There’s a first for everything, and this is certainly a first for me. I’ve braved the Saturday traffic to go deep into the BLIP, behind Jungle Jim’s and the Eastside pool hall, to sample the offerings of Greg and the Mermaids. As we enter, the smiling young man at the counter greets us with, “Is this your first visit?” “Yes, it is,” I reply. “Well, it’s your last visit too!” I look at him, confused. “This is our last day of business.”
I’ve been to review restaurants on what turns out to be their last legs, and soon after their openings, but never on the day they are to close.
We’re here after hearing tales of Greg’s fabulous breaded fish, home-cut fries and daily specials and here he is, telling us he’s closing shop. Well, I’m not going to turn around and leave, not with homemade fries on the line.
After finding out there are no mermaids, just Greg (Vandenberg, the proprietor), the three of us announce that we shall be his mermaids on this last day and help him go out in style.
We order fish and chips, clams and chips, and scallops with (you guessed it) chips. He apologizes for his limited menu, which is easily understood given that it’s his last day. As we wait for our food, we chat with Greg and he tells us why he’s closing.
“I’m going into the Armed Forces,” he says, hoping for the Air Force. While he’s waiting to be called up, he’s going to spend time with his mom in Ontario. “I want to do some stuff with her, we both like to gamble. Maybe a trip to Vegas, Atlantic City. Just do some fun stuff together for a while”.
He acknowledges that the closure will be a blow for his regulars, devoted fans of his breaded fish. As we moan and groan and sigh our way through our tender scallops and light, flaky fish, our incredibly good fries and not-half-bad clams, he throws a tidbit our way.
“There’s going to be another fish-and-chip place coming in, in about three weeks,” he says. Our ears perk up. “Fredie’s, on the Peggy’s Cove Road. This is going to be their year-round spot.”
The deep-fry heavens open up and the grease gods smile down on us. If ever there was a worthy successor to Greg and his fries, it’s Tammy Fredericks (Fredie) and her Fabulous Fishhouse. Like Greg, Tammy is personable, warm and funny, and hers are the stuff fish- and-chip lovers dream of. To have her move from her home in Tantallon to the BLIP is a chance to enjoy her fare all that much more easily. But before I get my hopes up, I call her to confirm. It turns out they’re still working on tying up the loose ends before a formal agreement is signed, but that doesn’t keep Fredie from being excited about her plans.
Fredie needs to be year-round because, as she says, “Our bills are not seasonal.” I ask how this will affect her Tantallon location, but her fans need not worry—she vows to keep her seasonal business going.
“The locals’ hard-earned money made this business and I am not going to let them down,” she says with great conviction. “Oh my god, I’ve never been so excited about anything in my entire life!” she says. And with the prospect of Fredie’s excellent food and outstanding customer service moving closer, neither have I.
Make moves on the web with more of Liz Feltham’s fabulous reviews: www.foodcritic.ca