Review: Original Halibut’s

Updated 2/07
When I was a kid in southern California, it seemed like every shopping center had a fish and chips place, mostly the same big chain. I still remember stopping by for lunch on special occasions and downing that flaky goodness, drowned in malt vinegar. I’m not sure what ever happened to all those restaurants – a victim of changing tastes, I suppose. Aside from an occasional average meal along the coast, it has been a long time since I’ve had fish and chips. Now ex-bartender David Mackay has opened a place on Alberta that specializes in nothing but fish, chips, and chowder.

It is obvious that Mr. Mackay is passionate about fish. From the moment I walk through the door “You have to try the rock cod today, it’s wonderful” to the constant overseeing of his employees “don’t over cook it… three minutes!” it is clear he takes all of this very seriously. It seems he never stops looking at the timers.

The restaurant is small, maybe seven inside tables under sky blue walls and three ceiling fans. It’s a kitschy, nice space. In 2007 a second, larger space was added next door. On nice days there are tables out front on Alberta.

Streetside Dining

The menu contains a fish of the day – lately rock cod $11/$8, giant tiger prawns $14/$10, Alaskan halibut $14/$9 Alaskan Salmon $9/$7, Southern catfish $8.00/$6, Alaskan true cod $8/$6, Halibut’s clam chowder $6/$12.00, coleslaw, corn on the cob, and a child’s 2 pc chicken strips. Everything except the chowder comes with nice thick medium-crisp fries. The smaller portions are just fine for lunch.

The canola-corn oil blend gives the lightly coated fish a crunchy crust with a remarkably moist interior. The juice runs down your chin as you bite into it. Tartar sauce is simple and mellow, complementing rather then competing with the fish. One can add malt vinegar if you need a little extra zing. The clam chowder is pretty darn good. Full of chunks of potato, large clams, cream, and served with a lump of butter. A nice bacon flavor rounds it out. This reminds me of some of the chowder I ate daily while bicycling the length of the California coast years ago… or at least on the Northern coast. They now have a beer and wine license, and a new room that opens more space for dining inside.

  • Phone: 503-808-9600
  • Address: 2525 NE Alberta, Portland, OR. 97211 Google Map
  • Hours: 11:30am-9:00pm, (open till 10pm June 24th – Sept 23rd)

Original Halibut's on Urbanspoon

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. tha-krza says

    This place is pretty great when you are craving fish–I would say stay away from the catfish though. His batter is better suited to halibut and cod, which are both REALLY GOOD…and the halibut and cod he gets are of better quality than the catfish (when I have tried it). For catfish, go down the street to Lagniappe where they have better fish and a more appropos cornmeal batter breading.

  2. tha-krza says

    Saw that when we were in their last. Love that it is called Halibuts #2. I really like the vibe in there. Everyone seems comfortable and happy to be eating. It is the only newish restaurant on Alberta OR Mississippi that actually courts the neighborhood, not simply the “gentry”. It was about time. Lagniappe does pretty well with this too.

  3. Chambolle says

    (Sorry to get off the topic, FD) T-K, can you recommend a good BBQ joint in Memphis? A friend is going there in a couple of days.

  4. tha-krza says

    Depends on what you want. The thing your friend will get NOWHERE else on the planet is to be had at Payne’s BBQ 1762 Lamar Ave. It is their chopped (not sliced) BBQ pork sandwich. It is simply the BEST BBQ pork sandwich ever, unlike any other. Get the spicy sauce, of course, and the neon-yellow slaw.

    It is the single reason I am always let down when people put this on a menu out here (which people are doing everywhere now, what is up wit dat?). It just isn’t right anywhere. It sets the standard in Memphis so that even the crappy ones everywhere else in town are not bad.

    For ribs, things are different and I can ask my rib-eating friends what is best right now, if you want. Used to be Interstate and Neely’s were the best.

  5. Food Dude says

    Chambolle: You might check with ExtraMSG. He really know’s his BBQ, and as I recall he was back there last summer.

  6. tha-krza says

    And he didn’t go to Payne’s!!!!

    I don’t think it was his fault, though. But when I read his report, he did try some pretty wack places. I don’t know where he got his info from. I’d trust a Memphian. He has admitted to preferring Texas BBQ.

