Food: Happily Onboard

When my cell phone rings after business hours on the Thursday before the Memorial Day weekend, I pretty much know what to expect.

Sure enough, the call comes from home. I pick up, trying to sound polite but suspicious. As usual, my wife (on the phone downstairs) and my daughter (on the phone upstairs) mainly hear the suspicion.

Salutations complete, I ask why they’re calling.

“You wouldn’t want to…” my wife begins to say.

“No!” my daughter shouts. “Don’t start with ‘you wouldn’t want to… .’ He never wants to… !”

She’s right. I never want to stop on my way home to pick up dinner, never want to go back out after I get home. And that’s exactly why they were calling. Usually, I get such calls on a Friday, after my wife is done with work and her enthusiasm for the coming weekend bubbles to the surface. Before a big three-day weekend, she starts to get worked up a little early.

“I was just thinking it might be nice to have some seafood,” my wife interjects, undeterred.

She mentions a few take-out places we frequent.

I groan.

“Then come home and we’ll all go out. How about FishTales?”

I suspect they were both shocked when I heartily agreed.

FishTales Bar & Grill on School Street in Hatfield was voted best neighborhood bar in the Valley Advocate’s Best of the Valley readers’ poll this year, and there’s no doubt it’s a great neighborhood bar. With an easy-going vibe and comfortable décor, not to mention a beloved bartender named Chrissy Fifield, the bar just makes you feel at home.

But FishTales isn’t just a bar. Owners Mike and Marilyn Fitzgerald also run the acclaimed seafood restaurant Schermerhorn’s in Holyoke. The food at FishTales is fresh and tasty; the service, friendly and unobtrusive, reflects a commitment to excellence that many restaurants no longer strive to reach.

On our recent visit, the place was slammed when we arrived around 6:30 p.m., filled with people getting an early start on the weekend. Thanks to Fishtales’ ample staffing and plenty of seating in both the bar and dining room, the size of the crowd only added to our enjoyment of the experience. We were seated in a booth immediately and, within minutes, our charming waiter Kyle had our drinks in front of us.

My daughter opted for the Maine steamers and a side of “Hatfield fries,” made from really locally sourced potatoes; my wife opted for one of her FishTale favorites: the baked stuffed halibut; I went for the generously portioned fried fisherman’s platter. We all left in the same good spirits we feel after a meal in one of our favorite summertime restaurants on the coast.

My wife comes from Rhode Island and I have roots in Maine, so we take our seafood seriously. While surely it’s a myth that you can only get good seafood within sniffing distance of the ocean, the Valley doesn’t exactly abound with options, so we welcomed the arrival of FishTales in Hatfield two years ago. In addition to a great neighborhood bar, we picked up a great neighborhood restaurant.?

Author: Tom Vannah

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