When’s the last time that you went for a great meal in a place that has been open since 1950? The answer is “recently” if you’ve gone to Scotty Simpson’s Fish & Chips for perfectly prepared fish and chips — and a few steps back in time. Fancy it’s not; delicious it is. Serving fresh, never frozen, hand-cut Icelandic cod in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood, this classic gem is a quintessential Motown experience.
Harry Barber, who’s only been working at Scotty’s since 1966, greets many loyal customers by name. He started washing dishes the same day he started at Redford High School and never left.
Barber is the head cook and pie baker. Since 2002 he’s also been the proud owner of the restaurant located just a block from where he grew up. The waitresses also welcome folks by name, frequently followed by “the usual?” For most diners that’s breaded, deep-fried cod and freshly hand-cut chips. The cod is moist, tender, and melts in your mouth. The contrast of the crunchy crust with the firm fish is delectable.
The key to Scotty’s longevity is the batter. It’s light, flaky, crunchy, and addictive — and used to coat the signature cod, perch, shrimp, chicken, onion rings, and frog legs. The recipe is a closely held secret. Barber won’t reveal a single ingredient! (Editor’s note: Barber does give the batter mixture to Lynn’s Café in Brighton. But he doesn’t share the recipe. The two eateries have teamed up to offer Scotty’s fare outside of the city.)
Barber does share that the coleslaw is handmade from fresh cabbage with carrot bits in a light dressing. The tartar sauce is made from scratch as well. As he says, “we take good ingredients, handle them with care, cook ’em right, and serve ’em properly.”
The from-scratch clam chowder has a surprising zip of pepper. Hamburgers and steak are on the menu, but really, is that why you’re here? If you go early enough on a Friday, you’ll have your choice of several homemade pies, including lemon meringue, banana cream, and chocolate cream.
Service is warm and friendly. “Hon” is heard frequently. Many of the servers have worked the Formica tables for decades. The jukebox, featuring many Motown classics, adds to the retro ambience.
It’s a shame Anthony Bourdain didn’t stop here on his tour. This is the real Detroit — a no-frills bastion of great food served simply by friendly folks. You may want to keep Scotty Simpson’s a secret from your cardiologist, but don’t keep it a secret from your friends and family. Let’s keep this institution up and running for another 64 years.
22200 Fenkell St., Detroit; 313-533-0950. L & D Tues.-Sun. scottysfishandchips.com