Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I like your shoes

It’s a shame how one unfortunate incident can really put a damper on an otherwise damn near perfect fish fry. The food was unusually tasty, the menu diverse, the good company a ‘plenty and the staff extremely accommodating (after Uncle Don told them we were reviewing their operation).

Our night was nearly complete when we noticed an older man lurking around our tables and staring at our feet. We initially wrote him off as just another crazy fish fry groupie, but later learned that he was definitely not there for the catfish.

This dirty old man started approaching women in our group wearing brightly colored shoes. After complimenting them on their shoes he began asking them to move their feet around and show off their shoes a bit. After he followed my sister, who was sporting her new yellow flats, to the parking lot and asked her where she lived, we all finally caught on and big, bad papa Goedeker sent him on his way.

While I have met many strange people on my venture, including the tranny at St. Pius, this was my first fish fry sexual predator.

In an effort to repress the memory of our brush with the pervert, I’d have to say that St. George may have been one of the best fish fries yet.

Wait time: While the line appeared manageable, it proved to move extremely slowly. Of course I found a way around waiting by jumping in line with a group of friends closer to the front of the line. Next year I plan to create media credentials for myself so that I will never have to wait in line at a fish fry again, and cheating will no longer be necessary.

Menu: I was elated to have finally been able to order hush puppies! These are usually thought to be a staple at fish fries, but have managed to elude me this Lenten season. Fish options included fried cod, shrimp, jack salmon and catfish, and the sides included green beans, slaw, mostacolli and potatoes.

Taste: While it looks like I made a mistake ordering the cod over the jack salmon (I was afraid it would come out with a tail like it did at Joan of Arc), overall I was please with my meal. Sides were good, dessert was AMAZING and the jack salmon was a huge hit with the crowd, especially with my Uncle Don who sent me back for seconds.

Price: We got off cheap compared to the deal we were dealt at SHF. While I didn’t foot my own bill (that’s what good boyfriends are for), I believe you can get a good helping of fish, two sides, choice of bread, a drink and dessert for under $6!

Overall Rating: 9.5 out of 10 fish patties! A nearly perfect score, not taking into account Mr. Shoe Fetish.

Service without the smile

I decided to give into peer pressure and pay a visit to my alma mater, Seven Holy Founders. While I enjoyed the tasty food and good company, the service, in word, SUCKED! Perhaps the students and staff at SHF need to study up on their people skills.

Wait Time: Not too bad. The long line moved fast enough to keep us from complaining, but slow enough to allow me to hop out and purchase my dessert before dinner (the #1 key to an enjoyable fish fry experience.)

Price: Evidently the prices at the fish fry are rising at the same accelerated rate of the tuition costs at Seven Holy Founders. This fry really burned a hole in our pockets, with $8.75 getting you a choice of fish, two sides and a slice of bread (approximately a $2.50 value).

Taste: I have to admit, the kitchen staff at SHF know what they’re doing. The spaghetti is THE best side I’ve ever had at a fish fry. This may not mean much to most, but to someone who has spent just about every Friday night of the past two months eating fried fish and mediocre sides out of church basements, this is a big deal. My store-bought cake was also delicious. Fish was, well fish fry fish

Atmosphere: It was nice to see so many familiar faces show up for this leg of the tour. We were all having a great time catching up and reminiscing about old times at the Joe Becker tournament when we suddenly felt like we were being kicked out. This was confirmed when the staff started stacking the folding chairs on the table my grandpa was still sitting at. Guess they didn’t know I’d be writing about their RUDE behavior on the World Wide Web!

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10 fish patties. I would have given them a 9 if the student volunteer on staff had let me have an extra cup for my tarter sauce.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Illinios Bureau: The never ending quest for spaghetti

Last Friday the Illinois Bureau managed to make it over to Granite City to visit the Holy Family Parish. Coincidentally it just happened to be the only venue we have visited that was not a Knights of Columbus!

Wait time: 6. I am probably being a little harsh, but there was quite a wait to get food. First you had to wait to place your order and pay, then you had to wait again to actually pick up your food. It was a little busy, but no mercy here!

