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Fishing for compliments

Granted, lunchtime at Wednesday may not be prime time at Wilmington Island’s Flying Fish Bar & Grill. I thought that would be a good thing.

I didn’t want to be there when the place is packed with weekend warriors filling the large outdoor decks. I knew those are the restaurant’s best-attended time slots, when buckets of cold Bud Light flow like water and a large part of the shrimp harvest is devoured by the deep–fried basketful.

Maybe I should have.

The lone server covering the 15 or so diners during lunch was clearly rushed. Food usually takes a while here — the menu even tells you that — and when it arrived it was pretty much dropped and she ran. A request for extra napkins caught us with a wadded up pile of paper.

The good news is that drink refills arrived without a request, but were placed so far away we had to stand up to reach the glasses.

The interior is bright, colorful — and then that atmosphere is dampened by grayish, heavy duty plastic tablecloths. I would rather see the picnic tables inside than these downers draping the dining room.

I chose calamari as an appetizer. I got a basket full of crunchy bits — the victims of too long in the hot fat. I didn’t know how many calamari died for this serving, but the deaths were in vain.

I particularly like the tentacles, which had been fried to the point of no squid inside, just crispy little bits of breading. The surviving rings were very rubbery — all the tenderness and moisture had been cooked away.

My fish tacos didn’t fare much better. The dish is ample — three corn tortillas stuffed with massive amounts of lettuce and one fish “finger” per taco. Standard fare crinkle cut French fries accompanied and were, now surprisingly, fried just right.

Again though, the fish suffered from fryer dehydration. Good flavor on the breading for sure, just not much fish flesh to enjoy.

My friend’s special shrimp — supposedly hotter than the Buffalo shrimp — support the theory that taking good hot sauce and adding something else to it is a bad idea. The seasoning wasn’t that spicy, although the big shrimp might have been pretty darned good without the sauced coating.

Bottom line: Attention to detail is critical, with every plate at every time of the day. Any other time, my experience might have swung the other way — as I’m sure many of you have had a good, or even great meal here. This day it wasn’t in the stars.

What did resonate positively was the check. The calamari would be a steal at $6.95 if cooked properly; likewise the fish tacos — also at $6.95.

Very few menu items soar past the $8 mark — expect large platters of things like peel and eat shrimp and dinner entrees. Our two appetizers and two sandwich plates with a couple of iced teas came to just under $32.

7906 US Hwy. 80 E., just before the Bull River bridge/897–2009