Eastern North America has had a taste for codfish that predates by centuries the arrival of the pilgrims and Jamestown colonists in the early 1600s. You can be part of that long history by stopping at Izzy’s and ordering The Cod-father, a sandwich that is “too good” to be called fish, according to John Geisen, CEO of Izzy’s.
“It really is too good to be called fish. It’s Atlantic cod, which is better fish than the Pacific cod. It’s sweeter flesh than a lot of fish out there, even cod from those other areas, and it has a great texture and chew to it. The way we do it, the breading and the care we take with each piece, that is part of what makes our Cod-father special,” Geisen said.
He is right about the fish being better than many for this sandwich application, but a little history lesson first. Well before Jamestown’s settlers came ashore in 1607, explorers from England, France and Spain made log notations of the giant schools of enormously large cod in the icy waters of what would become New England. English and French fishing expeditions vied with each other for cod off Newfoundland in the 1500s, often leading to violent conflict on the briny. Why is open to question because cod was plentiful. In fact, English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold found himself so taken by the abundance and the size of the cod that he renamed Cape Saint James in honor of the ubiquitous fish, calling it Cape Cod instead—this in 1602. Obviously, the name stuck.
What Gosnold probably did not realize was that area of the Atlantic Ocean was ideal for cod. The banks that make up the cod fishing grounds stretch along the coast from southern New England to perhaps Nova Scotia in Canada. This continental shelf along the edge of North America is ideal for Atlantic cod—the perfect water temperatures, food-rich shallows and prevailing currents all helped in its proliferation. That is why Gloucester, beginning in 1623, became the codfish center of the world, producing dried and salt cod for consumption here and abroad.
So, what about Izzy’s special Cod-father sandwich, which is neither the dried nor salt variety, but fleshy and moist? “Well, we do a tavern cut for the cod, and each piece is battered in our secret recipe of flour and 17 herbs and spices. We start with a great piece of cod, and then we do one better with great coating for a really tasty sandwich,” Geisen said. “We serve the cod on our special brioche bun with lettuce and tartar sauce, and when you bite into that sandwich, it’s a real treat.”
We tried the Cod-father, and there is nothing fishy about Geisen’s claims. First, the cod is generous, with two large pieces on our sandwich. The batter clings nicely to the flesh, with a mild crunch. Also, the brioche bun is a cut above the average sandwich bun. With the lettuce and tartar sauce to round out the Cod-father, diners-out have themselves a real catch, I think. If you enjoy a good fried fish sandwich, I’m betting you’ll love the one Izzy’s brings to your table.
Our Cod-father sandwich was big enough to share, so we did, and with a potato pancake and a dish of Izzy’s house made slaw, the sandwich (even being halved) and sides made for a meal.
Also, on the agenda at Izzy’s is preparation for the chicken soup cookoff, held within the Jewish community. “That’s coming up here in a few days, and we look forward to the cookoff every year,” Geisen said. One reason he does look forward to it is because Izzy’s recipe for chicken noodle soup has brought home the blue ribbon more than once over the years. “Our soup is really good; made the slow-cook way that brings out all the flavors and gives you a wonderful broth. It’s a hearty soup, and people tell us all the time in our restaurants that is the best soup out there. We’re really proud of our chicken noodle soup,” he said.
While the Cod-father dominated our interview prior to this writing, Geisen mentioned that the sandwich is but one of many on his menu. “Our staples are the excellent corned beef and the Reuben sandwiches, which is what we are known for. And of course, over the years we’ve added a little something for everyone. We have the chicken salad, the egg salad and the tuna salad, all white-meat chunks on the chicken, and all albacore in the tuna salad; we have the burgers, really good hamburgers for people who want that type of sandwich instead of our classic deli sandwiches; wraps; you name it. It’s the variety and the quality that keeps people coming back,” he said.
For Jewish diners wanting to eat kosher style, it’s a good practice to look at each meat sandwich, since many of them feature cheese. But Izzy’s sandwiches are made to order, so your sandwich may be made sans cheese if you ask.
Also, as mentioned before regarding the Cod-father, Izzy’s sandwiches are mammoth, but you can order a half in most cases, or split a whole, in any case. In addition, Izzy’s offers many sandwiches on its signature rye bread, but you can order the sandwich to your liking with white or wheat breads, telera rolls, brioche buns or pretzel rolls.
See you at Izzy’s!
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