Words by Kaylee Dugan
Photos by Nicholas Karlin
If there’s one thing Shaw isn’t missing, it’s lunch spots. You’ve got Cava, HalfSmoke, Potbelly, SUNdeVICH, Calabash, Smoked & Stacked, Glen’s Garden Market, Rito Loco, Dacha Market, and that’s not even mentioning the places with sit down waiter service. The BYT office used to be located in Shaw, and if there’s one thing I miss about working out of that neighborhood, it’s the food. Downtown might have all of the Cosis and Prets you could ever want, but sometimes you’re craving something a little more homemade.
And if homemade is your goal, FishScale is here to give you one more excellent option. The fish burger joint only has a few tables and seats, but what it lacks in space, it easily makes up for in flavor. Chef Brandon Williams has been making fish burgers ever since his mom became a pescatarian, and after finding a ton of success at local farmers markets, he’s finally decided to open up his very own spot.
Like many of D.C.’s restaurants, everything that can be organic, is organic, but unlike other restaurants, Williams is only buying and selling fresh, wild fish. As of right now, he plans on changing the menu at least once a week as different types of fish are available to him. On Wednesday, we stopped by to try the amberjack and the salmon.
We combined the amberjack with sambal (a hot sauce) and a cucumber-tomato relish and then paired the salmon with pesto and grilled onions. Both patties were incredibly moist, juicy and bursting with flavor. The amberjack’s fishiness paired well with the spice from the sambal, while the relish helped temper the heat a little bit. However, it was the salmon and pesto combination that blew our minds. Maybe I don’t eat enough salmon, but I’ve never had it paired with pesto, and the combination was both sweet and refreshing. With both sandwiches, the freshness of the fish is front and center, even though they’ve been ground up and formed into patties. This is mainly because Williams doesn’t overly season his fish. He doesn’t cover the sandwiches in mayo and ketchup, he wants the fish to speak for itself.
Besides the two fish sandwich options, the menu is very small, but the sides are not to be overlooked. Again, if you must choose, go for the grilled romaine salad. Served with sungold tomatoes, a kefir-creme fraiche and granola, it’s unlike any salad I’ve ever had. The combination of the sweet tomatoes, smokey romaine and the cooling kefir really works. Likewise, the grilled corn and umeboshi (pickeled plums) syrup plays with sweet and salty flavors.
When talking with Williams about his inspiration for the menu, he candidly explained, “I only serve things I would eat.” It shows.
FishScale is located at 637 Florida Ave. NW. They are open Mondays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.