The seafood shack is an icon of Southern foodways, a line that can be traced along the Atlantic from Nana’s in Charleston to Desposito’s in Savannah. And if you’ve vacationed anywhere from Key West to Panama City to New Orleans, you know this genre: fried fish; oysters on the half shell; steamed or fried crab claws; peel-and-eat shrimp; fried shrimp; and that Panhandle delicacy: smoked mullet.
In landlocked Atlanta, though, a good fish house can be hard to find. So when I heard about Trederick’s Seafood & Grill downtown, I got my hopes up — kinda like when you feel a jerk on your fishing line and know for sure you’re about to catch a big one.
A mile south of Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Whitehall Street and open since March, owner Trederick Gray’s namesake restaurant makes it possible to satisfy the urge for a Southern fish fry any day. If a visit to the Georgia Aquarium puts you in the mood for a tilapia sandwich (I’m weird, I know) or a lobster tail with drawn butter, Trederick’s is worth a nibble, even though the food and the mood can be as exasperating at times as the one that got away.
Over three visits to the clean, sunny, white-washed spot with the beachy blue accents, I’ve enjoyed beautifully fried fish and shrimp, and addictive hush puppies. And after a recent aquarium visit, my buddy did indeed give his stamp of approval to a fried tilapia sandwich stuffed with two big fillets — such a whopper he couldn’t finish it. At other times, I’ve endured seafood boils with overcooked corn and mushy potatoes, and sweet-natured but barely-there table service. (You may have to clear your throat really loudly or trudge to the front counter to get some assistance.)
Trederick’s is like that — uneven, yet charming in its way.
I recommend sticking to the fried food: shrimp, catfish, whitefish, never oysters. My $22 fried seafood platter (two pieces of fish; fried shrimp; and a pan-seared, remoulade-drizzled crabcake on a bed of spring mix) was delicious. Never mind that the menu (maybe an old one?) stated clam strips rather than crabcake. Nor that I asked for clarification on the perceived mix-up and never got an answer. It was a solid crabcake. My choice of whiting was flavorful in a fishy but not overly fishy way, and the mac and cheese was divine.
I was also smitten with the catfish basket, and the server kindly allowed me to substitute coleslaw for fries. Hush puppies, made with just a hint of sugar, were solid on the first try, irresistible on the second.
It was at my early Sunday evening dinner that things began to go somewhat awry.
The 1-pound basket of “fried to perfection” oysters was a generous pile to be sure, but they were so overbreaded as to obscure the taste, and some of the bits and pieces had a generic flavor. We wondered if there weren’t a few clams in the mix. I can’t recommend such mediocre bivalves.
Our $29 platter of steamed crab legs and a lobster tail, to which we added a handful of shrimp for a $6 upcharge, was also disappointing: the lobster and crab only fair, the potatoes boiled so long they were bleached of flavor, the corn not exactly summer’s finest. We had to pick and pry at the front counter for a set of crab claws, by which time we’d pretty much cracked the crab. Sigh.
If at the end of the briny meal you feel a hankering for something sweet, do peep into the pastry case up front. There you’ll spy towering Southern layer cakes of the sort that grandmas make. When I asked about the carrot cake, the server told me it was “heavy.” I thought she meant rich, but she meant “as a brick.” Sure enough, I took a piece home, put it on my kitchen scale, and it clocked in at 1 pound. It glistened with sugar and vegetable oil (the standard ingredient to assure moisture in a spice cake).
Now, did I really need dessert so soon after a fried food feast? No. But I’m gonna play the research card. Turned out the cake was memorable in the same fashion as the rest of Trederick’s fare: visually appealing, filling, mostly unexceptional.
In a city far from the seafood shacks of memory, Trederick’s brings a whiff of nostalgia. There are better places for fried seafood in town. (I like Po’Boy Shop, and the Colonnade’s fried seafood is hard to beat.) But on certain occasions, it will do.
TREDERICK’S SEAFOOD & GRILL
11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Sundays. 609 Whitehall St. SW, Atlanta. 470-343-2175, tredericksseafood.com.
Recommended: Fried seafood platter. Fried catfish basket. Tilapia sandwich. Hush puppies. Mac and cheese.