Selection: 7. The selection was pretty much average with the choices of fish being cod, shrimp or walleye. The sides were only slaw, fries and mac & cheese. Once again no spaghetti, as Illinois apparently doesn't allow Italian food to be served on Fridays! Huge serving sizes and the actual presence of desert made up for the lack of entree choices.

Taste: 9. No complaints here! The fries were a delicious "crinkle cut" variety that were fried golden brown. The mac & cheese was homemade and cheesy to the max (no leaking fluids were detected). The cod was good, and the walleye gained points for being one of the most scrumptious fish found in inland waters.

Price: 9. This category plays like a broken record, but depending on how much beer was consumed a person can dine for less than a Lincoln and 5 Washingtons. The previously mentioned serving sizes and the free option for all you can eat walleye gained huge points. Also in an unprecedented move, the desert prices were slashed to a quarter before we left.

Overall Rating: 7.75 fish patties

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Faith Restored!

Throughout the past few weeks I’ve come to realize that reviewing fish fries is a little like training for the half marathon. In the beginning, it all very seems fun and exciting. A few weeks in, this excitement slowly begins to fade and the task starts to feel a little monotonous. Then, something I’ve learned recently in the case of the fish fries is that this monotony can quickly turn into regret when triggered by an unfortunate experience, of which I like to refer to as the St. Pius fish fry.

After such an experience, any reasonable person could understand why I was dreading spending yet another Friday night choking down greasy-fied frozen fish and cold canned green beans. Then I remembered why I started this in the first place. This blog serves as a guide to all the God-fearing and fish-loving people out there who are forever in search of a good meal that will satisfy and at the same time save them from succumbing to the temptation to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. It also serves as a source of weekly entertainment for my friends and family during their lunch break. Deciding that I could not let my readers down, I had no choice but to be brave and learn to bring more beer money. So with the support of about 20 of my closest, friends, family and colleagues, I made St. Joan of Arc the fourth stop on the 2008 fish fry tour.

To my delight, the team at St. Joan of Arc managed to restore my faith in fish fries and inspired me to continue on with my mission – and that’s not just the beer talking.

Wait time: The team at St. J of A took an innovative approach to keeping the wait time to a minimum. The staff would go through the line and tell half of the dine-in customers to get into the carry-out line in order to even up the lines and cut down on the wait time. While most in our group are accustomed to using this tactic on a weekly basis, it was nice to have permission for once.

Price: Bargain basement prices with six bucks buying one a healthy serving of fish, two sides and a drink. One thing that was troublesome was that dessert was not included in the price of the meal. This left many in our group confused and without dessert ticket. Oh well, this just meant prime selection for me!

Taste: Overall the food was good and most importantly, edible. I must say while I’m usually not a mac’n’cheese kind of girl, the mac’n’cheese was creamy and delicious. My cod was a little overdone, but slather on a little extra tarter sauce and it might have been the best fish produced at a fish fry this year. However, I do have to subtract a few points for the fried salmon still having a tail intact – gross! Makes one wonder what happened to the head.

Atmosphere: The crowd seemed very friendly and unusually normal for a fish fry crowd. Maybe this was because half the room was made up of my family friends and co-workers. Way to represent!

Overall rating: 9 out of 10 fish patties

Maryville K of C Revisited

In light of the recent trip to the Maryville K of C, the Illinois Bureau decided to revisit one of the more enjoyable fish frys in the Metro East; the Edwardsville K of C. Let's face it, we really want to avoid having a situation like the Missouri Sector encounter last week at St. Soggy Fish of Leaky Mac & Cheese! This week Don, Kathy and Kate joined as guest critics!

Wait time: 10 Once again the Edwardsville K of C is the cream of the crop when it comes to comfort! Our witty waiter Tom took care of our every need while carding half of the table for beer orders. Everyone is friendly and the atmosphere is the best we've seen.

Selection: 8 Still your basic choices, but unfortunately no deserts again! Spaghetti would be a nice addition to the menu, and can someone tell me what Mac & Cheese Nuggets are!?

