With all the fish restaurant chains up the street, you would think a small joint like Saleem's would have a hard time staying in business. Yet, without color coordinated decor or fake fish paraphernalia adorning its walls, Saleem's Fish Supreme has remained open for more than 30 years now. Hmmmm, they must be doing something right.
First of all they cook everything fresh. No warming lights, no microwave, just a deep fryer that knows how to do its job. We ordered fried tilapia, catfish, whiting and shrimp, and waited about 20 minutes to get it hot and fresh. Since it felt a little lonely with no other customers in the spartan dining area, we followed the lead of all the other customers that came in and took our treasures home.
The next thing Saleem's does right is their prices. With no meal priced over $10, they stay competitive with the chains but offer a whole lot more. Each meal includes homemade cole slaw, fries and bread and up to four pieces of fish. Side orders like okra, onion rings and coleslaw are all less than $1.10, and even their burgers are less than two dollars.
The main thing Saleem's knows how to do better than the chains is flavor. Everything we ordered tasted like it came from a church fish fry. The batter complimented each type of fish rather than cover up its natural flavor. The shrimp melts in your mouth, and all the fish we ordered was obviously fresh. Types of fish we'll have to order next time include trout, mullet, flounder croaker and perch.
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If you're ordering for a crowd, your best option in to buy in bulk. All including sauce and bread, prices range from $10.75 for a six-piece order to $34.75 for 25 pieces. With prices like that, churches could stop frying the fish themselves and just get it here!
If you're not hungry enough for a whole dinner, Saleem's also offers fish snacks, which come with either fries or bread, and fish sandwiches. Extra pieces of fish can be added to meals for around $2 to $4, depending on the type of fish. Since it's not called Saleem's Supreme Burgers and Chicken, we didn't try the burgers or chicken strips, and the desserts we ordered were a disappointment because they were not homemade. Next time we visit, we hope they will have their bean pies in stock - we've heard they are legendary.
Next time you're in the mood for fish but can't stand the idea of yet another tasteless battered piece of fluff from Captain McSilver's, give Saleem's Fish Supreme a try. While the dining room is merely a place to sit, it gives the impression of a place that has been doing this so long that it doesn't have to look good to get customers. Maybe the chains could learn from a restaurant like Saleem's: spend less time on looks, more time on taste.
Saleem's Fish Supreme
2198 Pio Nono Ave.
Two and a half stars
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight
Payment: Cash, credit
Kids menu: Not specifically
Noise Level: Low
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Health Rating: 97