If you’re trolling for hidden restaurant gems, you likely know the best ’hoods: Inner Sunset, Outer Richmond, the Tenderloin, Fisherman’s Wharf ...
Cue needle scratching across a record. I know, I know. We long ago ceded Fisherman’s Wharf to the socks-and-sandals crowd, a demographic — pardon my snobbery — not known for discerning palates. Treasure hunters dine elsewhere.
But on a quiet side street where the F-Market trains dock, just shy of the wharf’s gaudy nucleus, sits one tiny exception to the rule. The Codmother is a simple fish-and-chips shack: cheap, charming and delicious.
The window is manned by ever-sunny British owner Suzanne Acevedo. Cute accent, but she doesn’t make it a shtick; Acevedo’s banter is warm and natural. She even melted one of my icier friends, who was halfway through his workday slump.
Codmother seating is outdoors only, always a risk. Yet Acevedo swears her trailer is a sunshine vortex; bad weather approaches, but stops just short.
I can’t disprove it. During one visit, I left a dour, gray Mission and arrived at an equally gloomy Fisherman’s Wharf. But The Codmother’s patio? Sun-dappled and bright.
Fish and chips came in regular or junior portions. I ordered the latter (and felt no less the man). My portion was ample: two meaty fillets on a generous mound of chips. The batter was crisp yet moist, enhanced with the unexpected bite of roasted peppercorns. Inside, the hot, juicy cod feathered apart with ease.
Fish tacos were made with corn tortillas, two to the order. Small fillet portions were topped with Baja sauce (sour cream and mayonnaise with pickled jalapenos, chili and lime), and cilantro, served over Tapatio hot sauce and slaw. The ingredients were bright, fresh and well-apportioned; these were some of the best fish tacos I’ve had.
The chips were hand-cut, flavorful Kennebecs. You get a king’s portion with your fish, but you can also step out with the “Chips Gone Wild” add-on menu (chili, gravy, garlic, etc.) I sampled the Baja-garlic version, but honestly, good chips don’t need all that flash. You’d do better to eat them straight-up, or with a splash of vinegar.
Dessert was pure county-fair hoggery. Twinkies, Oreos and Snickers were coated in thick batter (thankfully peppercorn-free) and tossed in the fryer. Eating these treats fried, after their centers were heated and liquefied, was an experience you should probably try once. But not after a meal of deep-fried fish and potatoes.
My mistakes didn’t end with dessert.
After a great meal at The Codmother, I grew dizzy with possibility. Could the wharf be harboring other hidden gems? I had heard loose whispers about an “artisanal fishwich” that’s been called the fish complement to Bakesale Betty’s chicken. Was this possible?
Sally’s Famous Fishwich is tucked behind a construction site on Pier 43½, serving up a buttermilk-
battered fish fillet on a soft roll with chili flakes, sea salt and olive oil slaw.
I arrived feeling hopeful, but left feeling fleeced; this was one sad sandwich. Cold supermarket hoagie roll (the cook told me it comes from “some baker in The City”), tasteless slaw, soggy batter on a lukewarm fillet. New rule: Never trust anywhere with famous in its title.
As I drove away from Sally’s, my car got stuck behind a platoon of Segways. The sky was steel-gray. Fool me once, Fisherman’s Wharf.