McGrath’s Fish House
1036 Valley River Way
Eugene, OR 97401
McGrath’s should be sued for false advertising…Every few weeks or so, I get one of their glossy fliers in the daily Eugene Register-Guard newspaper. It always has a big photo of a big plate of fried mish mash recalling something like the Monty Python “Spam” skit with the word “Fried” substituted for Spam. So then I says to myself, “Self, why should I go there and spend more than $12 for Fried Fried Mish and Fried Mash Fried Fried when I could just go to a Long John Silver’s and spend a lot less for an equally disgusting plate of oil soaked fish-like material?” Read on as my Self wisely answers this question and more.
But first, here’s another problem I have with McGrath’s: the name. It sounds too much like McGruff the Crime Dog, so I am therefore forced to make an excellent joke about the similar name every time someone mentions McGrath’s. Which then leads to ridicule since no one seems to know McGruff anymore (probably eclipsed by McGruber now)…uhhh…so there’s that.
Anyways, those two highly legitimate complaints aside, I actually did walk into McGrath’s recently and was surprised to find that it is a relatively upscale place, nothing at all like Long John Silver’s. Nice woody decor, friendly professional staff, etc. They even bring a nice basket of freshly microwaved bread to your table for free (although I would have preferred regular ol’ fresh bread at regular ol’ room temp). OK, so far, so good.
Menu: A complex menu with lots of choices at first glance, but further study reveals that many of the same items are repeated in various different combinations. So maybe not as many choices as it seems at first. There are a few fancy fresh fish choices plus lobster and other such high-brow fare, but being low-brow, RV-lovin’, big truck drivin’, middleclassers, our table focused on the oily goods and the basic burgers.
The oily goods of choice were the Halibut & Prawns platter. The halibut was excellent with a nice thin batter coating and lightly fried, plus the meat inside was big and chunkified. Not quite as good as the halibut at Steelhead, but a very close second place. The prawns, on the other hand, were “prawns”, i.e. not actual prawns in the Jamie Foxx sense of the word. In other words, they were just shrimp. Weirdly, the batter coating on the “prawns” was not as light as the halibut, and they were very oily. Maybe two separate fryer guys in the kitchen or maybe actual different batter recipes? Not sure. But they were not anywhere as tasty as the halibut.
McGrath’s clam chowder was a big surprise since you would normally assume these types of chain restaurants are serving big-plastic-bag-o’-ready-made-soup chowder. Maybe they make it from scratch or maybe they have a really good big-plastic-bag-o’-ready-made-soup supplier…either way, the clam chowder is a real winner: nice texture, not too grossly fake-thickened with starch, and nice chunks of clams and thangs. Taste was also just right: not too salty, but not too bland either. Official announcement: McGrath’s clam chowder is the best in Eugene (just beating out Market of Choice’s special Friday clam chowder).
And of course, no trip to a fish house would be complete without trying their beef hamburger…uhhh…I guess. McGrath’s burger was acceptable. Nothing special, but better than a lot of the other choices out there. I would rank it about 3rd place in Eugene behind first place Cornucopia and second place The Cooler.
In summary, McGrath’s Fish House was a very pleasant surprise and a serious contender for best seafood restaurant in Eugene. That’s saying a lot for a chain restaurant.