To the captain in charge of the next Bay Area oil spill, a few requests:
(1) It would be great if the oil could be piping hot: 350 to 450 degrees would be about right.
(2) Please make sure it is refined vegetable, safflower, or peanut oil.
(3) Aim for the spill to happen near a high cod concentration.
(4) Don't forget to toss in julienned potatoes following the oil.
(5) Create a Facebook Event so we all know when to come out for a fish and chips feast.
Ahh. That'll be a great day. But until then we'll have to make do with the many restaurants that dish up a good platter of fish and chips. Fortunately, this combo often escapes the mediocre fate of so much pub food in this town, and you can find a number of great servings across the city.
For whatever reason, many find the experience of eating fish and chips to be heightened by eating them near the water. But do you want to navigate tourists and souvenir shops on Fisherman's Wharf? Or perhaps worse, navigate baby carriages and joggers in the Marina? Those of us who answer no must seek our seaside suppers on the bay side, where we find the Ramp. The menu may be a little cutesy, but don't let that discourage you from getting a serious serving of crispy fish and chips. Some might find the curly fries a bit inauthentic, but once you see a plate of them go by, you'll be glad for the substitution.
855 Terry Francois, SF. (415) 621-2378, www.ramprestaurant.com 
If you wish to make the argument that the Irish are this city's most important ethnic minority, you'd be best served doing so over an order of fish and chips at the Phoenix. The fried cod clouds served here approach the ideal that many a traveler to the United Kingdom carries home with them. Extra points for great coleslaw. A heaping of extra, extra points for superior tartar sauce.
811 Valencia, SF. (415) 695-1811, www.phoenixirishbar.com 
Not too many fish-and-chip peddlers shoot for a thick cut of seafood. Besides the fact that it cuts down on the delicious fried-crust-to-fish-flesh ratio, you run the risk of cooking it unevenly and drying out the fish. The bold cooks at Liberties take this risk and come away with a fish so flaky it erases all concerns. On top of that, the moist fish is matched with a thick, airy batter.
998 Guerrero, SF. (415) 282-6789, www.theliberties.com 
It's easy, when going to the Edinburgh Castle, to overlook the fish and chips, not least because they actually come from down the street. But besides being able to enjoy the meal in a setting that is as much medieval beer-den as art-school hangout, these fish come wrapped in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle. This single dish tastes delicious, puts one of the city's media outlets to good use, and satisfies fantasies of Olde English pub crawling all at the same time!
950 Geary, SF. (415) 885-4074, www.castlenews.com 
Despite America's historical connection to the motherland, a quick census of passersby on the street reveals that surprisingly few of us come from Great Britain. But many San Franciscans hail from the shores of New England, and they can find fish and chips with a more Northeastern feel just a hop away from the Muni at Woodhouse Fish Co. It is hard to pass up the stuffed lobster roll, but the fish and chips present a worthy alternative. At other places, the fries often get shafted, presumed to be less important just because their name goes second. Woodhouse gives these chips their due; they're perhaps the best on this list: thin and crispy.
2073 Market, SF. (415) 437-CRAB, www.woodhousefish.com 
A lighter batter and a thicker chip characterize the fish and chips at the Chieftain. Thankfully, all the batter goes toward the shared goal of crispness. While you can opt for a fourth piece of cod for an additional $3.50, listen to the you-of-20-minutes-later and stick with three. It's enough.
198 Fifth St., SF. (415) 615-0916, www.thechieftain.com 
When you wander to the realm of Union Square, it's hard to discern the real restaurants from the good real estate investments. But you'll be rewarded if you find yourself in the Irish Bank ordering the fish and chips. An all-around winner, the fish is not too greasy. And the chips match the fish perfectly: they're crisp on the outside, but warm, soft, and moist on the inside.
10 Mark, SF. (415) 788-7152, www.theirishbank.com  *