Two weeks ago I went for my first fish and chips of the year, commencing the battle between Pajo’s and Dave’s for the title of Best Fish n’ Chips in Steveston. With its colourful yellow and blue shop on the water, Pajo’s is the undisputable winner location-wise, however we all know location isn’t everything. I was curious to see if Dave’s, with their more old-fashioned setup, could come out on top.
A well-established Steveston restaurant, Dave’s is located on Moncton Street and has both dine-in and takeout options for customers. I opted for takeout, since most of my fish and chips experiences in England were at hole-in-the-wall shops on the East-Anglian seaside; there, skinny teenage boys dished up fried haddock in huge newspaper cones. People sat on benches in the outside alley, digging in with tiny wooden forks, dousing their chips in dark, malted vinegar, and inevitably ending up with grease spot on their shorts. Nobody cared though; they were too happy with their deep-fried feasts.
Getting takeout and eating at a picnic table in the alley therefore felt natural. Dave’s doesn’t offer a salmon/halibut/cod combo, but I ended up ordering the 3 pieces of fish individually and getting a small container of fries. It was too much food, but I wanted to compare it directly to my meal at Pajo’s. With a side of mushy peas, it came to about $23, and could have easily fed two people.
My meal came wrapped in a large sheet of grey paper, with containers of tartar sauce on the side. Condiments – including ketchup, salt, white vinegar, and malt vinegar – were in individually-wrapped packages, and it’s a pity they don’t have refillable glass containers for those customers not wandering far.
The fries were good – bigger than Pajo’s – and relatively crisp, with the skins still on. Though they cost more, the pieces of fish were also bigger, and the batter was thicker.
The salmon was very good, though the halibut was more moist at Pajo’s. Cod-wise, they were about the same, but I enjoyed Dave’s more. Along with the quality of fish, the batter is one of the main divisions in the fish and chips world, and it’s entirely personal as to whether you prefer thin or thick. Some would say a thinner batter allows you to better taste the fish, whereas others prefer the solid crunch of a thicker ‘shell,’ and are less concerned with what’s inside.
I sit somewhere in between – I love a good, crunchy exterior like at Dave’s, though there’s always a danger of it becoming bread-y. Pajo’s batter is thinner and has less of a crunch, but their fish had better texture. Based on my preferences, here’s what I’ve decided:
Best Location: Pajo’s
Best Fries: Dave’s
Best Batter: Dave’s
Best Salmon: Pajo’s
Best Halibut: Pajo’s
Best Cod: Dave’s
Best Chips Condiments: Pajo’s
Best Tartar Sauce: A tie (neither were extraordinary)
Whoops. I seem to be sitting almost directly in the middle of a fish and chips fence. Pajo’s won more categories, but you could argue that with better fries, batter, and a close second in the fish category, the real winner is Dave’s. Price-wise, Pajo’s was cheaper, but Dave’s serving was significantly larger. Hmmmm. I’m in a bit of a pickle, aren’t I?
If I was entertaining visitors and wanted to give them more of a ‘wow’ experience, I’d probably take them to Pajo’s. It’s right on the ocean, always bustling, has better quality fish, and quick and efficient service.
If I wasn’t entertaining, however, I’d probably go to Dave’s and get a single piece of salmon + chips. I love a good crunch, and their fries were better. I can’t deny that nostalgia also plays a role here, since Dave’s unglamorous, old-school takeout window reminded me fondly of my year in England. Speaking of, you may be curious as to how I found the mushy peas! And my answer is this: TERRIBLE! But here’s the kicker – with the exception of this recipe, mushy peas, in my opinion, are almost always awful. Everywhere. EVEN ENGLAND.
Let the fish n’ chips/mushy peas debate begin!
Cash and cards accepted