Are You Gonna Eat That? Eat The Rich’s Eel and Snakehead Pies

Eel 1

The Dish: Eel Pie/Snakehead Fish Pie

Where to Get It: Eat The Rich, 1839 7th St. NW; (202) 316-9396;

Price: $15

What It Is: A palm-sized pie filled with filleted and smoked Chesapeake eels, plus forcemeat made from the eel trimmings, button mushrooms, peas, and summer savory. When eels aren’t available—because fishermen nab them to use as bait to catch striped bass—chef Julien Shapiro instead uses snakehead fish, an invasive species that tastes somewhat like sturgeon. Both versions of the pie are served with “Harvey’s Sauce,” a condiment made from button and chanterelle mushroom catsup, 3 Stars Citra & Lemon Peel Saison, vinegar, and anchovies.

What It Tastes Like: After a few bites, you’ll be saying “suck it” to chicken pot pie until the end of time. That’s because the eel filling is as smoky as a campfire, a little creamy, and somehow not too dense. First-time eel eaters may feel squishy about the texture, but it’s nothing the buttery crust and savory dipping sauce won’t fix. 

The Story: There’s actually an Eel Pie Island floating in the Thames River that was once home to the Eel Pie Hotel—a hotbed for jazz in the 1930s. The hotel ran into some money trouble in the 1960s and briefly reopened as the Colonel Barefoot’s Rock Garden, which brought in rock ‘n’ roll acts like Black Sabbath. This  throwback to rock fits perfectly with the metal-music mantra of Derek Brown’s Shaw seafood bar. Shapiro mentioned the dish during the interview process and it helped him land the job. He’s an old soul, and eel pie is an old-timey dish. “I’m a gas lamp in an era of neon lights,” he says.

How to Eat It: Knife and fork your way through it and carefully dip each bite in the sauce. Since eel is seasonal, Eat The Rich plans to serve the pies Fridays and Saturdays only through the rest of the summer.

Photo by Laura Hayes