H. Salt Esq. Fish & Chips
645 S. Ventura Rd., Oxnard
984-1619
$5-12

Ever had food so terrible it makes everything else you eat for the rest of the day, no matter what it is, taste awful as well? That is what happened after I “dined” at H. Salt Esq. Fish & Chips in Oxnard. After forcing down as much of their deep-fried swill as my stomach would allow and leaving not only disgusted but unsatiated, I went across the street to a 7-11 and picked up a small package of chocolate chip cookies and a can of Monster. Granted, this is not a gourmet dessert, but for me, it is usually a reliable post-meal snack. This time, though, I might as well have been eating shredded bum socks — such was the debilitating wretchedness of my lunch.

And let this stand as an even greater indictment of the restaurant: A guy who usually greatly enjoys the combination of Monster and 7-11 cookies thought H. Salt was horrible.

Yes, even I, an admitted junk food aficionado, have some standards. And this place sunk well below them.

Truth be told, I have always had an odd fascination with H. Salt Esq. Growing up in Oxnard, I drove by it numerous times, and always thought it looked out of place in its strip mall home, a seafood joint next to 31 Flavors, Sav-On and a 99 cent store. As many late night missions as I made to the adjacent Del Taco, however, I never once actually considered going inside H. Salt. I don’t really know why. It just didn’t seem like a real business to me for some reason — it looked more like a weird roadside attraction. Not that there is a giant plastic dinosaur on the roof or anything, but something about the place told me to stay away.

Now that I have patronized the restaurant, I can say that while my choice to ignore H. Salt over the years was not a conscious one, it was a correct one. Although my palette is — shall I say — a bit low-brow (if it were socially acceptable, I’d eat Carl’s Jr. Famous Stars with a side of candy hearts every day for the rest of my life), I do draw a line at fast seafood. It is the one type of food that cannot be deliciously converted into a no-wait option. I have been to several establishments that have tried, and other than Andria’s Seafood in the Ventura Harbor — which may be my favorite restaurant in the county period — I have not had a decent experience at any of them. But H. Salt is easily the bottom of the barrel.

The décor alone is enough to make you head for the restroom. Cheesy ocean-related statues, “chandeliers” with blinking lights — the place is dizzying in its tackiness. But nothing is more offensive than the food. I ordered the shrimp’n’chips, figuring if I go with one of the more expensive items on the menu, it has less chance of being vile.

Wrong.

What I received was a Styrofoam box of fried shrimp, with an emphasis on the “fried” more than the “shrimp.” The actual crustaceans comprised about a quarter of each piece; the rest was just hardened batter. No amount of tartar sauce or lemon juice could disguise the fact that they could’ve just deep-fried a Tootsie Roll for all it mattered. I couldn’t taste the shrimp — just its crispy tomb. And it made me feel slightly sick.

Yes, me, a connoisseur of junk food, who regularly consumes Jumbo Jacks at 4 a.m., was made partially ill by H. Salt Esq. I got over it, of course. But man, it took at least 24 hours for that Jalapeno Bacon Cheeseburger to taste like normal.