Seafood chains are known for their ridiculous kitsch. Plastic crabs and wooden captain's wheels cling to the walls like barnacles to oysters. So when I discovered that Meridian's newest seafood restaurant, Lucky Fins Seafood Grill, was locally owned, I heaved a sweet sigh of relief. I have zero interest in sucking sugary drinks from swirly straws while servers sing sea shanties.
And Lucky Fins lived up to my expectations aesthetically--simple dark-wood tables clustered around sailboat-sized booths framed by large windows, and a few wall-mounted chalkboards listing the day's specials. But when our Lucky Fins T-shirt-clad server handed over a giant, multi-colored menu--trademark logos littering most descriptions and prices missing on the mixed drinks--I got a chain chill.
Like its chain cousins, Lucky Fins doesn't skimp on options: There are steamer platters, tuna melts, salmon salads, crab cakes, steaks, seafood enchiladas, shrimp-topped burgers, fish tacos and creamy seafood pastas. Oh, and an entire specialty sushi menu. But the buffet of choices made the menu a headache to decipher.
As it was Walk the Plank Wednesday, I went with the cedar plank salmon ($15) topped with a red-pepper-laden corn relish. The day's other rotating, wood-plank options included tilapia on apple and salmon on alder (both $19).
When the pink fillet arrived, a waft of smoky cedar summoned a wave of nostalgia for my youth spent traipsing through the cedar-filled Texas hill country. Though the salmon's fatty juices had welded it to the thin board, the fish wasn't overcooked. And neither was my date's very spicy black-and-blue marlin ($15), which also came with a pile of loaded red potatoes smothered in cheese and bacon. The side of "seasonal" veggies--broccoli with green and yellow squash--was perhaps my favorite part of the meal. The well seasoned squash had just the right snap, and the steamed broccoli had soaked in a buttery richness. Though someone in the kitchen doesn't know how to wield an oyster knife--as evidenced by the bits of grit we fished from our mouths while slurping a half dozen on the half shell ($11)--they can handle a saltshaker.
As we shuffled through the sleek cocktail lounge on our way out, commenting on the weirdly not-kitschy jellyfish-shaped lights floating over the bar, I realized Lucky Fins has all the ingredients to make a successful franchise empire. But, for my sake, I hope it tones down the chain vibe and plays up the simple, well prepared fare that sets it apart.