Friday, December 4, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 40
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Alfie's Fish & Chips celebrates a year at its expanded location, continuing to serve fried goodness through COVID-19 challenges

KENNY CRESS

This year has been particularly hard on the owners of Alfie’s Fish & Chips in Lompoc, Mike and Nellie Sewall. Similar to other Santa Barbara County restaurants, the pandemic has forced the longtime Lompoc establishment to shut down not once, but twice. 


TEAMWORK
Mike and Nellie Sewall are the co-owners of Alfie’s Fish & Chips in Lompoc.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE SEWALL

And on top of that, Nellie has been battling cancer.


Taste it
Find Alfie’s Fish & Chips at 610 N. H St., open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. For information about the restaurant’s menu, visit alfiesfish.com, find it on Facebook at @AlfiesFishAndChips, or call (805) 736-0154.

“I was diagnosed with (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) in early April,” she said during the second week of November. “I had hopefully my last round of chemotherapy last week. I’ll find out in two weeks if the cancer’s all gone.”

Through it all, the 20-year owners of Alfie’s, who have four adult children and three grandchildren, have persevered, although Nellie has modified the amount of time she spends at the restaurant.

“Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I was at the restaurant every day,” Nellie said. “I’m not here as much in person now.”

With the change in their situation, Mike said his staff has stepped up.

“We don’t do as much cooking as we used to. Our staff has stepped in and done a wonderful job. They’ve been very leadership-oriented,” he said.

Alfie’s recently celebrated a year in its current location, just down North H Street from the old spot, and the Sewalls said the expanded space has increased the restaurant’s opportunities. 

“The dining area in our new place is much bigger than our old one,” Nellie said, noting that the previous location was 1,400 square feet and their new location is about 2,300 square feet.

That, the Sewalls said, has come in particularly handy because of the restrictions the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on indoor dining.

“We’re allowed 25 percent indoor dining capacity,” Nellie said. “With that, we can seat 32 people. In our old place, with 25 percent capacity, we could have seated eight.”


NEW PUB
The expanded space at Alfie’s year-old location on North H Street allows the restaurant to have an English pub, with beer and wine offerings.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE SEWALL

Besides allowing for an expanded dining area, Alphie’s has an actual kitchen at the new place, Nellie said, which led to other changes.

“We have an actual English pub,” that sells beer and wine, Mike said.

Nellie said that while the restaurant’s former location got 80 percent of its business from takeout orders, much of the business at the new location still comes from primarily takeout orders.

Alfie’s Fish and Chips gets the word out about its facilities and its fare through its catchy radio commercials. A man and woman banter back and forth, the man with an English accent.

“You always have to have the last word,” the woman remarks near the end of one commercial. 

“Do not,” the man retorts.

Mike and Nellie are that man and woman. Mike speaks with an English accent in the commercial—and though Alphie’s boasts authentic English fish and chips, Mike’s accent is less than authentic in real life.  

“But I have strong English and Irish in my blood,” Mike said with a smile.

Mike was born and raised in the Lompoc Valley. Nellie is an Ohio native.

“I came out here to marry him,” she said.

But Mike still manages to pull off a convincing English accent when the pair’s commercials are taped at KBOX 104.1FM Pirate Radio in Lompoc.

“Mike is dressed up as the Alfie’s character, complete with the ears,” Nellie said of the restaurant’s logo. 


EAT UP
Hush puppies, cole slaw, and fish and chips are all on the menu at Alfie’s in Lompoc.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE SEWALL

Fish around on their website, and you’ll learn that Alphie is “the cute little English bloke wearing the scarf and bowler hat.” The site also boasts that “since 1969 Alfie’s has been serving the best authentic English style fish and chips this side of England.”

Alfie’s started in 1969 as a franchise, according to local lore detailed on the restaurant’s site. “Opening hundreds of stores in the first few years was too much, too fast. The Alfie’s corporation went bankrupt in 1972. Since then each store has been family owned and operated. The first Alfie’s in Texas City, Texas (near Galveston), closed in 2019, making the Alfie’s in Lompoc the very last location!”

The restaurant’s history page goes on to explain that the Lompoc store—Alfie’s No. 27—was opened in 1969 by Jack and Margaret Cairney, a Scottish couple. They passed it on to their daughter, Colleen Staffel, and in 2001 she sold the business to Mike and Nellie. 

The rest, as they say, is modern history.

On the menu, hungry diners will find three traditional combos—offering one, two, or three pieces of fish—with each including the traditional chips (french fries), two hush puppies, and cole slaw.

Family meals include a half bucket (five pieces of fish), a full bucket (10 pieces of fish), and a combo bucket (five fish, five chicken strips, and 21 popcorn shrimp). Each of those includes a pound of chips, sauces, and the diner’s choice of seven hush puppies or one pint of cole slaw.

Shrimp, oyster, catfish, clam strips, and calamari entrees are also on the menu, along with some “lighter bits,” including baked fish and cucumber wasabi coleslaw. And diners can also get their fish on a large French roll with sauce.

But for their widely traveled clientele, the fried fish is king.

“We have a lot of customers from Vandenberg Air Force Base, a lot of airmen from Alabama and Kentucky,” Nellie said. “Catfish is a big seller with the military [customers]. Fish and chips is still the best seller on the menu.”

The restaurant, Mike said, has a lot of regulars from the area. 

“People are coming in and out from all over the place,” he said.

And they seem to like Alfie’s Fish and Chips’ new location just fine.

“The public has been very supportive,” Mike said.

Contributor Kenny Cress is all about seafood. Send fresh catches to the editor at clanham@santamariasun.com










Weekly Poll
Would a second stay-at-home order be effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19?

No, pandemic fatigue is too high to get people to follow a stay-at-home order.
Yes, we need it, otherwise our hospitals will be in rough shape.
Local governments should get a say—not all purple tier counties are the same.
It would be bad news for the economy.

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