A Sandwich a Day: The Dolphin Key West at The Whale's Rib in Deerfield Beach, Florida
In this great country of ours, one could eat a different sandwich every day of the year—so that's what we'll do. Here's A Sandwich a Day, our daily look at sandwiches around the country. Got a sandwich we should check out? Let us know. —The Mgmt.
If I could eat a fish sandwich everyday, I would. And often do. So trust me when I tell you that the Dolphin Key West Sandwich from The Whale's Rib, a local joint near where I grew up in South Florida, is the best fish sandwich in the world.
When I'm there on a regular night, which is often when I'm home, I always (ALWAYS) order the blackened dolphin sandwich: a 7.5-ounce serving of mahi-mahi smothered in Paul Prudhomme's Blackened Redfish Magic and seared in an ounce of clarified butter. With lettuce and tomato, a side of mayo, and The Whale's Rib 50/50 white-wheat bun sourced from a local bakery, I'm in true Florida paradise.
The Key West sandwich started out as turkey or pastrami (or a mix) on that same white-wheat bun, with Thousand Island dressing, melted Swiss, and the restaurant's famous purple cole slaw. When customers started requesting the dolphin from the dolphin sandwich instead of turkey or pastrami, the dish hit the menu, and became the most popular sandwich thereafter. The fact that the fried version was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives didn't hurt.
The best way to order the sandwich is blackened. The bun is split open, slathered with an ounce of Thousand Island on each side, then three to four ounces of purple cole slaw. A slice of Swiss on each side, and then under the broiler. The cheese melts and the slaw and sauce get nice and warm.
The fish, blackened, beer battered and fried or grilled, is sandwiched in between. The blackened version has terrific spice and the texture of the fish is flaky with crisp edges. The fried version has great crisp corners of batter. The cheese is so melted, it's like oozy glue. The slaw, made from white and red cabbage, vinegar, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and sour cream, is crisp but not cold. The Thousand Island is in there somewhere holding it all together.
It just cannot withstand the force of a bite. So messy, it's a kind of iconic hilarity in the restaurant, watching sandwiches fall apart as customers fight to get every delicious scrap into their mouths. With a side of Whale Fries (thin, chip-cut potato fries) and Whale Juice (a sweet mustard sauce), your meal is complete.
The dolphin is brought in every day, 130 pounds of it, from South Coast Fish Company in Pompano. As the general manager told me, the fish is "never ever ever ever ever frozen. The day I start serving frozen fish, they'll stop lining up outside." In six months, The Whale's Rib sold nearly 17,000 Dolphin Sandwiches and Dolphin Key West Sandwiches combined.
I wonder how many of those ended up in my belly...
The Whale's Rib
2031 N.E. 2nd Street, Deerfield Beach FL 33441 (map)
About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the French in a Flash series for Serious Eats.