‘n’ chips. My first night in town, I went out for a roast beef dinner before the theatre. A touch of roasted joint gravy, sausage-studded mashed potatoes, and a pint of Newcastle. After the show, it was off to find a pub. I happened upon a place called The Salisbury. It was a classic Victorian pub with all the trappings. I meant to sit for another pint and to enjoy all the people speaking English—I had been in France just before this and it was really welcoming to just here people speaking a sort-of familiar language. Once I was seated however, I kept seeing order after order of beautiful little fried cod fillets atop disk of grady’s pour out of the kitchen.

I asked the barman, “why all the fish ‘n’ chips? I thought those were best enjoyed from the chipperies.”

I was kinda trying to show off that I knew the right word for the shops.

“I agree lad,” he threw back at me in a jolting Irish brogue, “but these feeking Westenders feel like they gotta eat ‘em at a table with a piffy. They all fingering us the best in laundry, so we fancy ‘em upabit and takem from 10 pound.”

Now, I wasn’t really sure what he was getting at, being a flatlander from the States and all, but I was pretty sure that he meant they were darn toot’n good. I placed an order for some. They arrived in no time at all, I dug in, and they were awesome.

Awesome Crisp.

Awesome Hot.

Awesome Juicy.

Perfectly tender crust.

Perfectly seasoned fish.

Amazing chips.

The most awesome thing about them however was that they transported me home. In my first bite, I closed my eyes and reopened them at the Dell. In one bite I was amidst the plumes of cigarette smoke, Nirvana on the Juke Box, and familiar waitresses. In just one bite, I really wanted to be home. Home amongst the familiar faces of midtown. Home where the fish ‘n’ chips come with tartar sauce and ketchup. (I know they come with malt vinegar at the Dell now too, but this is still America isn’t it?)

I finished my plate. I was flabbergasted. The food was delicious, but all I could think of was getting home. I had barely been homesick on my travels, and now, just a couple days before my flight home, I was aching to be back in the Dell. Like I said, I was hardly an aficionado before I left, but trying fish ‘n’ chips in a London pub, made me realize the sanctity of one of our truly Omaha Standards: The Dundee Dell.

I have been a friend of the Dell for as long as it has been a friend to me (officially since June 9th, 1995). Their menu offers a great variety. The Big Easy and Fried Pickles receive the patronage of my culinary friends quite often. They have marvelous bartenders6 and wait staff. The kitchen is populated with real pros, pretty unique for the Omaha bar scene. The scotch selection is without equal worldwide and there is almost always a friend lurking somewhere in the place willing to strike up a conversation. There is however one standard bearer at the Dell that transcends it all. The quality of the Fish ‘n’ Chips has transcended all the changes in kitchen management, ownership, or even physical location over its nearly 100 years in business. I have eaten 50 orders at least since I returned from London. Each one of them convincing me more fully of the feeling that I had that night in the West End—that somebody in Omaha, Nebraska cares enough to do it as well as the 150 year old chipperies across the pond. Spot on my friends. Spot on.

Brian O'Malley

Brian O'Malley

Brian O’Malley is a chef instructor at Metropolitan Community College’s
Institute for the Culinary Arts. A graduate from New England Culinary Institute and a member of the American Culinary Federation, O’Malley worked as the chef/owner of Spread. He was a manager/instructor at the New England Culinary Institute, head chef at Vanilia in Santorini, Greece, and BackNine Grille, assistant food and beverage manager at the Champion’s Club and opening chef at BOJO. Brian O’Malley can usually be found in MCC’s kitchens, teaching, creating works of culinary genius or debating the perils of out of season tomatoes.


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