Editor's note: The Serious Eats editors spent the month of September jetting around the nation; here's a snapshot from our travels.
I'd been to fish market Robert Wholey Co. on a prior visit to the city's Strip District, but never wandered over to its hot food counter. So on a return trip to Pittsburgh last month, I thought I'd try some fried seafood, and ordered a "Whaler," expecting a reasonably straightforward fried fish sandwich.
Oh, how very wrong I was.
The Whaler is aptly named (well, in terms of size, not aquatic flesh contained therein), but even that name didn't prepare me for the massive sandwich we were served. Almost embarrassingly large, really; you feel like a glutton for even having ordered it. Five massive whiting filets, each nearly the size of a human foot, piled on bread that served more as an accessory than a real sandwich roll. It encased less than a third of the fish.
But, to our surprise, it was quite the tasty mouthful, worth the considerable (if enjoyable) effort to eat. The slabs of whiting are thickly battered, but that batter is light and well-seasoned, not a suffocating stale shell; the fish itself is impressively moist, not a dry spot to be found. Homemade tartar sauce is neither too sweet nor too gummy, and a brioche-like roll, from Mancini's Bakery next door, is pleasantly soft and pillowy.
Sure, it's a little absurd, and hardly an ideal fish-to-bread ratio. But if you stop thinking of this thing as a sandwich, it's a tasty meal. And the absurdity is just part of the fun. This much fish for $6.99?
Robert Wholey Co.
1711 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15222 (map)