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Cheap Eats; Sneaker's offers fantastic fish fry, delicious sides

The back dining room was full and the bar was packed with plenty of people waiting for tables on the last Friday in Lent when John, Pat, John and I decided to stop at Sneaker's for a fish fry.

When we learned there were two large groups waiting ahead of us, we thought about leaving. Then we peeked into the dining room and saw a fish fry. We were staying.

Sneaker's has one of those doors set into the corner of the building, like an old-time city tavern. The front door opens into a bar that includes two high tables at which people were eating. The wood-paneled back room has a dozen or so tables. It's not fancy, because all the attention is paid to what is put on your plate.

The servers scrambled and after a while, we were seated with our orders ready -- two fishes for John and Pat, and two non-fishes.

All the food was excellent -- hot, fresh and quickly served -- but the fish fries were truly spectacular.

If you order a fish fry (the "regular," 10 to 12 ounces, is $9.95; the "mini," 6 to 8 ounces, is $8.25), you will be asked if you want the haddock battered, breaded or broiled, then if you want potato salad, macaroni salad, French fries "or a little of each." A little of each, please!

Then there was one final question: Do you want the coleslaw with mayo or the old-fashioned kind with oil and vinegar? That's when we knew we were in the hands of some real fish fry professionals.

And we were not disappointed. The regular fish fry, which would be sold as "giant" in most places and would cost three bucks more, was glorious, with the fish hanging off both sides of a large platter and covering a full plate of sides. The batter was sturdy and not greasy; the haddock was sweet and fresh, perfectly cooked. The "mini" fish would be sold as a regular fish fry in most of the places we have visited.

The sides were all cold and utterly fresh, with special praise given to the potato salad, which was studded with flavorful bits of celery and onion, and the vinegar-seasoned cole slaw. Each fish fry also included a slice of fresh Italian bread.

Sneaker's serves most of its seafood dinners on Fridays and Saturdays only, so make your plans accordingly. The fish menu also includes a seafood platter (shrimp, scallops, clam strips and a 10 to 12-ounce fish for $14.90), three crab cakes for $9.45, a fish sandwich for $7.25, and a scallop or shrimp dinner for $8.95. A popcorn shrimp basket ($7.95) is served daily, along with a chicken basket (half a fried chicken and sides) for $8.45 and a hot roast beef dinner for $8.75.

Speaking of the hot roast beef dinner, we tried it. It was a plate full of classic goodness. Two fresh slices of white bread enclosed a thick layer of the most tender roast beef we have had in a long time, yielding without being mushy. The generous puddle of classic brown gravy set the meat off well. A large portion of crispy French fries was served still sizzling.

A club sandwich was a bargain at $5.95, and again the kitchen showed its caliber. Just a few minutes of wait time spoils a club sandwich, making the toast gummy and the hot, crispy bacon grow cool next to the adjacent lettuce and turkey. This sandwich was built, placed on the plate and served immediately. Every ingredient was high-quality and delicious. It came with crispy chips, fries added for $1.25. We went for the fries and they were worth it.

We heard that there were desserts -- in fact, we liked the listing -- "When available: pies, $2.99, cakes $2.99" -- because that says "homemade" to us. But we had no hope of sampling any. To-go boxes were marshaled for the leftovers, and we went home happy.




4 pennies (out of four)    

"Top-notch fish fry."    

WHERE: 205 Martin Ave., Blasdell (825-9247)    

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily