Is Richardson's new Tricky Fish location, in the CityLine mixed-use development, a proto-chain brought to you by the same folks that gave us Razzoo's? Yes, it is.
Considering its namesake dish is basically a plate of tilapia and shrimp étouffée, could you cite Tricky Fish's menu for a lack of imagination? Sure, you could.
But blowing off this place based on surface-level gripes is a grave mistake, because when you dig a little deeper, Tricky Fish, which opened last week in CityLine's first phase, flashes a lot more personality than its name suggests, and it wows at the bar with some stunning craft cocktails.
Then again, this place was always going to be judged on the merits of its seafood, and they've pulled off one of the better $12-a-plate mid-level maritime meal plans we've seen in quite some time.
First, Tricky Fish gives you options. The facility, complete with a narrow patio on State Street, is split inside between its walk-up counter for quick service takeout and a modest seating area outlining the biggest attraction, the bar.
Sure, any place can do takeaway, but these folks are dedicating nearly half their space to streamline the lunch rush, which makes sense when you're next door neighbors with a 710,000-square-foot State Farm Insurance office complex.
The bar is certainly not the main attraction because of flash or glamour. No, you're still in a friendly little spot called Tricky Fish. It's the main attraction for the drinks concocted by lead bartender Jason Trinh.
Trinh's Christmas drink menu, which is still being finished, sparkles. (Not literally.) The powdered sugar on the rim of a Mason jar filled with Mistletoe Punch twinkles a little, but that's it.
He makes a mean smoked peach old fashioned, for which the Tricky Fish staff actually lights a red oak branch on fire before trapping the smoke in, yes, another Mason jar. TX Whiskey and angostura bitters are mixed separately before finding temporary housing in the smoky jar for a couple of minutes that leave you to wonder if you'll really be able to tell a taste difference for all the painstaking presentation that goes into it.
Spoiler alert: You will taste the difference.
The dessert version is Trinh's Frosty Pecan, a whiskey-based after-dinner drink that's a little creamier with orange bitters and topped with crunchy pecan brittle that rests on a thick, frothy head to remind you that you are, in fact, drinking your dessert.
Happy hour is 5 p.m. until close five days a week, and there are some decent deals to be had — even though you're nearly in Plano.
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But somewhere in there, hopefully you had a meal, too. Tricky Fish relies on familiar dishes to keep your attention, and it's pure savvy execution that does the job. The fried calamari ($10.50) comes with flash-fried banana pepper slices, and it's a perfect pairing.
The mac and cheese ($11.50) is an entree unto itself, mixing creamy Tillamook cheddar with either chicken or shrimp. The fried oyster BLT ($10.75) comes with tartar sauce and bacon jam, imbuing a slight hit of sweet. Most everything comes with what has to be Richardson's best fried okra, and if it doesn't, sub your fries for it. It's cut long ways and lightly flash-fried with just enough Cajun seasoning. Simple, but pleasing.
But the perfect example of what Tricky Fish does well is its signature dish, which is just a tilapia fillet on dirty rice, topped with shrimp étoufée. It's plated with care, seasoned with care and that effort is probably what the appeal here is all about. It's fast-casual at Tricky Fish, for sure, but you can tell they care about the food they serve.
Tricky Fish, 1251 State St., Richardson