Taste: 10 The food seemed even better than last time. Inspector Don liked the cod so much he sampled it twice! We also played a game of guess that spice with what was determined to be dill weed in the clam chowder!

Dining tip of the week: Try yellow mustard on your fish, Inspector Kate claims it makes the meal!

Price: 8 Even though the price of gas has escalated, inflation has yet to reach the local fish market! $10 per guest will nab enough fish to make JC proud. Deal of the week -- for only $1.75 you can get a grilled cheese sandwich and french fries. If they had late night hours Jack in the Box and Taco Bell might have some competition!

That's all folks! Check you later for more fish fry news!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Remind me, why did I agree to this again?

Everyone who has ever been to a fish fry before would probably agree on one thing – it’s certainly not five star dining. Still, in most cases we get lucky and the friendly service, good company and reasonable prices make up for the fact that we’re really eating low-quality frozen fish prepared for the masses. Unfortunately for the small group of us who attended the St. Pius fish fry last Friday night, this was not the case. To my shock and dismay waiting in a 15 minute line behind a mildly unattractive middle-aged couple who couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other was actually one of the high points of our night (come on, it gave us something to laugh at).

From being out of key side items, such as potato salad and slaw, to the tarter sauce filled punch bowl complete with unidentified floating objects, to a rumor that the garbage disposal was out, to the live entertainment who were awkward at best, the staff at St. Pius appeared to be experiencing some major technical difficulties last Friday.

So rest assure, all you cynics of the fish fry experience who always have something better to do on Friday night (you know who you are), in this instance you were better off with your Red Lobster and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wait Time – While the line appeared long, it moved quickly. A nice touch was when half way through they handed out entry forms for attendance prizes. OK, so the prizes consisted of knitted afghans and odd-looking home décor, but let’s face it everyone likes to win something.

Price – Competitive prices, with $6.75 getting you fish, three sides, dessert and a drink.

Menu – Well depends on if you want me to judge on the posted menu or what was actually available to the customers. You can imagine my disappointment after waiting in line for 15 minutes only to realize my side choices now consisted of cold, bottom of the barrel mac’n’cheese and canned green beans.

Taste – One word – yuck! While the catfish looked appetizing, by the time I sat down, ready to dig in, I realized the grease from the fish had completely soaked through the bottom half of my sandwich. On top of that the mac’n’cheese was cold and leaking some sort of clear liquid, my sister Gwen hoped was butter. Who really knows?! Judging from how it tasted, it could’ve been Anthrax!

Atmosphere – When the website boasted live music, I envisioned some upbeat Springsteenesque’ entertainment; I couldn’t have been more wrong. While well-intentioned, the band played what at times sounded like funeral music, which seemed appropriate as we all tried to choke down our meals.

Overall Rating – 3 out of 10 fish patties. Hey, the bartenders were nice, but I walked out of there hungry and without attendance prize.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Give me some sugar!

We at the Illinois Bureau decided to celebrate Washington's Birthday on Friday February 22nd by attending yet another Knights of Columbus fish fry. This time the Maryville K of C was the victim.

Wait time: 5

The set-up was a little confusing, and it took forever to get our food! It didn't really seem that busy so I am not sure what the hold up was. I did see a few pitchers of beer being delivered to the fry shack!

Selection: 6

Decent selection, but nothing to rave about. The menu featured the usual suspects, catfish, cod and shrimp were there with a new friend named Jack Salmon. All fried, all the time! Fries, mac & cheese, hush puppies and slaw round out the side choices. Drink selections were somewhat limited. The biggest disappointment was the fact that there was no desert available!!!!!

Price: 8

Nothing new here, $7-10 a person and you get a meal fit for a king!

Taste: 7

I was a little worried about the Jack Salmon, but it was actually pretty good. You had the option of salt and vinegar for fries which was a nice touch. The slaw was homemade and a little funky!

