Nath Keo weaves through the hustle and bustle of line cooks and cashiers, happily darting around behind the scenes in one of the city’s busiest little kitchens.
He glides past his office and staff room – both the size of modest closets – and takes pause at the receiving window, where he can expect at least three deliveries daily in the summer. Like many compact eateries, every square inch is in use, but something sets it aside from most others. It floats.
While Barb’s Fish & Chips’ offbeat Fisherman’s Wharf location – and coolest address in the city, 1 Dallas Rd. – may have initially drawn in a few customers, Keo says it’s the flavour that keeps them coming back.
Our readers agreed and once again voted Barb’s the provider of the city’s best fish and chips.
“This is our 29th season and we stick to what we know,” says Keo, the restaurant manager. “We only allow superior product out the window.”
The restaurant serves salmon, halibut and haddock, as well as a variety of shellfish and a little surprise for the landlubbers: Keo’s pick, the beef burger. The readers’ choice fish is offered grilled or battered, and with all of those deliveries coming in, it’s guaranteed fresh.
“I pride myself on superior customer service, but I don’t think people are coming back to look at my face,” Keo says. “That’d be flattering, but they’re here for the meal that they know.”
When Keo first started at Barb’s, the wait times were closer to an hour per meal. Now, they’re down to 15 minutes – a point of pride for Keo, who still delights in jumping behind the service window whenever he gets the chance.
He attributes the current success to the closeness of his team, which knows how to show up on time, hangover-free and ready to take whatever the day has to offer, rain or shine.
“It feels like a family and I think it has to be since we’re working in such close quarters,” he says. “My staff is full of adrenaline junkies, in that we love the action that happens down here in the summer.”
That action reaches beyond their busy service window – which serves between 700 and 900 customers daily – to the growing community of eclectic food vendors and float home residents on the wharf, who often stop by for coffee before the restaurant officially opens.
Barb’s Fish & Chips is open from mid-March until the end of October on Fisherman’s Wharf.
“I like it down here,” Keo says. “I think I’ll be here a while.”
• Barb’s Fish & Chips is named for founder Barb Pedersen, who sold the business in 2005.
• The runners-up for best fish and chips are Red Fish Blue Fish, operating in an up-cycled cargo container at 1006 Wharf St., and Haultain Fish & Chips (1127 Haultain St.), a legend in the city that opened in 1927.