Today I did something I had never done before in my career as a food critic. Today I walked out of a restaurant before I ordered.
Walking out before you order violates the food critic's code, I know. How can I possibly review an eatery if I haven't tasted the food? But today I walked out of Fishsticks-on-a-Stick Au Go-Go.
First let me state that the decor at Fishsticks is marvelous. You really do feel like you're in a swinging discotheque that happens to serve fishsticks. If fishsticks had been provided on Sunset Strip in the late 1960's, maybe things would have turned out differently for the counter culture.
That being said, the decor is no excuse for what I found there. Go-go cages with animatronics robots can't cancel out what's deeply wrong with Fishsticks. In all good conscience, I had to walk out. And it wasn't just my conscience bothering me--the whole concept of Fishsticks made me want to crawl under a rock in embarrassment.
The reason I walked out before I ordered anything from this living exercise in nostalgia and seafood is that I literally couldn't order anything from their menu without turning red in the face.
You see, Fishsticks is one of those places that thinks it's cute to give their menu items names that you couldn't possibly order without cringing and wanting the earth to swallow you up.
It's one thing for International House of Pancakes to offer something called Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity. I would be physically incapable of speaking that phrase aloud. I can barely write it. But it's just one item on the menu, and I suppose one could always abbreviate it to Fresh and Fruity. Or point.
And it's another thing for bars to offer drinks with suggestive names. That seems appropriate in a bar atmosphere.
But it's something else for a restaurant to only offer menu items that have names no one could possibly ever want to speak. And offer those of us with shame no alternatives.
Again and again, I searched the menu in vain for something I could say aloud. Why on earth would they call the Caesar Salad-flavored fishstick "I Have Weird Thoughts about Mucilage"? Giving a name like that to a salad shows nothing but a kind of snickering contempt for the patron. And why take an open-faced beef sandwich-flavored fishstick and call it a "Simply Super Idea"? And is it really necessary to call a radish-flavored fishstick "The Wink Factory"?
I will say the waitrons were incredible, bearing up under the burden of hearing patrons jump through the degrading hoops the restaurant chain has set up for them. But the courage and determination of the waitrons, just like the clever decor, was not enough to keep me in my seat once I'd seen the eatery's abysmal menu.
I hope that the Fishsticks corporation will rethink this naming strategy. Are you really trying to humiliate us? Why else give your food, which one would hope you are proud of and which some day, if you drop this silliness, I may indeed taste, these ridiculous, anti-human names?
And so, sadly, I give Fishsticks-on-a-Stick Au Go-Go a mortified Zero Stars.