Shrimp time

If its 80 degrees, the sun is glinting off Lake Calhoun and youre craving fried shrimp and who doesnt on a day like that? dont call the Tin Fish to ask if theyre busy.

I tell people the wait is just long enough to relax, says Sheff Priest, who, with his wife Athena, owns the restaurant at 3000 Calhoun Parkway East, on the northern end of Lake Calhoun.

Instead, expect to spend about 15 minutes in line and about 10 minutes waiting for a platter of plump shrimp, never tough or overcooked, in the lightest seasoned cracker crust you could imagine (no batter frying here).

And expect it to be the most worthwhile 25 minutes youve spent all day. All summer even.

The day the Tin Fish opens for the season (this year is its fourth) marks the final coup de grce to another Minnesota winter for Southwest residents. Priest says they always open sometime at the end of April, but exactly when depends on the weather. Just keep your eye out for hungry crowds on the deck.

It also marks the beginning of a marathon season for the Priests. They work 16-hour days, seven days a week, 170 days in a row, racking up far more than a full years worth of work hours 2500, in Sheffs calculation by the time the summer is out.

And all of this in a tiny kitchen crammed with 14 refrigerators because theres no walk-in. They have to take daily deliveries because they sell all the fish, produce and bread theyre able to store by the end of every day. For the 800850 customers they serve on a busy day, that means absolutely fresh, cut-and-cooked-to-order fish.

Among the most popular orders is the Mini Tin sandwich: two pieces of fried cod on a sesame bun, with tartar and hot sauce. An amazing deal at $2.50.

Most people, when theyre handed their first one, they say, No, no, I ordered the Mini Tin, said Priest, who sold 9,000 of the mighty mini sandwiches last year.

Customers also come for a taste of nostalgia. Priests family owned the Rainbow Caf on Lake and Hennepin from 1919 to 1979, when the Rainbow hamburger and its secret recipe, full of onions and spices, was retired. The Tin Fish resurrected the burger in 2004.

Ive had people who courted their wives at the Rainbow come up to the window and say, Ive been waiting 30 years to taste that taste again, Priest says.

Thirty years, you might say sounds like a long time to wait, but its nothing compared to the interminable stretch from October to April every year, when youre craving fried shrimp.

The Tin Fish

3000 Calhoun Parkway East