Feb 5, 2021 | OPINION | Hank Bedingfield | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian | Photo courtesy of Hank Bedingfield
As COVID-19 drags on, and restaurants swing back and forth from open to closed, indoor to outdoor, COVID-ridden to “safe,” we’re all better off ordering take-out for the coming months. Here’s my comprehensive guide to the most underrated, unsettling, hole-in-the-wall, food-poisoning inducing places in the Springs. Keep reading to find out where and where not to eat. I’ll show you where to get a cheap drink, where to get crippled — emotionally and digestively — and where to actually enjoy a nice meal from the safety of your couch.
The Chippy: Authentic British Fish ‘n’ Chips
3430 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Lunch and Dinner
Closes at 8 p.m. (9 on weekends)
After a quick Google search on a tired Wednesday night, The Chippy caught my eye. The promise of “Authentic British Fish ‘n’ Chips” from a take-out style firing line of friers seemed like an exciting break from Chinese or Thai or pizza. So I called, sped over (it was ready in less than 20 minutes), and fantasized about the beer-battered satisfaction to come. Make sure to hold on to those fantasies, because that’ll be the peak of the night. From the minute I stepped out of the car, it was all downhill.
Pulling up into the strip mall parking lot, flanked by a Popeyes and Japanese takeout, “Fish ‘n’ Chips” screams from a fluorescent storefront in bright, chonky, neon red letters. The short walk from the car to the front door is a frantic rush of internal conflict. With every step, the questions stack and tumble over themselves with increasing urgency: “Should I turn back? Cut my losses, turn to Popeyes?” The only resolution is that this is a 50/50 shot: a hole in the wall, with fresh fish encased in the flaky crunch of a perfect batter, or a horrible, night-ending mistake.
A step inside does not inspire confidence. The clientele are drone-like, either violently depressed — so severely over or under medicated that they move with reckless limbs and glassy eyes — or old and swindled, drawn to the place with naive goodwill and caught in an obvious fraud.
All this to create an atmospheric cross between KFC and “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. If not for a couple of British phrases chalked onto the walls — with a gigantic “keep calm and carry on” blaring from the bleak wall — and a mini-mark of British treats (soda, candy, and take-home biscuits from across the pond), my first guess would be that I was playing out one of my waking nightmares, and that I’d finally lost my mind for good.
But my stomach drove me on. The prospect of decent fish fry is just too hard to come by and The Chippy deserved a fair shot.
The bag was hot, the price was reasonable, and the drive was short — about five miles from Colorado College’s campus. The spread was impressive, fried fish neatly wrapped in butcher paper and sides steaming from well-portioned tupperware. I was hopeful, maybe naively bribed by simple aesthetic satisfaction, but it was surprisingly pleasant to see.
That is about where the pleasantries end. The fish comes in two varieties, haddock or cod (the haddock is better), is flown directly to America from sustainable Atlantic fisheries, and, according to the menu, delivered “sharpish” to the store. Something about this word struck me, and confused intrigue quickly spiraled into pure fear. The four-ounce slabs are so grease-logged that I recommend any eco-friendly diner grab a pair of gloves and save the half-roll of toilet paper needed to mitigate such a tragic oil spill.
A Dawn ad flashed across my mind as I bit in, thinking of the horrors this meal would do to a baby duck. Transporting each bite into my mouth felt like a circus-worthy feat of controlled balance. Beyond the grease, the fish itself was inconsistent and worrying. One bite could be perfectly fantastic, crunchy, golden batter and soft flaky fish, and the next could be mealy, flaccid, and wholly upsetting, like sexual incompetence after a night of heavy drinking. After a while, it just wasn’t worth the gamble.
Let’s now dive into the sides — we decided on gravy, mushy peas, coleslaw, and, obviously, chips (fries). The chips, hand-cut and twice-fried, could have been much worse. They were notably soggy, an unavoidable fact of take-out made worse by the fish they sat under, but still flavorful and offered much more than a flat, salty taste. Dipped into a traditional English gravy, the chips were even better, a kind of gluttony you can’t help feeling guilty about but can’t do much to stop either.
The coleslaw, though not a classic British side, was great too. Better than your usual fast-food coleslaw — and definitely better than expected at this stage of the meal — it was crisp, crunchy, and fresh, with a good balance of mayo and vinegar.
The mushy peas I must blame myself for. I was reaching for some kind of authenticity in the meal and these were definitely a reach too far. Just as dark green and viscous as advertised, this dish isn’t for the faint of stomach. I would even say that they taste pretty good until the end of the bite, when the peas somehow turn into an aftertaste of cigarettes — the ones you smoked and forgot about until that unmistakable morning-after-a-blackout taste. This is my warning to you: stay away from these.
What will really push you over the edge is the sausage roll. The restaurant notably didn’t have a functional bakery, which ruled out half the menu, so in the name of fairness I tried one more entrée. I’d be better off if I hadn’t. The sausage roll was 80% pastry and 20% meat — which I can’t ethically call sausage with any certainty. Slimy and seeping, this thing was baked with malice and should be used exclusively to stain the clothing of those you hate. Hurl the roll in the air and the grease will trace like chemtrails over your head.
This is not a meal to be enjoyed sober by any means. The grease alone clearly demands heavy, near-catatonic intoxication, and even then, you’re rolling the dice. Not 10 minutes after putting down the plastic utensils, my partner and I were terrified and slightly dizzy. With mutual, unspeakable dread bubbling up, we waited for what we could only assume would feel like a night of gastrointestinal misery, some foul beating I would wish upon enemies with a laugh but was sure to suck any vitality from even the most hearty and resilient. The aftermath of this beggars’ banquet reeked of greasy carnage and sadness, like taking a shot alone, or crossing the line at Applebee’s.
One last note I couldn’t leave out. The Facebook page for the restaurant (@TheChippyCOS) is dominated by strange memes, watermarked with a custom logo, and filled with bizarre status updates you’d normally associate with an out-of-touch uncle or senile grandparent. Check it out if you want a laugh. Don’t bother if you’re looking for information on the restaurant — you won’t find much there.