When the Grub Street Post, "Joe Carroll to Open Fish-Fry Shack Lake Trout Next Month," went up in March, their gorgeous accompanying preview photo of Lake Trout's fish and cheese sandwich said it all, setting the stage for what you had to call "one of New York's most anticipated fish sandwiches in recent memory." The brown wax paper, the wide-open, impeccably-stuffed mess between a potato roll sesame seed-studded bun, the tomatoes with tartar sliding off, all set on shredded lettuce, super melted cheese, and a fried filet that seems at least twice as thick as anything you've ever seen at McDondald's — if you're a fan of fish sandwiches, it was enough to set off some kind of sandwich alarm: "Whenever Lake Trout opens, I will be there."
That "whenever" took a while. March, April, May, June, and July came and there was no epic-looking fish sandwich from Williamsburg restaurateurs Joe Carroll and Matt Lang. The delay was long enough to make you wonder if anything was ever going to happen. But you knew that given the restaurant's heritage, the link to Fette Sau, what most would agree is a nod to top-notch quality in one of New York's best barbecue spots (does the Barclay Center connote Brooklyn's return to the world's stage as its own city they way it used to?) that there was a pedigree to trust. That photo, that picture of the fish and cheese sandwich just promised something that was worth waiting for.
And then it finally happened in mid-July. There was an interview about the food and indication that the restaurant would open momentarily. “I’m a huge fan of crappy food,” Matt Lang was quoted as saying, by which, Grub Street added by way of clarification that he meant "delicious crappy food as opposed to crappy crappy food." And then, finally, Lake Trout opened and the early word weighed in.
The word on that epic sandwich? One some five months in the making? It lives up to the wait. Forget about that whole "crappy food" thing. Just evaluate the sandwich on what you're eating.
A soft bun holding a hot fish filet whose onion-ring-fried-bits-in-the-fryer-basket color looks as thin and crispy as it is. Imagine a tissue-thin crisp exterior that gives way to an interior of moist white flakes, two juicy tomato slices, a few tablespoonfuls of tartar sauce, finely-shredded lettuce, and then the thing that really makes you remember it, makes you put this sandwich on your, hey-have-you-had-it-yet list, that melted cheese layer. Is it Velveeta-based? Is it not? Who knows. It's melty, gooey, and attached enough to the fillet and the foil paper that it droops off and calls to you to recapture it, redistribute that cheese onto the last remaining bites you have of the sandwich. Given a few applications of the house hot sauce, there's nothing this sandwich wants for. Fish sandwich in balance makes a case for the title of one of the country's best renditions.
Here's the question, if you do "crappy food" really, really, really well, does that make it good food?