Hodak’s – St. Louis

10 12 2006

Guess what? Today was the first day I’ve gone out to eat since I started this blog. Amazing. When I was living in San Diego just a few weeks ago we were eating out every couple days.  Not so anymore. However, since starting Dave’s Cheap Eats I’ve become inspired. Inspired not just to eat out but to make every dining experience a “Dave’s Cheap Eat’s” experience. That is great food at a cheap price.

Today we were looking for some comfort food, nothing too fancy, too complex, or too trendy - just down home good food. I found out about a place called Hodak’s in South St. Louis that was famous for Jack Salmon Meal-The Beginingfried chicken and cheap prices. A little history, local place keeps growing is sold and then expands to be really big.  Given this history I was a little worried it would just be a corporate cookie cutter-following some recipe for fast cheap food without flavor. But, as I said earlier, it had great reviews so we decided to give it a try.

From the outside it did not look cheap. They had their own parking lot across a side street from their restaurant which was surrounded by a black wrought iron fence with fancy yellow “H”‘s. I was beginning to think that this can’t be the same place with this menu, this looks like a fancy German (is that the origin of the surname Hodak?) restaurant. We went ahead and parked in the fancy parking lot and wandered across the street to the restaurant.

One of the dangers of visiting a new restaurant is you don’t always know how things work. Instead of going through the front door we ended up in the take out door. No worries, several friendly staff pointed us in the right direction and we were quickly seated in this chicken heaven. And I do mean heaven. Not only because of all the chickens that go to heaven for their famous fried chicken but also for all the rooster and chicken wall hangings and nick-knacks that filled their relatively new building adding an grandma’s attic feel to the place.

We quickly were handed menus and immediately broke the number one rule of Cheap Eats, we each ordered our own entree. Both kids got their own two drumstick meal, Bethany chose the tuna fish sandwich, and I ordered the jack salmon (which came highly recommended). The food took a while to come out even though the restaurant wasn’t too crowded this Sunday night. However, when it did arrive it all tasted freshly fried.

So how do you judge good fried food? The batter has to be seasoned and fried crisp without the excess grease. Hodak’s hit the mark on all of these. Both the chicken and the jack salmon (does anyone actually know what a jack salmon is? the best the restaurant staff could tell me was that it was a white fish, wikipedia doesn’t list it and other sites describe it as a salmon that comes back to spawn too young and dies) were all fried up perfectly. And the sides, oh the sides! Perfectly flavored green beans with just a hint of bacon and day old coleslaw with just enough bite with out being overpowering rounded out the good of the meal. Now, there were fries that weren’t special and a couple pieces of toast under everything which didn’t add anything but did seem to soak up any residual grease (added bonus!).

After finishing off the jack salmon, I still don’t know what a jack salmon is, and some beans and coleslaw I was stuffed-but not greasy. The worst thing about eating fried food is feeling greasy afterwards-not here. The fried fish and chicken finished clean instead of greasy and as we made our way out (this time through the front door) we returned to the car full, ok, stuffed, and satisfied that we had found a great place for the guilty comfort of fried food.

www.hodaks.com

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9 responses

2 10 2007
Ken Barnhart

I live in Astoria, Oregon. I was searching for a recipe for jack salmon and came across your site. I thought I would answer your question about jack salmon. Jack salmon are young male salmon that return to spawn in their river of origin after spending only one year in salt water (rather than 2 or 3 years). I caught 5 jack silver salmon today (about 15″ and 1-# in weight) and was looking for a good recipe. I fileted the salmon and am thinking of baking them in a curry sauce but thought I would check the net to see if others had posted a good recipe. By the way there are jack chinook salmon too (maybe chum, pink, … as well).

3 10 2007
David Smith

Thanks for the info, Ken. Now, the only question is how can Hodak’s get them so cheaply?

3 12 2007
Gale Landers

Hey Dave,
Some FYI on Hodaks Jack salmon. Being born and raised on the southside of St. Louis in the fifties and sixties, many corner taverns/restaurants served jack salmon. I’m sure the jack salmon you had at Hodaks had a hard three sided vertebrae. These fish are also called Whiteing and can be bought in many grocery stores, some already pre-breaded. I’m almost sixty and “Jacks” are still the best fish I ever tasted.

17 12 2010
Steve Walker

Hey Gail, I was raised in S. StL also in the 50′s and I think you are right about Jack Salmon and the three sided vertibrae. Were you living on Nebraska Ave. at one point? If so, drop me a line, I think we were friends..drsnooze@aol.com

3 03 2010
Cara Bauer

Jack Salmon is best served fried in a cornmeal coating. Its dinner tonight, and I wonder if its a St. Louis thing. My kids love jack salmon

5 07 2010
MIKE NICHOLSON

can anybody tell me where you can buy jack salmon and are they called jack salmon. Jack salmon was one of my favorite meals growing up in St. Louis. Googleing “jack salmon” gets you nowhere. Also, with the jack sandwiches served in many restaurants and many Catholic churches on Fridays, was a red sauce that was neither pasta sauce nor cocktail sauce. I would die for the sauce recipe and where and how to purchase jack salmon.

17 12 2010
Dewayne

Mike… I’m not sure if you live in St Louis; but you can buy Jack Salmon at most of the major grocery stores. Be careful, for some reason over the years, the size has gotten really small. The best ones I’ve found have all been towards the city. I don’t think it’s very popular in West County. I still love them and try to fry some at least one Friday a month.

22 04 2011
Art Gastreich

Hi
The fish called JACK SALMON is really a fish from South America
called WHITTING. I worked fro KROGER in St.Louis we would bag them up
for sale.The was before stores had fish dept.
I think St.Louis is about the only place you’ll see that name for the fish.
The name HODAK is Czech,I lived across the ally from the first Rest.
It was called MATT & TONY’S Tavern. 18th / Russell ave st louis mo.

26 04 2011
Terry

When I was a kid, I thought I can remember going to The Haven and ordering Jack Salmon to go and waiting for it with my Dad – he had a beer, I had a coke. It was a great memory!

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