Overall Rating: 6.5 out of 10 fish patties

Alrighty then, I hope that this sheds a little more light on the good parts of the east side!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Damn the weather gods

Yes, it's odd that I'm damning gods on a blog that revolves around the Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, but of course I'm referring to Zeus, the greek god of weather, and not my man JC. Regardless, I regret to inform you that I have taken it upon myself to cancel the fish fry festivities tonight on account of weather (mainly because my sedan sucks in the snow). Feel free to attend solo and report back to me your experiences. If it sucks, the rest of us will find a different option for next week.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Illinois Bureau: A well-oiled machine on the east side

Abby and Pat Durst of the IBFFI (Illinois Bureau of Fish Fry Investigators) have managed to notch another tally on the Knights of Columbus circuit. This week we were able to sample the Bethalto K of C fare. A little bit of a change from last week as we chose to carry out rather than dine in.

Wait time: 7 - Although our arrival was early in the evening (5pm) there was a healthy line forming already. Surprisingly the time to wait, order and carry out only reached 15 minutes. The system there seems to be pretty well-oiled. I think dine in might have added another 5-10 minutes.

Menu: 9 - There is a reasonably large selection for dining at the Bethalto K of C. Fish choices included both baked and fried cod, whitefish, whole catfish, shrimp and buffalo. Sides were hush puppies, slaw, fries and potato salad. Dine in dinner included spaghetti, and all diners had the option for fresh Italian bread, grazi! Deserts were present this time and were homemade varieties of pies and cakes! Beer seems to be less readily available than at other venues.

Price: 10 - Carry out was priced by the Lb.($7) or 1/2 Lb($4) of fish. Shrimp were $3 for a basket of 6. Deserts and sides were $1 apiece. Less than $20 to eat for 2 and still have leftovers. Here is the stat of the week, the Bethalto K of C offers an $8 all you can eat fish for dine in!!! That includes fish, spaghetti, 2 sides, bread, 1 desert, drink (water, tea, punch)! I got full just typing that in!

Taste: 7 - We sampled the shrimp, fried cod and buffalo, and found the fish to be pretty tasty, not to0 greasy. The slaw was ok at best, but the hush puppies were a nice touch. The bread was really good! I didn't get sauces to go, so that sort of hurt the taste rating, a little tartar goes a long way! The deserts were fine, great German chocolate cake and custard pie hit the spot, but sometimes you just crave a cupcake with sprinkles on top!

Overall Rating: 8.25 out of 10 fish patties

Steer clear of the catfish!

The not-so-well kept secret fish fry at Epiphany Catholic Church in South City was packed with more god-loving fish-eaters than I would have liked, but perhaps rightfully so. Equipped with a diverse menu and superb customer service team, the fry at Epiphany managed to live up to my expectations – despite the wait time.

I regret to say, my dear Uncle Don did not experience the same satisfaction. His catfish sandwich was greasy, and basically gross. Knowing how a greasy fish situation could really put a damper on one’s dinning experience, I took it upon myself to request a trade off – Uncle Don’s crappy catfish in exchange for a fresh cod sandwich. Demonstrating the true meaning of customer service, the good parishioners at Epiphany gladly obliged my request.

Wait time: Too long! A few of us demonstrated true Christian-like behavior by waiting in the longer and slow-moving dine-in line. That is before the vast majority wised up and opted for the shorter carry-out line and then dinned in anyway.

Menu: While dinning on bottom-feeders may not be my entrée of choice, I appreciated the variety of fish offered at Epiphany. Straying from the usual, salmon and catfish were served alongside the old stand-bys – cod and shrimp. Side orders also were a’ plenty with spaghetti, mac’n’cheese, coleslaw, corn, green beans and applesauce on the menu.

Price: All items were offered a la carte and at an affordable price at that. To demonstrate my point, I believe my friend, Andrew Starr, ate for under eight bucks. Not a small feat for such a fat man :)

Taste: Now I’m not sure if the food was really that good, or if I was just so hungry that deep fried dirt would have hit the spot, but my cod sandwich, spaghetti and seemingly home-made gooey butter cake was positively delicious! Some trusted sources with discerning tastes (aka Reba and Jason) also reported that the mac’n’cheese rocked the house.

Atmosphere: Too crowded for my liking, and the bus station in the middle of the room was pretty unappetizing.

Overall Rating: 7 out of 10 fish patties

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Illinios Bureau: K of C is where it's at!

