How many times have I passed Jay’s? Well, it’s on Foothill Boulevard in Hayward just off Highway 238, so I’ll say probably about, oh, 900 times in the past few months. The building that Jay’s occupies is just next to the Walgreen’s at the corner of Grove Way and used to be a variety of other restaurants over the years, as Hayward establishments are wont to do. Notably, I remember a Chinese restaurant; my mom says it was an all-you-can-eat buffet*, though I have no recollection of eating there. No matter, Jay’s is now the big cheese and I was pleasantly surprised by what we found inside.
I’m not trying to be rude when I say that the exterior is a standard run-down Hayward restaurant. It’s old, it’s not particularly nice, and the pink paint job over the 70′s rock facade is only a marginal improvement. It’s the kind of place you pass a million times and never really notice. All this had led me to expect a teeny tiny, grubby, grease hole inside and I was only hoping that the food would be tolerable. Since they don’t have a website, I had to rely on the folks at yelp.com to help me out with evaluations, and, though it’s a veritable freak show over there, I did get an idea that most people think the place is at least decent.
Upon entering Jay’s, I was pleasantly surprised. The place isn’t a palace, but it’s cleaner than a doctor’s office (I had my check-up today, so I know first hand) and the amenities are more than adequate. Tables, chairs, a front counter with posted menu, modest decorations. I do not require fancy, but I enjoy clean and hospitable, Jay’s certainly is. I was totally happy eating there; nothing wrong with this place at all.
I like fish and chips, and I’ve been fortunate enough to experience them in the proper British-owned countries from which they hail. I won’t say I’m an expert, but I’ll say that I have certain expectations when it comes to both fish and their chips. I think the menu at Jay’s goes above and beyond what a standard shop offers – but not so far beyond that I thought they needed to reign it in at all. They generally keep it in the family, offering five different types of fish and four other seafood that can be mixed and matched within a fish and chips combo, or ordered by themselves. Their selection of side orders pretty much seems to include anything that can be bulk purchased at Costco** or thrown into a deep fryer, which is impressive if for no other reason than their dedication to stocking all things breaded and frozen. I’m sure these items are as delicious as they are bad for you, but we didn’t have any this time so I can’t verify the former just yet.
Other than the deep fryer, they also use the grill to offer grilled fish or chicken (if you feel that your arteries deserve better), BBQ Korean beef and ribs, and ham-/fish-/chicken burgers. They also have a couple special plates: teriyaki chicken or salmon with rice and a salad for $7/$10, respectively, and one or two other things hand written on signs posted near the menu. I think they have really good choices, firstly regarding selection for the main thing they offer (fish & chips), and then also for variations on those offerings to include some variety and healthier options. In the way of full vegetarian fare, a non-meat-eater will be stuck in the deep fryer with the cheese sticks and fried zucchini, etc., so if you don’t at least eat the fishes, I’d recommend moseying on by.
We decided to split a six piece mixed fish plate (chips included) and requested two pieces each of cod, salmon, and sole for our order. I would like to mention that mix and match is one of the most awesome concepts ever and I’m extremely glad that Jay’s has applied it to their fish dishes. I love to choose my own fate in all the variety that I desire. They also sell beer in a refrigerator and soda on tap (no free refills, boo!) which is very reasonably priced. If we had all three been hungrier, this six piece meal would not have sufficed, though I would have been fine with a three piece meal to myself had I been a bit more empty-stomached. But for our hunger levels, the six-piecer was just fine. Six pieces of fish, chips, a soda, and a beer for just under $18. Not too shabby.
It arrived at our table promptly, and it looked…well, it looked fried, what can I say. I’m used to being overwhelmed with the amount of french fries at typical F&C places, and this isn’t how Jay’s does it. Jay’s gives you fish over a very modest amount of very generously salted chips, and that’s that. The fries are the kind we call “steak” fries, I believe – the fat kind that are about an inch wide and hold salt like a little boat. I am not biased against any kind of fries, and for that matter, any form of potato, so I was pleased with these chips. The fish is very well breaded, and you have a choice of regular beer batter or corn meal batter, which is pretty neat. I’d be curious to try the latter, but we just went with the traditional since it was our first time.
The consensus was that it was all quite good. Surprise: deep fried things are tasty. Seriously though, it is very possible to screw up fish and chips though it might seem foolproof, and I was happy with what Jay’s cooked up. Cod is the standard fish in “fish and chips” and theirs was certainly good. It was mom’s favorite, especially with an added gallon of vinegar. The salmon took a bit of getting used to, but was also quite good, especially generously slathered in the heavenly tartar-type sauce they provide. The sole was my favorite as it was very flaky and buttery-tasting, and was also great with some vinegar. The boyfriend thought it was a tie – he liked all the fish and thought they were all good in different ways. He’s so PC, you know?
The little Korean ladies behind the counter weren’t terribly talkative, but they keep a clean shop and know how to cook up some good fishies, so kudos to them. Though I try to moderate my intake of entirely deep fried meals, I have a feeling we’ll be back to see Jay in no time.
*I suppose this is redundant.
**I really have no idea if they get their stuff from Costco specifically, I didn’t even try the potato salad, macaroni salad, or coleslaw to which I am referring with this comment.