A Family – and Fish – Affair

DSC_0649There are a few restaurants that are absolute staples in the culinary history of Louisville. Places that are known as much for their food as for their friendly and singular service. Places that not only offer up exquisite dishes but also warm smiles that are eager to greet familiar faces. The Fishery, located at 3624 Lexington Road, is one of those places.

Carol and Matt Clark, the brother-sister ownership team behind The Fishery, grew up around the restaurant business. Their father opened Burger Queen in 1963 with his brother, and the kids would often hang around the restaurant. So the food industry has always been in the family. When they grew into adults, the siblings scattered, however, and didn’t necessarily see themselves coming into a business partnership together.

DSC_0625But Matt, who still lived in Louisville, was a regular at a little fish joint called The Fishery and believed he and his sister could run a place like that. So he got to thinking and remembers the two making the realization together: “We decided – we know how to do the restaurant business and we like this concept. Let’s do it.”

Matt approached the original owner of The Fishery, who opened the store in 1983, and asked if he would be interested in franchising his concept. The owner declined but instead offered to sell it. “We had a deal within a couple of weeks,” Matt recalls. So in 1992, Carol and Matt Clark became the new owners of The Fishery.

Since taking over, the Clarks have pretty much kept the menu as it was while perhaps making some minor tweaks along the way. “We’ve gone from all fried food to offering some more lighter fare with grilled and broiled items, which a lot of people still don’t realize and still don’t want sometimes,” Carol laughs.

Whatever they’re serving, however, you can count on it being just as reliably delicious as it has been for nearly 35 years. The shrimp po boy is particularlyDSC_0654 tasty, served with a homemade remoulade. The new lobster roll, featuring homemade lobster salad, is also deliciously satisfying. However, nothing beats the classic Icelandic cod sandwich, which is of course fantastic – flaky, flavorful and not too fishy.

But The Fishery, to the surprise of many, serves a lot more than just fish. A vegetable soup and bean soup were both delightful and wonderfully seasoned. Meanwhile, Matt emphasizes, “One of our best kept secrets is our chicken strips. A lot of times you see frozen and pre-breaded chicken, but our chicken is cut fresh and breaded and fried to order. And it’s really good!”

He’s not kidding. The chicken strips were almost as great as the fish. They do indeed taste remarkably fresh and home-cooked, breaded in a way that reminds you of grandma’s house as opposed to the fair. And all the sides complemented the entrees just as they should; homemade onion rings, coleslaw and potato salad all added that tantalizing extra flair to create a complete Southern meal.

But The Fishery’s appeal extends far beyond its good food. It is known as a family place, but what makes it unique is how very genuine that concept is for the Clarks. Their dad still hangs around to support and encourage, often lending a hand in business operations whenever he can. People from around town frequently become repeat customers after one visit, which gives The Fishery a very honest and organic community atmosphere.

DSC_0672“I told Matt last week when I was on the phone with him –  ‘I recognize someone at every single table,’” Carol proudly states. People are more than just customers at The Fishery; they’re friends. Cheesy as that may sound, it’s true. The owners really have gone the extra mile to ensure everyone feels at home and well taken care of. For example, they will never turn someone away if they show up a little before opening or a little after closing. “We stay open until they stop coming,” Matt maintains. “We have general hours, but if we’re here and we have hot fryers, we’re going to be open. We’ll let them keep coming until they stop coming.”

And that’s how The Fishery has always been. Both Matt and Carol credit two individuals in particularDSC_0687 for helping them along the way. “There are two people who we absolutely could not have done this without,” Carol relates. “And that’s Chrissy Siddens, our general manager, and Tom Gerding, our kitchen manager. We really could not have done this without them.”

Thanks to the positive attitudes, social environment and consistent great product, there’s no stopping The Fishery. Right now, they’re enjoying a record year and on a recent Friday served 1,575 people. But the Clarks would never brag to you about their success. Instead, they’d offer you a seat at the table and make you the best fish sandwich you’ve ever had. And after taking one bite, you’d be sure to be back.

The Fishery is open Saturday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays. For more information call 502.895.1188 or visit thefisheryky.com.