If you like to frequent the east side, read below for a report from Abby and Pat Durst of the IBFFI (Illinois Bureau of Fish Fry Investigators)

Last Friday (Feb 8) we attended the fish fry at the Knights of Columbus in Edwardsville, IL. I would have to say that it was a good dining experience and should rank well when compared to other setups.

Wait Time: 10 out of 10 fish patties
One of the unique traits of the Eville K of C fry is that there is typically no waiting in line or ordering from a counter. They have a cafeteria type setup where you walk in, sit down and order from a waiter! In a matter of 10-15 minutes your food arrives! Need more to drink, just ask! Need more napkins and some tarter sauce, no problem!

Selection: 6 out of 10 fish patties
The K of C offers basic fried fish choices (cod and Catfish) in both sandwich and platter varieties (w/slaw and fries). Appetizers include onion rings, mushrooms etc... Drinks include alcohol, sodas and tea. We arrived a little later in the evening and they were out of desert though, ouch!

Price: 8 out of 10 fish patties
Nothing to shocking here, between 6-10 per person to eat depending on how much you ritz it up! The beer was cheap and refreshing ($2 bottles)

Taste: 8 out of 10 fish patties
Both the catfish and cod had a light crispy batter and were rather tasty! Mushrooms were only average. Much to my dismay I can't comment on desert!!!

Overall rating: 8 out of 10 fish patties

There you have it, we will hopefully have another report from the IBFFI (Illinois Bureau of Fish Fry Investigators) soon. Good day and fine dining!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A merry kick-off at Mary, Mother of the Church

It was a strong showing at this year's kick-off to the fish fry tour. While most in attendance were Goedekers, or those fraternizing with Goedekers, we had a few brave newbies come out. What made our time so merry was not only that the food was good and I was pleasantly surprised by the option of a baked potato as a side item, but I think what set Mary Mother apart from the rest was the friendly, personable service we received. Now I’m not sure if someone tipped off the help that I was reviewing their every move, or if it was my notebook that gave it away, but I haven’t experienced service like that since…well never! Tina* and Nina* we there every step of the way, taking our plates, refilling our drinks and even replenishing our desserts for free!

Even factoring in the embarrassing food ticket mix-up, Jason snatching Aunt Kathy’s last piece of milk cake and the unidentified crumbs hanging out in the punch bowl of cocktail sauce, it was a thoroughly enjoyable time had by all.

Wait time: none!

Menu: Pretty basic, with the refreshing exception of the baked potato as a side option. Fried cod and shrimp platters were available and included a choice of two sides -- spaghetti, baked potato, green beans, slaw and apple sauce. Wheat or white bread is served with all dinners, and all meals included a drink and a selection of home-made (or store-bought) desserts.

Price: A bargain at $6

Taste: Everything tasted great, until I got to the end of my fried cod patty and it started to get mysteriously mushy. I want to give a special shout-out to my Godmother’s milk cake (which I was able to mooch a bite from Jason, who again stole the last piece).

Atmosphere: Not too crowded or loud, with friendly people eager to help make your dinning experience most pleasurable.

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10 fish patties

* Not their real names.

Yes, I'm really doing this

That's right I created a blog. No, this is not one of those ordinary blogs where people write about the mundane happenings of their lives in hopes that someone, other than him or herself, finds it interesting or funny (although that may be next on my list). This blog revolves around the sanctity of the Lenten season and sacrifices we Catholics make in preparation of Jesus' rise from the dead. Yep that's right people, we're talking fish fries. The events where parishes unite to throw some frozen fish patties in a mass fryer in an effort to capitalize on no-meat Fridays and raise some dough for the church.

That's why I decided it's my mission this season to gather as many people as I can convince to join me on my quest for the best fish fry that St. Louis has to offer, bringing new business to area fries and in turn entertaining all of you with my friendly (otherwise noted) critique of the events. Plus, I'm hoping I'll eventually pen such a name for myself that I will start getting free meals out of it.

So read on people, and tag along sometimes to experience the true meaning of the season -- mediocre fish, cheap beer and the all the Goedeker commentary you can stomach.

See you there!