Ever since man first climbed down from the trees and started walking on two feet (or was magically created in 6 days by a bearded man in the sky, whichever story you find more believable), he has sought out reasons to challenge himself, pushing himself to his absolute limits and redefining the conception of what is humanly possible. Sir Edmond Hillary’s ascent of Everest, Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. These are all feats of physical endurance and mental toughness.
Every man dreams of greatness. I am no different. However, the moon is really far away (I’ve heard it’s like a hundred billion miles away or something), I hate running, and I live in flat-as-a-pancake-Houston. Alas, there is one obstacle that has been in my way ever since I moved into Houston’s infamous 3rd Ward. One so daunting, it has literally taken me months of physical training and mental preparation to be confident enough to tackle:
A little background: Navy Seafood operates in three locations in Houston’s 3rd Ward, each of them shady-as-hell in its own special way. NS looks like the type of place you go to score crack ‘n hookers (if you’re lucky, both!), not fish ‘n chips. It is the type of place you read about in text books and clinical studies on disease.
So why would I go to Navy Seafood?
Because it’s there. Haven't you been paying attention?
So on the afternoon of March 15, 2010, I laced up my high-tops, pawned my roommate's TV, and headed out the door and into the 'hood on a quest for questionable seafood.
Ah, Spring in the 3rd Ward. The breeze is blowing the sweet smell of garbage through the air, crackheads are chirping, and fish is frying.
I decided to take the scenic route.
After a few minutes of walking, I began to approach my destination. By now, my heart was racing, I was sweating, and I was short of breath. And I hadn't even eaten any of the food yet! I decided it would be best to pace myself, so I stopped off at the Local Cash-Only Grocery Store to browse the shelves and clear my head.
Unfortunately, they were closed. For good.
So on I walked, getting closer and closer to my goal.
Now I know what Sir. Hillary was feeling the morning of his famous ascent, as he looked up towards the summit of that great peak.
I summoned all of my courage, and walked into the Temple of Doom.
"Hey, this place ain't so bad," I thought to myself. Okay, so I may have actually said those words out loud. Crap. But wait, the Vietnamese guy running the place was on the phone with someone, so he didn't hear me. I approached the counter with caution, only to hear the guy working (we'll call him the Admiral from this point on) chewing out what I assumed was a telemarketer. The Admiral was using street-savy phrases such as "you better not be creepin' me on the phone," so I knew the Admiral had seen a lot on the mean streets of Houston. It was then that I felt comfortable putting my trust in such a hardened gangster. Only the Admiral could guide me through the rough and choppy seas of my Navy Seafood experience.
But wait a minute, something just wasn't right!
Jesus Christ on a bike! That smell!
"What the fuck?!" I exclaimed to myself (and the Admiral, who was standing a mere 3 feet away). I knew I'd better order and get out before I lost my appetite, threw up, or worse. The smell was literally -- and I'm not exaggerating here -- that of rotten fish, dirty diapers, and gym socks.
So I ordered what sounded the least toxic, the "One Fish and 3 Shrimps" combo, $4.97 out-the-door, and sat down to wait. The Admiral ran off to harpoon the fish, net the shrimp, and prepare it all with the finest ingredients while I took a look around the place.
Not exactly hopping today, Admiral.
It's tough to see it in the picture (and I didn't dare let the Admiral catch me sneaking pictures of his fine establishment), but on the counter was what appears to be pickled... something. For all I know, they were pickled pig's penii; they looked about as appetizing.
Questionable stains on the ceiling. What was I getting myself into?
Restaurant reviewers often say you can tell a lot about the cleanliness of a restaurant's kitchen based on cleanliness of the bathrooms. Dare I? Of course.
Good God. At this point, I began to panic. Was I going to die today? I thought about leaving, writing off the $4.97 as lost, and leaving with my health. No! I couldn't! I felt like the Jacques Cousteau of shitty restaurants, going deeper than anyone had ever gone. I had to finish my expedition! I had to!
Oh, thank God.
When I emerged from the bathroom, my food was ready and I made a quick escape. I only had time to snap this picture as I fled the scene.
As soon as I made it home safely, I ran downstairs to The Beer Fridge (more on that in future posts), eager to find the perfect paring for my seafood delicacy. Only the finest vintage English malt beverage would do.
Tada! And there you have it, the finest Seafood the 3rd Ward has to offer. When I opened the package, the food actually looked pretty good.
Stanley came to visit, eager to sample the delights I had returned with.
"Whoa, get that garbage away from me! Woof!"
With Stanley back in the house hiding, I began to take a closer look at my food.
Just like the menu said, "One Fish, 3 Shrimps," battered in what appeared to be sand. Tasted like it too.
I peeled back the sandy carapace to reveal the "fish" inside. Oh my! What you're seeing here is a local specialty, Bayou Sewer Trout. I knew the Admiral would come through! Mmm!
Moving right along. A salad! Made up of three ingredients: lettuce, dill pickle slices, and the kind of dressing they use on public school lunch salads. Very zen. I've seen salads like this served in the finest Parisian bistros.
French fries. These looked normal. Tasted okay too!
After I had inspected the food, judged its appearance and composition, and deemed it kind of edible, the only thing left to do was eat! Down the hatch!
I know you're probably wondering, "MTBC, how did it all taste?" Well, to answer your question, terrible. Honestly, the best part of this meal, was the 40 oz. of Olde English I used to wash it all down. The fish was somehow both greasy and dry and tasted just like the restaurant smelled. The shrimp were no different, although their texture was somewhat less off-putting. The salad tasted like grass clippings mixed with vinegar and death. The fries were decent, but c'mon, I could have bought a 5-pound bag of Ore Ida's for half the price of this shitstorm of a meal.
However bad the meal was, the important thing to note was that I did it! I conquered Navy Seafood! I scaled my personal Everest and descended to tell my story. I defeated the Admiral in an intense battle at Sea.
I had achieved greatness.
The only thing left to do was to take a good ole fashioned siesta.
I'm sure this story is not over, however. In fact, gotta run!
To be continued...