My first bout with the infamous Baltimorean delicacy known as “Lake Trout” occurred at a small, blue building called Sea Blue on Greenmount.
Lake Trout is typically breaded, deep-fried white fish served either alone or between two slices of white bread, often with fries on the side. Sounds a little like fish and chips, right? Not at all. In fact, Lake Trout doesn’t come from a lake, nor is it even trout. Lake Trout is actually Atlantic Whiting, a white fish caught in the Atlantic. Whiting is plentiful and less expensive than lake trout, which are actually quite rare. The most convincing reason I’ve found for the misnomer was that restaurants featuring the fish decided that the name “Lake Trout” was more appealing than “Atlantic Whiting,” to customers.
After a somewhat disappointing experience at Sea Blue (think soggy, breaded fish sticks on soggy Wonderbread), I decided to give Lake Trout a second chance. I had heard about another place in Baltimore on Anthony Bourdain’s series No Reservations a few months ago – The Roost on Reisterstown Road. I decided to check it out.
After driving past Pimlico Race Track and a few other sites, my boyfriend Paul and I approached the tiny roadside establishment. We walked inside to find a single counter and no seating, save for a few picnic tables outside. The menu consisted of soul food options ranging from fried chicken, collard greens, fried catfish, mac n’ cheese and of course, lake trout. There’s also a breakfast menu, with entrees named after people or places like Michael Phelps, Mayor Sheila Dixon, President Obama and Mondawmin Mall. To the right of the counter, a man was selling pirated DVDs. He was quite friendly, and encouraged us to look through them.
We ordered a “Dorris Williams,” the Lake Trout entree named after the restaurant’s owner. Like the breakfast menu, options on the seafood and chicken menus are named after notables such as Billie Holiday and um, McNeal Brockington? In a few minutes our order arrived. We grabbed the plastic bag filled with lake trout and took it back home to enjoy. Instantly the aroma of freshly fried crispy lake trout filled the car.
This was serious Lake Trout. The fried batter was crisp, crunchy and flavorful, unlike Sea Blue’s soggy mess. With some catsup, it was even better. I ordered mine with fries, whose soggy remains I found underneath the lake trout. I suggest ordering the Lake Trout dinner, and choosing from The Roost’s side options (not to mention you also get cornbread!).
The Roost is an institution among many Baltimoreans. No, it’s not something I’d eat everyday, but I admire the pride The Roost puts into not only their Lake Trout, but the rest of their food as well. The name of their website, thebestlaketrout.com says it all.