The Olde Yorke Fish & Chips is a throwback in the very best sense of the word. Walking into the dining room I am surrounded by dark wood, (now) vintage carpeting, a traditional island bar and red vinyl booths. The Olde Yorke very much resembles a run-of-the-mill British pub, but unlike other establishments of this ilk the main attraction here isn't nachos or flat screen televisions.
To be blunt, the Olde Yorke isn't very cool in the trendy sense of the word. There is no PBR on tap here and Radiohead isn't playing in the background. This place is not you wearing your grandpa's vintage clothing. It's your grandpa, wearing... his own clothes.
But classics are classics for a reason, and for the past 14 years at The Olde Yorke that's meant traditional British fish and chips . Long lines are a staple at this family owned restaurant for both the dining room and separate take-out counter, often spilling out onto the sidewalk at lunch and dinner rushes.
I elect to have a late lunch this afternoon and the dining room is roughly a quarter full as I wander in. Due to my opportune timing I am seated immediately and cheerfully. The crowd is slightly older but it only adds to the family vibe the Olde Yorke seems to have with its longtime neighbours.
The owner floats around the dining room pleasantly, chatting at seemingly every table with familiar, regular customers. The air in the restaurant smells vaguely of malt vinegar. To me, these are all good signs.
Equally promising, the menu is as simplistic and unpretentious as the ambience -- fried fish and lots of it. Starters include additional seafood staples such as calamari and clam chowder.
I eschew an app or the more layman option of haddock ($10.45), instead hankering for an order of halibut with fries and coleslaw ($12.45).
The halibut arrives as two generous pieces of golden fried fillets. Lightly battered and cooked in vegetable oil, the fish is fresh, meaty and slightly flaky without being overcooked. The batter is simple and unseasoned, providing a satisfyingly crispy coating that succeeds in helping the fish itself stand out.
Importantly, the meal is relatively un-greasy, each piece of fish looking almost matte in appearance and leaving no pools of oil on my plate.
Surprisingly the dish does not arrive with tartar sauce. The stuff is available upon request but I'm not sure if this is oversight or par for the course at the Olde Yorke.
The chips are doled out in an equally rustic portion, old school and thick cut from fresh potatoes; slightly soft on the inside. They arrive unseasoned as well and are promptly doused in vinegar. The results are simple and spectacular.
The slaw comes in a tiny plastic thimble and is fresh if not particularly notable, lacking any real flavour to speak of. I eat it all anyways though, each tiny mouthful an oasis from my plate of deep-fried goodness.
Beer is available; largely domestic options with bottles starting at $4.25 and Mill St. Organic on tap for $5.66 a pint.
More homely than hype, this East York staple is quietly one of the neighbourhood's little gems and has been for 14 years.
Other restaurants may get more ink but until they too can start producing daily line-ups out the door, The Olde Yorke will keep chugging along fuelled by classic English fish and chips and, perhaps on occasion, a fried candy bar here or there (yes, that's on the menu).
Hours: Mon-Sat (11 a.m. - 9 p.m.)