Would you choose classic fish and chips or Southern-style salt-and-pepper catfish when you want seafood?
Would you rather dunk a spoon into a bowl of clam chowder or shrimp and grits?
These are realistic questions for diners at New England Seafood, a 17-month-old restaurant on Nations Ford Road that the owners hope will become best known for its regional seafood specialties.
But in this case, meals that have been known to divide loyalties along the Mason-Dixon line are bringing diners together here for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“We've married North and South,” said Richard Mitchell, a Boston native who owns the restaurant with his Connecticut-born wife, Kelley and her parents, Al and Maxine Goodson, Southerners for about eight years now.
Their restaurant is in a former Hardee's space. They splashed the building with aquatic-blue tones and named it for New England.
“New England is known for seafood,” said Mitchell, who expects the name to inspire curiosity and help him introduce diners to the northeastern recipes he is passionate about.
The Big Boy Fish Sandwich ($3.99 and $2.99 on Wednesdays), one of the signature dishes, is perhaps the recipe he's most passionate about.
It's made with a generous fried whitefish fillet, American cheese and tartar sauce that's made in-house. While the New Englanders prefer the classic flour-and-water batter for the Big Boy and other meals, customers have plenty of other choices, including a country-style fillet, which is breaded in a well-seasoned cornmeal mix.
Choices for breakfast include salmon, egg and cheese with a toasted bun ($3.79) or fish and grits ($4.99). Southern recipes such as livermush, country ham and sausage biscuits with gravy are on the morning menu, too.
The net is cast wider for lunch and dinner, bringing flounder, perch, whiting and catfish fillets, as well as croaker cooked on the bone. They're grilled, broiled or fried.
Shrimp can be cooked just as many ways, including popcorn shrimp and coconut shrimp. Get oysters, crab cakes, scallops, clam strips anytime and, from May through Labor Day, soft-shell crabs.
Combination meals offer all of these items in hearty lunch or dinner portions. The meals are served with one or two of the 11 side dishes that also pay homage to regional distinctions, including fried okra, fried green beans, smashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.
Lunch and dinner meals for meat-lovers include chicken strips ($5.99), chicken taco salad ($4.59) or an all-beef kosher foot-long hot dog on a toasted bun with fries ($4.99).
The dessert menu is proof that New England also has a whimsical side. That's the best way to explain the fried ice cream, fried candy bars and fried Twinkies.
“When you're not working, you're at the beach eating fried ice cream and frozen bananas,” Mitchell said, reflecting on summers in Boston. “Sometimes you just want to enjoy yourself.”