On a recent Saturday night, people leaned against their cars, scrolling through their phones as music played in the background, waiting for their orders outside Hershey’s Palace in downtown Arlington.
This small, primarily to-go spot opened in early 2020, and while it’s been a strange year for most restaurants, this one has had a steady stream of white plastic bags filled with Styrofoam boxes of wings, catfish and sandwiches flowing out the door.
Hershey, the owner, who declined to give his first name, is from Chicago, and the menu and decor inside reflects that: pizzas, Italian beef sandwiches and Philly cheesesteaks. The chicken wings and catfish fillets, both of which are made in-house, are also popular.
But, the fried catfish is where it’s at here. I’ll be honest: I don’t like catfish because it’s always tough and flavorless. So, when we ordered it, I had low expectations. Well, I was wrong. The catfish here is completely different than the standard fare.
At Hershey’s, the fillets are breaded and fried under a watchful eye, not a second too long. The timing is perfect. The resulting thin fillets are fall-apart tender. One would be hard pressed to pick up one end of a strip and it not fall apart in the middle. The catfish also comes with two pieces of toast, a few hush puppies, fries and a side of coleslaw, plus tartar sauce made with neon-green relish.
The Italian beef is a house specialty, also. Customers can order the sandwich “dipped,” which we highly recommend. The jus inundates the bun with flavor. There’s not a single boring bite from end to end.
Another night, we had the fried chicken sandwich. I had arrived one hot flash past hangry, which made the 25-minute wait like a casting call for a Snickers commercial. The sandwich is made with two thick chicken strips with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and a few slivers of purple onion. When we finally got our order, I devoured the sandwich; it was satisfying and filling.
If you decide to try it, it’s best to call in your order, otherwise plan for a 30-minute wait. But everything is cooked as it's ordered, so there's beauty in the wait.
Parking can tough. That strip along Abrams Street has adopted the back-in-at-an-angle parking concept. Most cars don’t adhere to it, which makes leaving sort of a circus act and potentially entertaining. There's also parking behind the restaurant and at both ends of the strip.
Hershey’s Palace, 512 Abrams St., Arlington. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 682-323-5050.