Restaurant Reviews

First Look: The Chipper in Katy

Alert Captain Ahab. We've found the whale.
Alert Captain Ahab. We've found the whale. Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

The prairies of Katy might seem an unusual place for a British chip shop to land but in a strip center near Katy Mills Mall, The Chipper is bringing a taste of the British Isles to its residents. I was attending the opening of Howdy Homemade Ice Cream in Katy where, unfortunately, I did not get to sample any ice cream. Feeling a bit peckish, I left the throngs of people surrounding Trae tha Truth and made my way to this newly opened chippy to check it out. Its social media is filled with comments about how great the fish and chips are so I wanted to see if the love was warranted.

click to enlarge A bit of Brit in Katy. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
A bit of Brit in Katy.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The Chipper originally opened in the summer of 2018 at 32907 Tamina in Magnolia. It closed its doors May 22, 2021 to relocate to the Katy location after ongoing issues with the landlord. The new location opened June 16, less than a month later.  According to its Facebook page, the owners are also looking for a location near the old spot, possibly in The Woodlands or Magnolia. The restaurant's loyal customers are doing some of the scouting for them, hoping to bring their favorite fried foods back to the far northside. After all, it was the devotion of its steadfast fans that kept it going during the pandemic with take-away, often leaving The Chipper sold out of many of its offerings.

click to enlarge That's the "toilet" for non-Brits out there. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
That's the "toilet" for non-Brits out there.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
On my visit, I made two go-arounds in the shopping center before I found the shop. The outline of a now-gone business sign has yet to be replaced but I spotted the Union Jack sign in the window and realized it was the spot. I walked in to an empty restaurant except for one table of three having lunch who may have been the owners. The young woman got up from the table and went to the counter to take my order. There are no menus, just the chalkboard on the wall listing its brief selection. I was here for fish and chips ($16.47). Diners have a choice of haddock or cod. I went for the cod. Tartar sauce was an additional 92 cents but I prefer it to malt vinegar so I sprang for the condiment. The refrigerated case behind the server was empty and I really couldn't see what was on offer beverage-wise so I just ordered a bottled water. I asked if there was a beer or liquor license and was told that they were working on getting one. For now, the restaurant is BYOB. I paid with a debit card but the young woman used my receipt as the ticket for my order so it wasn't given back to me to sign or leave a tip. There is a tip jar for cash tips but I was cashless this particular day.

click to enlarge I scored the coolest table. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
I scored the coolest table.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
I sat down at one of the four tables available. The majority of the seating at The Chipper is comprised of bar stools at narrow counter tops. I have trouble eating while staring at a wall inches from my face. The casual seating is in keeping with its chippy concept, however, and it does get very busy most days. As I was waiting for my order, several more parties came in. I was enjoying the Scottish radio station which was playing songs that I grew up with such as In a Big Country by Big Country. My name was called and I went to the counter to get my food. I was surprised at the large portion size. Considering its price tag, guests at least get their money's worth. I was given plastic-wrapped eating utensils and a teeny-tiny ramekin of tartar sauce. I sat down with my fried feast and contemplated for a minute where to begin.

click to enlarge Some bits were crispy, others were not. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Some bits were crispy, others were not.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Chips, or fries, were my first nibble. The fries here are hand-cut and thick like many British pubs and chip shops do. I was a bit disappointed. These little buggers could have used another minute in the fryer to be perfect. They weren't soggy, just not as crisp as I would have liked. That had me a little worried about my fish. The outer edges were perfectly done but the center part needed another minute as well. I silently cursed myself for not having ordered the haddock instead. Cod filets can be pretty thick and getting the right amount of crispness on the center part is difficult. Haddock is thinner and cooks better all over.

Another thing that was missing was seasoning. Perhaps my palate has been spoiled by Cajun seasoning and Tex-Mex flavors but the fish and chips both could have done with a bit more salt. I see the dilemma here, though. Many people eat their F&C with malt vinegar and too much salt would clash with the acidity. I tried a little of the malt vinegar on the table and it did help.  And there is salt on the table so diners can season their own food. The tartar sauce was fine. It had a tinge of mustard and was not chunky like many American versions.

click to enlarge Meat lovers rejoice! - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Meat lovers rejoice!
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The portion was enough for two light eaters. I thought I was making headway on the chips but I still had plenty left to take home. Along with half the fish, I had a dinner to reheat for Classic Rock Bob. I also planned to take home a Steak Pie ($8.31). Unfortunately, when I went back to the counter to order, they were out. I asked what meat was in the Scotch Pie ($6.47) and was told that it was a mix of ground beef and lamb. That sounded good to me, so I ordered one to go. The employee asked if I would like salt and vinegar on the pie or on the side. Since I had both of those items at home, I declined the S&V. I also asked for a to-box for my fish and chips. Unfortunately, I was given the Scotch Pie wrapped in paper in a plastic bag and no to-go container for my leftovers. I simply put my fish basket in the bag and chalked it up to one less to-go container in the landfill.

click to enlarge Kilts are welcome. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Kilts are welcome.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The restaurant sells a lot of items that can be fried as do most chip shops in England and Scotland. There are daily specials that are not on the menu but show up every now and then like fried Mars bars, Spam fritters and even fried halloumi. One special listed on its Facebook page was Pigs in a Blanket — British sausages wrapped in British bacon then battered and deep-fried and served with HP brown sauce. There are no salads to be found but if haggis, black pudding and curry chips are your thing, The Chipper is your cuppa tea. And, for gluten-free diners, the kitchen has a separate fryer dedicated to making gluten-free dishes. For waistline-watchers, however, this is a cheat restaurant.

click to enlarge The Scotch pie is big flavor in a small package. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGGIERO
The Scotch pie is big flavor in a small package.
Photo by Lorretta Rugggiero
The drive from Katy was more than half an hour so I expected the pie would be worse for the wear when I arrived home. To my surprise, it was still warm and crisp. The paper wrapping prevented the moisture condensation that usually makes take-home food limp. I cut the rather petite pie in half to have a taste. The minced meat was lightly spiced with nutmeg and was very tasty but, oh my, the crust was amazing. The grease on the paper had me worried that the crust would be too greasy but instead, it was flaky and flavorful. I can't be sure that lard is involved but the crust had an old-fashioned goodness that pies seem to lack nowadays.

click to enlarge Wrap it up, I'll take it. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Wrap it up, I'll take it.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
And that was the weirdest part. I was expecting to be blown away by the fish and chips for which the restaurant is known but instead, the pie was the item that gives this writer cravings. And it wasn't even the pie that I wanted in the first place. I may have to drive back to Katy to try the Steak Pie. And the Chicken Curry Pie. And the Macaroni Pie. And whatever kind of fillings that the cook in the kitchen decides to wrap in that heavenly pastry. And I'll try the fish and chips again, but with haddock. The haggis I'll leave to the Scots.

The Chipper
1251 Pin Oak
346-775-9486 Chipper
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.