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  • Writer's pictureAdam Horvath

Lake Trout, Like Rocky Mountain Oysters But Not Really

Updated: Mar 1

I don’t know what's more intriguing, the fact that there’s a Baltimore foodigenous named lake trout that’s neither from a lake nor trout or finding out that there are no natural lakes at all in Maryland. I can accept the food misnomer. I’m fully aware of the successful conspiracy by thousands of caterers to change the name of the Patagonian Toothfish to the sexier sounding Chilean Sea Bass. But learning about the no lakes thing…well that’s the type of shit that will have me waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.

Enough With The Suspense, What Is Lake Trout?!

If you ever watched The Wire, you probably never noticed a quick two-minute scene when detectives Jimmy McNulty and Bunk talk about the ironically named lake trout. At the time, it felt like some nonsense filler, but in retrospect, it really represents the understated brilliance of the show because lake trout is quintessentially Baltimore. The deep-fried ocean fish is better known to fishermen as silver hake or whiting and is caught in the cold waters of the coast of New England and Long Island. It's cooked with its tail and fins usually intact. This crispy, narrow fish is often found on the menus of Baltimore's inner-city soul food restaurants, alongside the likes of chitlins, pig's feet and turkey wings.

It's an affordable comfort food, typically served on top of two pieces of white bread with side dishes like the mac & cheese above. When cooked right, the golden outside is crunchy, and the white fish inside is steamy moist and flakey but something you'd never confuse with fish and chips. The delicate meat has many small bones and tastes like something that swims, without being overly fishy. Pro Tip that I learned from a few locals waiting for their fish- always add hot sauce!

Lake Trout (Edmonson Village), Lake Trout 2 (Towson) and you guessed it Lake Trout 3 (Windsor Mill) specialize in cooking their fish to order. You can even find a lake trout platter with fries on the menu at other restaurants like Brother's Pizza.

Kimmy's Restaurant & Take Out, across the street from a high school on Edmonson Ave is one of just a few open shops in a seemingly vacant shopping center. And despite a full Chinese food buffet, this place feels like a bona fide soul food joint. Their lake trout hits hard! The well-done fish dredged in cornmeal has an enjoyably gritty texture that locks in the moisture, and the enormous pieces lacked the bones of the previous fish. The takeout bag was weighty for just two pieces and worth every bit of the $8.99 (sans sides)

But The Name?

Noone really knows the genesis of the paradoxical name for the fish that's been around since at least the 1920's. A popular fishmonger tale seems to suggest that the name was simply a mishearing of the words "lateeee" something a fish seller would yell to announce the arrival of wares arriving at the end of the day. When people returned the next day, they were looking for the "lake" trout. It's also quite possible that it was all a clever "marketing trick" for those that would consider the freshwater fish more exotic considering there were no lakes. Did I mention that Maryland had no natural lakes? How is that even possible?

Whatever the truth is, one thing is for sure. Lake trout is as unique to the Charm City as crab cakes, row houses and that mustach'd cyclops Mr. Boh and it should be on every foodie's radar.

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