I would later find out though that the Hot Chicken and Hot Fish are not as closely related cousins as I had first thought. The Hot Chicken is an insanely spicy (but addictively delicious) fried chicken with molecules of Scoville
If I remember right I first read about Eastside Fish somewhere on Nashville Scene. Eastside claims their fish to be the Crunkest in town. If so, I thought that wouldn't be a bad place to start. ;) But I read enough praising reviews that I knew it would be a safe bet.
Nomenclature aside what can also make things confusing is that you can often find Hot Fish at a Hot Chicken Shack and vice versa. Furthermore I've read up that the earlier mentioned Bolton's does actually use some of their secret Hot Chicken marinade to sauce their Hot Fish. On this casual outing though I wouldn't be the one to confirm anything. Just a little relieved that I won't be tending a scorched mouth and lips the rest of the afternoon.
But back to Eastside, the place is mainly for takeout with only few stools and a small table. Entering the glass doors you're immediately greeted with another facade with small order window. While the atmosphere is mostly business, proprietor "Bo" that was manning the register had enough of that friendly Southern humor wit and the place decorated with enough charm that I decided to eat in.
Ordering your Hot Fish Sandwich 'with everything' means having all the classic fixings of pickles, mustard, raw onions and of course dousing of some hot sauce (usually a Louisiana style).
Here you have a choice from three (that include Sea Trout) but Whiting would definitely be the most ubiquitous and popular of the HFS. Value for money it usually makes the largest and filling meal (while also admittedly a nice photo with the iconic visual of giant fillets protruding well past the white sandwich bread), but I went for the Catfish ($6.99) as I knew there would be no bones but also because I enjoy the subtly earthy flavors, at least from one from a fresh catch.
May be hard to tell but I'm barely holding the sandwich up as the temperature is near burning my fingers! Rotating it every 30 degrees, I quickly surrender to the fact that there was no way of photographing this meal attractively. As I finally put down my camera and ready myself to take the first bite, I honestly didn't expect something quite so flavorful. The piping hot Catfish was fried perfectly, extremely fluffy and moist inside with an equally delicious contrasting outer crust of corn/cracker meal style fry seasoning. As for a fried item goes, indeed quite the departure from the Hot Chicken as it's not at all greasy and the fiery aspect controlled. For my tolerances in spicy, something much more easily enjoyable.
The biggest surprise for me though was how well the pickle, mustard and raw onions went with the sandwich. The balance of flavors achieved in good part by the help of the fish's seasoning, but I would've sworn I'd be craving some tartar sauce half way through the meal but the thought did not come once. My next Hot Fish Sandwich I'd be having the exact same way.
As Nashville food writer Jim Myers says in this great article, "It's hard to have a bad fish sandwich when it comes hot, straight from the fryer," and this indeed is one of them. I'd happily revisit Eastside. Maybe next time taking on their famous O.G. King Fish. A near two-pound behemoth of Whiting almost humorously sandwiched between puny looking slices of white bread. If it's as good as what I had this day, I shouldn't have any problem putting it away.
Eastside Fish, 2617 Gallatin Pike, Nashville, TN 37216