Phoenix might be pretty far from "the pond" (the Atlantic Ocean), but we can still get down on some UK-style fish n' chips. Being landlocked, we probably appreciate good seafood even more because it can be tough to find. We'll never leave you high and dry craving fried fish, so we're pitting two of the top local pubs against one another to see whose fish n' chips are king of the Valley. For Ireland, Tempe's Rúla Búla is going head-to-head against England's George & Dragon Pub.
In This Corner: Rúla Búla, representative of Ireland This old-fashioned Irish pub is literally bringing a piece of the Green Isle to our fair city. Owner Steven Goumas imported vintage Irish relics to fill the Victorian-era building located on Mill Ave., providing an authentically Irish spot to drink a pint of Guinness and listen to live Irish music. There's also a great patio out back that's perfect for this time of year.
The Good: The fish didn't have much batter coating it, which allowed the cod flavor to really come through. The strips of fish were fairly thin, making them manageable to dip and eat. The circle-shaped chips were pillowy soft on the inside. The house-made tartar sauce was flavorful and complimented the fish well.
The Bad: While there's an upside to not having a thick batter coating, after a few bites of enjoying the fish flavor, something felt like it was missing. There was little crunch for texture, and the outside was brown rather than golden. The fish was also fairly greasy. The chips were only so-so, and the novelty of the circular shape wore off quickly, especially because the potato flavor was weak.
In the Other Corner: George & Dragon Pub, representative of England This pub advertises its British heritage proudly with Union Jacks dotting the building. It looks a little run-down, like a neighborhood mainstay that's comfortably settled in and not going anywhere soon. There are billiards tables inside along with a big open seating area. In some ways it feels like the pub's trying too hard to feel English, but in other ways, like the lived-in feel and the "everyone's welcome" attitude, it's not too far off from a real public house on a residential street corner in jolly ol' England.
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The Good: The cod had just the right amount of batter and was a beautiful golden color. It wasn't very greasy and had a fresh cod flavor. The fish was really tender and flaky. The chips were pretty addictive -- very crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. This plate also had an ideal amount of salt (for the salt sensitive like myself, this can easily make or break a meal).
The Bad: If something bad has to be said, it's that the fish portions are a little too large. Sure, this ensures that each piece is tender and juicy, but it can also make them tough to eat, especially for smaller adults. However, this didn't hold us back in the least.
The Final Verdict: Having never been to either pub before, it appeared based on ambiance and location alone that Rúla Búla would score a win. While the fish n' chips there were good, they weren't "OMG, I need to shove all of this in my face" amazing, which George & Dragon's surprisingly were. Sorry, Ireland, but this time England is the victorious winner thanks to George & Dragon Pub.