While running errands in the Chantilly area, I was overwhelmed with hunger. Lunch time! I happened to be driving by Dave's Seafood and Subs. Normally, I would not have chosen this place. It's a generic store front in a generic strip mall with nothing beyond the word "seafood" to grab my attention. However, a workmate of my wife's recommended it.
My first impression was, "Yup, inside looks just like what you'd expect from the outside. I was a little worried that I was the only one there, despite it being a little after noon (there was a steady stream of patrons after my arrival, though). This was assuaged by the aroma of freshly fried fish. MUST EAT NOW!
I focused solely on the seafood, ignoring the subs options. I order the fish sampler which included 3 pieces of fried fish (catfish, tilapia and, I believe, haddock) and 2 sides (I selected onion rings and potato salad). The wait was long enough to tell me that my order was made fresh. I was not disappointed.
Three large pieces of fish come out piping hot with a cornmeal coating strong enough that I could eat this by hand (calluses come in handy to insulate you from the heat). Delicious! It did not even need the tarter sauce it came with, though it was equally good with that and the ketchup / hot-sauce combo I usually mix up when anything fried is on the plate. The potato salad is as I like it: no big chucks, almost puréed with a mustardy dressing. The onion rings were nothing to write home about, just your generic Sysco supplied side dish.
My only complaint is that this is too much of a good thing. I could only eat half, and I was stuffing myself. This combo could easily be split between 2 people, maybe even 3. I say this is a problem because you need to eat fried fish (well any fried foods) quickly as the quality decline accelerates with time. My last few bites were still OK, but it was clear that this wouldn't make for good leftovers.
I will make a return visit with the family.
Revisiting Dave's Seafood & Subs
I find that with many new places we go to, the second visit is never as good as the first. Sometimes after raving about a place, my return trip leads me to wonder what in the heck I was thinking. (See my piece on the Curse of the Second Visit.) Not so with Dave's. This time I went with the whole family.
We ordered the 3 fish sampler again. The catfish was everyone's favorite, followed by the trout. The whiting was OK. The fried oysters, at first, had me worried. They looked over done, but were actually well cooked, meaty and just a degree below scalding. Perfect. The buffalo wings, too, had heft and a good combination of crispy outside and juicy meat.
Where this place excels is with their side dishes. For most places, these are just after thoughts probably bought frozen from a vendor. Dave's, however, makes their own and does it well. I will take this time to apologize for my comment in my initial review about the onion rings. I claimed they looked like typical food service fare, but, no, they are clearly home made and taste that way. I'm not sure why I thought otherwise last time. The potato salad, though, was as good this time as last. The only comment from the family was surprise at the the lack of chunks, being mostly puréed. The hush puppies were the best I've had this far north.
If you're in Chantilly and you're hungry, you could do a lot worse.
Dave's Seafood and Subs
4008 Walney Rd
Chantilly, VA 20151-2986