The Giant King, signature dish at Eastside Fish, is immense. A pair of whiting fillets, each at least a half-pound, are dredged in seasoned cornmeal and crisp fried, then sandwiched between four slices of soft supermarket white bread. The fish is cream-moist and delicate, its brittle crust mottled with splotches of four-alarm Louisiana hot sauce and enveloped in a harmony of crunchy raw onion, dill pickle chips, and smooth yellow mustard.
Hot fish sandwiches are a staple at soul food restaurants throughout the South, but the tradition is strongest in Nashville, where they are the specialty of shacks, stands, and drive-throughs. Donald "Bo" Boatright, who started Eastside Fish in 2003, grew up eating them as part of what he calls "summer nights of fun" – evenings when neighbors gather to play cards and to eat hot fish. Standard companions for the fish are white bread, hushpuppies, cole slaw and, strangely enough, meat-sauced spaghetti.
The small storefront tucked back from Gallatin Pike has a single tall table with a couple of stools for those who need a place to eat, but Eastside's business is virtually all take-out. Whiting is traditional; you also can get catfish, tilapia, or trout. There is no heat lamp to keep fish on hold, so from the time an order is placed, it takes a good 10-15 minutes to get it. The brown paper bags in which customers receive their fish out the order window are steaming hot and splotched with oil, the sandwich inside wrapped in wax paper and held together with toothpicks.
Good as the fish is, no one should eat at Eastside without having hot wings: jumbo drumettes fried so the skin turns luxuriously chewy. They are served sauceless, so they don't look hot, but they will clear your sinuses.
"Nashville's biggest and best hot fish sandwich is hardly pick-upable. That's over a pound of scrumptious fried fish surrounded by four slices of bread and dressed, of course, with hot sauce, pickles, raw onions, and mustard."
"Eastside fish is a tiny place with only a couple of token seats inside. "
"A Nashville paradigm: fried fish (catfish) along with greens and, strangely enough, spaghetti. "
"Crunk is believed to be a contraction of 'crazy' and 'drunk.' When Bo Boatright refers to his fish sandwich as Nashville's crunkest, he means it is the ultimate."
"This bulletin board makes excellent browsing while waiting for your fish sandwich to be cooked."