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April 2017

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The Lighthouse Serves Up Fine Fish

We are still a nation of meat-and-potatoes men and fish-and-salad women... I can't even tell you how many women have told me that the one thing they'd like to change about their man's eating habits is to get him to put down the hamburger just once and take her to a seafood joint. So guys, there it is: a really easy way to get on her good side. You're welcome. - Ted Allen

Fish afficianados may find Redding a barren desert when it comes to seafood restaurants. There's mega-chain Rosy Crustacean out in Big Boxland, the special occasion place downtown, and the fish-n-chipperie discussed previously in this space. Unless you drive out Hartnell often, you might not be aware of the unassuming little Lighthouse Restaurant at the edge of a strip mall, near a union hall and pet groomers.

The Lighthouse is well-kept with a bright, clean interior, colorful murals on the walls, and comfortable, if utilitarian, tables. While this isn't really a spot you'd spend all day hanging out with your BFFs, it's a good place to enjoy lunch or dinner and not break the bank. Order at the counter; they'll bring the food out to you.

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Small cup of clam chowder, $3.29

When the waitress brought the clam chowder, she issued a warning: "It's really hot, about 160 degrees," and she wasn't kidding. M. de Joie first learned to appreciate clam chowder at the gone-but-not-forgotten Weatherbee's in Eureka, and still holds that as the standard. Chowder at The Lighthouse meets that standard - creamy white, thick with potatoes, clams, and minced vegetables. Wait a minute or two before you dig in or you'll burn the roof of your mouth.

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1-piece fish and chips, $5.79

When Femme de Joie ordered a 2-piece fish and chips, the woman at the counter asked, "Is this for you? How about if we downsize this to a one-piece? It's really a big piece of fish and if you're still hungry, we can get you more." It turns out that they always give you an extra piece of fish. That's just how they roll here. The waitress said they use pollock, a member of the cod family. It's mild but not bland, and lends itself well to deep-frying - here, the batter was thin, crisp, and not at all doughy or oily. The fish was cooked through and not dry or overcooked. French fries were definitely above average, cooked to order and not sitting under a heat lamp. Cole slaw was forgettable - the cabbage had lost some crunch and the sweetish runny dressing slid off the slaw back into the cup.
When the fish arrived, the waitress asked, "Do you want any Tabasco or anything?" When M. de Joie demurred, she added, "OK, if you do, you know where the tartar bar is." Tartar bar? "Oh, you don't know about our tartar bar? Welcome to the Lighthouse. It's through that opening and on the left." The tartar bar was a self-serve table with (of course) tartar sauce, ketchup, cocktail sauce, Tabasco, malt vinegar, and lemons, "everything except horseradish and ranch, we have that at the register."

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Oysters and chips, $8.19

Uniformity in size and shape indicated these oysters came in a frozen box, but were still quite good - better than some that are breaded by hand to order, with a tender crust (they'll ask if you want them fried extra-cruncy) and briny, juicy interior.

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Charbroiled salmon meal, $14.49

Charbroiled meals (swordfish, halibut, mahi mahi, etc.) come with a dinner salad and a dizzying array of choice of sides - onion rings, hush puppies, and fries are the only ones M. de Joie can remember. The waitress making the salad made sure M. de Joie was OK with the toppings being added (hard-boiled egg, mushrooms, tomatoes, shredded cheese, croutons) before she prepared it.

A six-ounce portion of salmon was unfortunately dry and tough, and without a lot of taste. It may have been in the freezer too long and then dried out further with too much heat. However, the hush puppies - crunchy spheres of deep-fried cornbread batter with a few flecks of parsley - were addictive.

The Lighthouse staff is very friendly and accomodating, they're family-friendly, and the prices are right. The menu is focused on just a few standard items, so you aren't going to find Calamari Stroganoff or Flaming Shrimp Diablo there. Most of the food is well-prepared; a little attention to details like the freshness of the coleslaw would bring all the items up in quality. Overall, Femme de Joie likes the Lighthouse and would definitely go there again the next time she's craving fish and chips.

The Lighthouse, 1109 Hartnell Avenue, Redding, CA 96002. 530-223-9200, fax 530-223-9264. Open Saturday-Thursday, 11:00 AM - 9:00 PM, Friday 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM. Closed Sunday. Credit cards, no checks. No alcohol. On-site parking. Children's menu.

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