Chef La’s Fish Fry, Smyrna GA

Last month, I dropped by Chef La’s Fish Fry in Smyrna for lunch. It’s on South Cobb Drive between the East-West Connector and 285 in a below-street level strip mall that also houses one of the region’s many Monterrey restaurants. I believe they opened last summer, and the “meet cute” story (as the late, great Roger Ebert would have called it) about how the happy couple who own this business got together is so darn cute that it is printed in great detail on one of the interior walls. Since the fish is fried to order, guests will have time to read the wall while waiting for their meal.

Briefly, both Shamika and her husband “Chef La” Lakee have Atlanta connections but, in 2011, were living in different boroughs of New York City when they met. You know how, once you put somebody in your phone, you never actually delete the contact? Ever? As they exchanged numbers, Shamika realized that Lakee’s info was already in her phone. A year previously, while visiting family in Atlanta, Shamika was despairing of her inability to get good fish in New York and a guy told her about Lakee, who was frying from a trailer in Brooklyn. She took his number, but never phoned, and was happily surprised to meet up with somebody whose reputation – and digits – preceded him. They considered it good fortune from God, started dating, fell in love, and married a year later.

Now they’re in Atlanta, the trailer parked out front and ready to tackle catering orders and festivals – their peach lemonade won best drink at this year’s Taste of Marietta – and also doing what looks to be good business in carry-out orders. There’s not much seating in the small storefront, but I lucked into a table and enjoyed a quite good lunch.

Unfortunately, Chef La’s website is something of a disaster – seriously, just use WordPress, it is so simple – and so I was not completely certain what was on the menu until I arrived. Guests have their choice of whiting, tilapia, or catfish, with perch or other options available as specials. They also do shrimp and smoked wings. I went with one of the sampler baskets, including one piece of whiting and six shrimp, with fries, cole slaw and a “fritter,” which is not unlike a hush puppy.

Getting the only disappointment out of the way, the fries are simple frozen food truck ones, which is a darn shame, because the rest of the food is far too good for fries so ordinary. The whiting was incredibly tasty and I loved the simple seasonings of the batter, which does not overpower the flavor of the fish at all.

Even tastier were the shrimp, which are as good or better than any restaurant in the Atlanta area can offer. Lakee and Shamika are sourcing these from a really good supplier and giving them such a simple little seasoning treatment before they hit the fryer. These were absolutely delicious, and I loved giving them a little bath of “sham sauce,” a great little remoulade dressing with just a hint of spicy zing. Mix a little hot sauce in with that and your mouth will love you for the rest of the day.

I really enjoyed my first visit here and don’t expect that it will be my last. It’s definitely worth a stop for anybody in the south Cobb or Cumberland area. If they’d start cutting their own fries as well, it’d be worth a stop for anybody, anywhere.

You can see all the restaurants that we have visited for our blog on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s a terrific resource for anybody planning a road trip through the southeast!