Alright, enough of that vegetarian stuff from yesterday, let’s get back to the meat! 😉 Though the national food holiday calendar won’t have you go straight from seitan to spare ribs: ease back into the carnivore transition with National Fried Scallops Day. Did you know that the bay scallop is the state shell of New York? So by celebrating today, you’re eating a little piece of New York nostalgia! A mollusk with a particularly delicate flesh, scallops are a treat from the sea, a slightly briny, sometimes even sweet seafood that can be prepared in any number of ways. You can bake it, fry it, sautée it, make it into a casserole, deep fry it to lovely oblivion, or even serve it raw as sashimi. We’ve even had national food holidays for scallops before: baked scallops and Coquilles St. Jacques are both celebrated throughout the year. Scallops seem to be the most popular seafood to celebrate, because they have three whole days to themselves! Today is celebrating the fried scallop, which can mean some very different things: you can pan-fry a scallop, giving it a quick, hot sear on each side before plating, which would leave the scallop just cooked, blending the textures of the soft, chewy inside and the crisp, charred edges. This is the most popular way to fry scallops for the expertise it takes to execute it perfectly, making sure not to overcook the scallop or serve it raw. You’ll find seared scallops in the highest end restaurants all over the world.
We’re not going to talk about pan-seared scallops today.
No, instead we’re going to go to the other side of the spectrum, the cooked-so-much-you-forgot-what-meat-this-is kind of fried scallop, the one you’d more likely find at a seaside shanty than an eatery on Madison Avenue. I’m talking about deep-fried scallops, dredged in flour and breaded, dipped into hot oil to get a sizzling hot morsel of yum, served with ketchup and tartar sauce in a plastic basket lined with checkerboard wax paper. That’s what I’m talking about! There’s a kind of simplistic elegance to fried seafood, especially scallops, that can’t come from any other kind of preparation: it’s non-judgmental, delightfully unsophisticated food that tastes great and reminds you of a certain time of the year, a place, an age. And nothing says non-judgmental and delicious like Johnny’s World Famous Reef Restaurant. The name sounds rather boastful but they live up to the hype of “world famous,” easily being the top seafood restaurant–and maybe even the best place to eat–on the Bronx’s City Island. Little more than a cafeteria-like eatery with picnic benches both inside and out, with gorgeous views of the Long Island Sound, Johnny’s makes up for ambience with fresh-tasting, delicious seafood cooked just the way America likes it–deep fried! They have the rarer and less-lofty sea critters, like smelt and squid and whiting, that most restaurants won’t put on their menu. Their batter is crisp and delicious, whether it’s around a clam strip or a perfectly cooked bay scallop. They’re open for the season until November, so if you hurry you can just sneak in a great meal with one of the best, most unique views in the city.
Johnny’s World Famous Reef Restaurant
2 City Island Ave, City Island, The Bronx
“Johnny’s World Famous Reef Restaurant is a small cafeteria-style eatery serving items such as shrimp or scallops in a basket, fried lobster tails, and little neck clams on the half shell, all accompanied by heaps of French fries.”–Westchester Magazine
“All items get the same cracker meal and breadcrumb-based batter, but not all seafood at Johnny’s Reef is created equal. I say go for the fried shrimp, fried lobster tails, fried scallops or the whiting. It’s nothing gourmet, just straight-up traditional, crispy, golden seafood with a salty bite, the way a fry shack should be, perfect with a squeeze of lemon and their addictive homemade tartar sauce. Portions here are large, especially with the added pile of hand-cut russet fries, but thankfully, the prices are not. Once you navigate the confusingly quirky, cafeteria-style lines, head outside to the peaceful, seagull-protected area and chow down with a pina colada or fruity daiquiri. It may not be the beach, but for the view and the experience, it’s a whole lot better.”–New York One
““City Island is the Hamptons of the Bronx,” says owner John Liapis, who shells out fresh, raw oysters and clams along with his lobsters. The neighboring Tony’s Pier (1 City Island Ave.) and Johnny’s World Famous Reef Restaurant (2 City Island Ave.), both on the water, dish shellfish with an oceanside seating. “Johnny’s has the best scallops in New York City,” says Burn.”–New York Daily News
“The decor at this 45-year-old City Island institution is reminiscent of a school cafeteria—including the long lines. The attraction here is inexpensive seafood and shameless deep-fat-frying: filet of sole, red snapper, whiting, smelts, mini–lobster tails, shrimp, scallops, soft-shell crabs, clams, oysters and squid. Any of it comes freshly breaded and mercilessly fried for about $10. The Clam Bar, meanwhile, offers shucked-before-your-eyes littlenecks and cherrystones for $10 a dozen. On a nice day, grab your grub and drink, head out to the picnic tables and enjoy the view of Long Island Sound.”–Time Out New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Perfect chill, laidback spot to grab an awesome bite to eat. I go with my best bud Vic, and we eat like mad. Between the two of us, broiled shrimp with garlic, fried scallops, cherrystones, maybe some fish. And the Pina coladas straight from the machine dispenser. It’s a wonder I’m not 200 lbs. It’s great to be tall.”–Nicole N.
“Definitely a fan of this place. I think it’s the lightly battered fried shrimp and succulent scallops or maybe the creamy tartar sauce that keeps me wanting to come back here. This is the place I’ve been craving and I’ve been going to twice a week for the past month. Yummy. $12.00 for the shrimp n fries w/ coleslaw and $11.00 for just the fried scallops without the fries. The softshell crabs, fried whiting, and calamari are great too (11 bucks).”–Annie Y.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!