In the shadow of the ever-popular and gleaming Jarling’s Custard Cup sits a small fried chicken and fish house. Seaboat opened in North Champaign in 1994, and quickly became famous for their fish sandwich. Seaboat relocated from North Champaign to its current location on Kirby Avenue six years ago in order to be able to offer dine-in service. With Jarling’s having held down prime real estate for thirty years, it’s only appropriate that Seaboat is right nearby — it too is a Champaign must-eat attraction.
At first glance, the menu seemed to be endless. Most chicken meals come with different cuts and options, and it is definitely an abundant spread. After staring at the lists for a good ten minutes, my guest and I were ready to order. I knew I would have to try the fish sandwich, so I ordered the catfish sandwich with fries and a three-piece (2 breasts, 1 wing) fried chicken meal with green beans and mac ‘n cheese. The list of sides was impressive, and I wish had tried the cornbread, too. For good measure, we ordered a slice of the sweet potato pie, just in case our calorie quota didn’t add up for the week.
The woman behind the counter was busy with the line cooks and the customers at the window, but made sure to help us when we were ready, saying that it would be about fifteen to twenty minutes for our order. With those few words, I knew I was in the right place. Most people would be annoyed by this wait, but I knew it could only mean one thing: they were actually making our food to order. We took a seat and drooled, staring at the menu again to see if we missed anything.
After nearly thirty minutes, our meal came to the table, glistening in fresh-fried crispiness. The fried chicken was hot, juicy, salty, and all things unhealthy. The catfish sandwich was similar in this regard, and the mixture of perfectly cooked and seasoned catfish, tartar/mayo-esque sauce, and bread will satisfy any urge for fried food. Interestingly enough, we preferred the addition of just a few shreds of lettuce, as it adds just enough of a texture change-up to help you really appreciate the flaky, tender, gooey goodness the rest of the sandwich delivers. There’s also a tomato slice on the sandwich, but who cares? While we’re on the subject of this sandwich, is it not a po’ boy? I propose that it is, but this catfish, by any other name, would still taste as delicious.
We had the fries, mac n’ cheese, and green beans. The fries were average; green beans, average; mac n’ cheese, great. No mushy fake nacho cheese here: Just the real stuff.
I ended with the sweet potato pie, which to me was not out of the ordinary. The crust was sub-par and the pie lacked flavor. It could have used a dollop of cream, or something else to accompany it.
My first Seaboat experience in Champaign was complete. With a sense of longing for just another bite, mixed with anguish from my body, and fear that this was now going to haunt every other catfish experience to date, I now understood C-U’s love of Seaboat.
The Seaboat is located at 403 W. Kirby Avenue, Champaign. They’re open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dine-in, take-out, and delivery available. You can reach them at (217) 355 9933.