Smithtown Seafood offers a nice twist on an all-too-common restaurant experience. It makes no pretense on atmosphere and delivers very good food at reasonable price.
The public portion of Smithtown, located in a corner of the re-imagined industrial building that houses West Sixth Brewery, is not much more than a smallish hall with a countertop at the end. You often walk by crates of potatoes or other produce on your way to order and there is no seating. That's not an issue, though, since Smithtown opens almost seamlessly into West Sixth's beer hall. You take a number, find a table and make your way to the West Sixth bar to face the daunting decision of which beer to drink. Once that's negotiated and the foam has settled it won't be long before the food arrives.
On two recent visits all of the food was good and some was really outstanding. At lunch (no beer, just FYI) my companion and I tried the two specials: blackened catfish with grits ($10.95) and grilled tuna basket ($14) along with a side of spinach ($2.95).
I kind of missed the blackened food craze when it emerged from New Orleans a couple of decades ago, so I've always been hesitant to order fish or meat prepared that way. I'm glad that reluctance didn't win out at Smithtown. The combination of the peppery heat, the mild catfish and the rich grits was just wonderful. Garnished with strips of batter fried onion, the dish was a great balance of textures and flavors. The grilled tuna, served with a Singapore salad (our choice) was a simpler dish but the quality of the tuna made that just fine. The Singapore salad, a regular on the menu, is a great concoction of fresh lettuces and pickled vegetables garnished with fried onions, peanuts and rice noodles, dressed with a ginger-soy vinaigrette. Again, the balance makes this work.
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I'm a vegetable freak and so ordered the spinach to see what we'd get after three weeks of snow. Again, a nice treat. Cooked with something a little hot that I couldn't quite identify, it clearly had never seen a freezer.
At dinner I ordered a basic Smithtown burger ($8.95) cooked rare. That's kind of an iron test: the quality of the beef is more evident the less it's cooked and not every kitchen will really give you rare when that's what you ask for. Smithtown passed on both counts: I had no trouble believing the menu's assertion that this was quality local beef, and it did come out rare. French fries ($3) on the side were the real thing, crispy outside, mealy and flavorful inside. We really wanted to order the whole Tilapia that night but, alas, there was none (no scallops either) so we settled on the tasty Salad Supper ($8.95), a mixture of black-eyed pea and Greek salads and tabbouleh served on a bed of greens, and an order of the Nachos Pescados ($8.95.) This last item was the only thing that disappointed. The corn chips were tasty and crisp but pretty quickly got confused and a little limp with the fish ensalada, cabbage and pickled red onion that make up the rest of the dish.
On the Smithtown Web page, owner and chef Ouita Michel, whose other restaurants include Holly Hill Inn, Wallace Station and Windy Corner, notes that part of the mission of all these locations "is to make sure all our friends and neighbors have access to delicious, reasonably-priced, healthy food."
At Smithtown, without question, they succeed.