  7. tha-krza says

    OK, forgot one of the other most amazing places to eat on the planet:

    Cozy Corner BBQ on N. Parkway near Downtown Memphis–BBQ Cornish Hens! 3/4 of people report ribs to be good too. Very special place.

    The other report was that BBQ Shop on Madison is good as well as Rendezvous for lamb ribs. The Rendezvous is famous and an experience. I am not a rib fan, like I said. But the chopped pork sandwich at Payne’s and the BBQ hen at Cozy Corner will show what Memphis BBQ is really about. Also, Cozy Corner has a fried BBQ bologna sandwich…I love it.

  8. KeLLy UmbeLLy says

    Good Job Uncle Dave! Your place is awesome. I’ll be in there tonight with my girlfriend Jennifer! See you later.

  9. Becky says

    My husband & I had the cod & the halibut: both were simply fantastic! The batter was light & airy, the fish done to perfection: I lived in England as a child & it’s hard to find fish & chips done to my satisfaction (usually heavy with grease & over- fried in the US). I agree the slaw wasn’t worth it and the fries were merely acceptable. But we will return for the fish.

  10. cloudburst says

    great stuff. moved here from BC in 2000, this is the first time i have had fish’n’chips that really compared to what i was used to in the vancouver area.

    yum.

  11. pdxJules says

    I’ve become a regular there this past year, and always take different friends for their first time, with music (& good fish & chips) as the hook. They always want to return.

    My usual is the Catfish & Chips. A half order is only $6 – perfect if you’re only having a nosh to prevent a hang-over. The Crab Cakes are GREAT, and I like the Chowder alot.

    Music is now 6 nights a week, 8-11 PM, featuring Muddy Award Winning Artists, with no cover charge, in the adjoining bar, called Halibuts II. Loyd Jones, in solo Concert every Monday – is just Wonderful. Monti Amundson & Jon Koonce Tuesdays, Paul Delay Trio Wednesdays, Terry Robb is Thursdays: http://www.terryrobb.com

    Music on weekends varies, and tables fill up.
    Sit near the music end of the bar to enjoy it best.
    See this site for details: http://www.positivelyentertainment.com/ontap/tap_frame.html
    and a review:
    http://www.positivelyentertainment.com/features/may-june2006/halibuts.html

    The full bar offers a good Organic Fish Tail IPA on Tap, but sadly, not the full line-up of seasonal, local or winter ales that I’ve come to expect in hipster Portland. Well, not until Dave reads this, anyway. He aims to please, that’s for sure, often offering guests free samples, like a full stick of Coconut Prawns. On a hot summer day, he tossed an ice cream bar across the bar to anyone who wanted one. (It stays comfortable there even on really hot days…)

  12. Barman says

    Ate here once and unfortunately have not been back. They were unexpectedly busy so the service was a little slow, but good nonetheless. There was only one person waiting on all the tables and tending the bar. I thought the catfish was excellent and the slaw was a winner, too. Next time I have a fried fish craving, this will be my cure.

  13. Bubbles McGee says

    I just ate here for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was fabulous. I had the halibut, my husband had the halibut cheeks, and they were both great…breaded just perfectly. The prawn cocktail was also a winner…large, tender prawns, and tangy, spicy cocktail sauce. I’ll definitely be returning.

  14. Jen says

    Well, well, Dave Mackay……..It certainly sounds like you have found success. I am so happy for you. I plan on coming in soon to try your fish-n-chips that everyone is raving about.

  15. Comfort Foodie says

    I’ve been to Halibut’s twice. The first time I thought it was expensive and too salty. I went back a second time incase the saltiness was a fluke, and again it was too salty. The best fish and chips I have found are at Biddy McGraw’s — perfectly seasoned and at a reasonable price. The rest of their pub-grub is also outstanding!

  16. L'epicier says

    I went there when they first opened and it was awful! The owner was absolutetly clueless; from the Sysco catsup to the overcooked halibut to the lame slaw.

  17. curtis toops says

    I don’t think any of have been there for a while there prices have gone way up they don’t list what the prices are for the halibut is anymore but it’s $25.00 for 4 small peices of fish that came out in a paper basket my bill was $115.00 counting drinks the food was good but if I’m going to pay $25.00 a plate i would like to get a plate to eat it on. I will not be going back it’s way to over priced for what you get!

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