The Smudge Remembers:
The Old Long John Silvers Restaurant in Latham

By Scott Salad

Published July 19th, 2015

LATHAM — It's hard to believe it's been over two decades since the Long John Silvers restaurant in Latham closed its doors.

With nothing but a frayed rope railing and a few old-fashioned lanterns to guide me, I remember like it was yesterday skipping along the meandering dock that led to the entrance.

After placing my customary order — a Fish N' More with a medium Dr. Pepper — the teenage girl in the bandanna would ask if I wanted Hushpuppies.

Balls of deep-fried cornmeal? Uh, yes please.

Today, a CVS Pharmacy stands in its place, and apart from its red awnings, its dull, post-war Eastern-European brutalism sits in sad contrast to the whimsical, blue-roofed Cape Cod-style eatery I once loved so dearly.

“There was a what here?” asked Kip Newfoundland, a fit 23-year-old who was shopping for vitamins. “Long John Silvers? I don't know what that means.”

Jodie Bork, a Pilates instructor studying probiotics, had a similar reaction.

“Hmmm, never heard of it. Was it a fresh fish market?”

Frustrated by what could only be categorized as a lack of local pride and historical awareness, I wandered next door to a dimly lit OTB parlor. Surely someone there would remember the “a-lot-for-a-little” seafood shop that once spat its way into Capital Region hearts.

“Long John Silvers?” asked Ron, a scruffy-looking older man chewing on a stubby cigar. “He's dead money. Last time out he broke poorly then died on the backstretch at Aqueduct.”

“No,” I said. “Long John Silvers was a.... Oh, forget it.”

As I left the time-honored cloud of old man flatulence that is seemingly an OTB franchise requirement, my frustration turned to unease. Did I dream the Latham Long John Silvers? No, I realized as the fresh air hit me in the face I was probably just looking in the wrong place.

So on a hunch I set my GPS for one of the most respected cardiovascular medical centers in the country — St Peter's Hospital in Albany.

“Oh yeah, I remember it well,” said Pete Mulchy, a peaked-looking 45-year-old who recently underwent a trans catheter aortic valve replacement. “I used to get the peg legs as a kid. But as I got older, it was all about the fish and chicken combo platter.”

Stewart Gergerly, a 39-year-old being treated for a descending thoracic aortic aneurysm, agreed.

“I loved their coleslaw. I used to eat it by the bucket. Oh, and you know that bedding of congealed grease everything sat on? I'd get a whole bowl of that on the side. Extra crumb they called it. Yummy!”

Before his heart monitor flat-lined — goading the top-notch medical staff into a series of fruitless attempts at resuscitation — Gergerly gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up.

From then on it seemed as if everyone at St. Peters had fond recollections of the Latham Long John Silvers — from the patients whose faces brightened as they recalled some long ago gorge-a-thon, to the opulent-looking cardiologists who all seemed to be in on the same inside joke.

It wasn't until later that night I discovered Long John's never really left our area. Apparently there's been one in Clifton Park for 15 years. What's more, the Taco Bell in Latham — less than a quarter-mile from the original location — recently paired with the eatery and now features nearly the exact menu I remember as a child. Who knew?

I guess I should get out more… Hey, maybe now I will.


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