By Joshua Maloni
Why did Joseph Krupper vote for Apple Granny Restaurant in Niagara Frontier Publications' annual "Best Fish Fry" contest?
"I was upset they didn't win the last time!" Krupper said. "I'm serious. I couldn't believe they didn't win with that fish fry. We've been going there for a few years. ... I couldn't believe they haven't won all these years. I was just upset, because it's such a great fish fry."
To remedy this, he and his wife, Bonnie, voted for the Village of Lewiston restaurant.
They weren't alone.
In a year when a record number of votes were cast - about 1,250 in total - Apple Granny received the highest number of unique votes. The restaurant was named the 2018 contest winner on Tuesday.
"We've tried other places, and we've given them second chances, but we always come back to Apple Granny," Krupper said.
He noted, "The fish is so tender - it melts in your mouth. The batter is the right thickness. The coleslaw is nice and creamy - and they put it in a separate plate, so it doesn't get all over your dish. And the baked potato is just hot and steamy when you get it.
"It's just perfect, as far as we're concerned."
His wife added, "When our daughter comes in from out of town, we go to Apple Granny's. And when we have people here from out of town, that's where we go - we go to Apple Granny."
Restaurant co-owners Chuck Barber and Michael Burke said they were excited to learn Apple Granny took the title.
"We always believed we had the best fish fry going, so it's nice to be recognized, and for other people to be able to vote for that and support us," Barber said.
"I think it goes to the consistency," Burke said. "I think, when you talk about Apple Granny food, you can expect to get the exact same thing every time you come, with a consistently high level of goodness that goes along with it. The fact that the fish fry got voted the best is probably part and parcel to the fact that we do it so consistently."
The award-winning fish.
"We have a very talented kitchen group back there who's been with us a long number of years," Barber said. "They're the ones who are cooking that every Friday."
"We don't just take the delivery and throw it in there. We take our time," he said. "Every piece of fish we examine to make sure it meets our standards and quality before we use it."
Voters said they appreciate that level of detail. Some of the additional comments (lightly edited) included:
•Gail M. wrote, "The atmosphere is cozy, and the servers are wonderful! ... The food is always delicious and cooked perfectly. The fish fry is huge and you can substitute a garden salad instead of coleslaw. Service is always prompt and friendly. Our favorite Friday night date night restaurant. Even when I order takeout, the order is always perfect and served hot."
•Nancy D. explained, "For years, Apple Granny has delivered on a delicious, very ample and reasonably priced fish fry. Great service with friendliness."
•John M. said, "The portions will satisfy the hungriest appetite. The mashed potatoes and gravy are absolutely delicious. Great meal and a fair price."
•Dean B. wrote, "I have never tasted a fish fry as good as this. The batter is crispy, the fish is flaky and it is always consistent. Never had a bad one."
•Mike P. noted, "Atmosphere and service are second to none. They don't cut any corners and the food is fresh, fresh, fresh."
Barber said, "Most people will say our fish is not greasy. ... I think that speaks to the talent back there and the time they take cooking it."
The fish isn't "fishy tasting," either.
"If you bought a lower-quality fish, you'd probably get that," Burke said. "Our freshness is also something that we like to stick to. People ask us, 'Where do you get your fish?' The truth of the matter is, it's on the dock on a Monday; it's the building on Thursday. It's a pretty quick turnaround. Freshness in fish is key to it not being 'fishy.' "
Apple Granny serves its beer-battered haddock from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. each Friday. It's no coincidence that day is the restaurant's busiest of the week. Accordingly, patrons can wait at the bar - "We have two bartenders on to make sure you get a drink nice and quick," Barber said - or order a fish fry to go. "We have people assigned for to-gos, so that people can come in and pick up their food and get out of here."
"It's a well-oiled machine on Friday," Barber added. "We have, pretty much, all hands on deck. Friday is our go time, year-round."
Voters complimented the Apple Granny wait staff. Remarkably, Barber and Burke haven't had to hire a new server in three years.
"It's our outstanding crew," Barber said. He added, "It goes to the experience that we have, and how caring the crew really is. They know their stuff. They know how to serve it. They know what's it's supposed to look like. So, they help to make sure it looks right coming out of the kitchen. I think that extra layer of care and relationship goes a long way."
Barber said he and Burke are grateful to have regulars who not only patronize Apple Granny, but also take time to vote for the restaurant in food competitions like this one.
"We'd like to thank the customers for their continued support and commitment," Barber said. "I know there was a lot of fears about the Friday fish fries when Apple Granny's changed ownership (from the John Roberts family) almost three years ago. But we're very proud that we were able to keep it going. And we're very happy and appreciative that the community was able to respond and nominate us."
Finishing second was 2017 champion Jay's Place in Lewiston. The rest of the top five included Tin Pan Alley (Lewiston) in third, three-time winner The Beach House (Grand Island) in fourth, and Syros (Lewiston) and the Wilson Volunteer Fire Co. tied for fifth place.