Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Rude Awakening

I’ve heard that when you spend too much time anticipating an event, it’s inevitable that it won’t live up to your expectations. That said, this was the case in regards to our recent visit to Sacred Heart in Eureka. I blame our sub-par experience on bad food, high prices and rude staff.

That’s why I’ve compiled the below list of things parishes should NOT do in order to encourage repeat customers. Including:

Don’t burn multiple batches of fish and then continue to serve it to diners who paid $13 for all-you-can-eat fish

Don’t assign your most rude and socially awkward parishioner to serve as the maĆ®tre d’. There’s no reason to make visitors feel unwelcome, especially when they’ve traveled from far away lands such as Kansas City, Chicago and South City to dine at your “establishment.”

Don’t enlist parishioners to direct traffic to the very back of the parking lot, if they’re just going to let their buddies pull into the open spot in the front row. I didn’t see a handicap tag on that sedan.

Don’t yell at a fish fry blogger’s sister when she attempts to alert you that the water pitchers are empty. You know who you are.

Don’t turn out the lights when 30 people are still seated at tables, visiting with one another. Karma will come back and bite you...you feel that one?

In the end, the company was great, and the food was not terrible. However, after waiting a full year and paying almost $13 to partake in the popular Eureka fry (yes, I said popular when referring to Eureka), the food and service would have to measure up to the likes of Red Lobster to meet my expectations.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 10 fish patties

For the record, anyone who says this review was negatively swayed by the fact that the Pastor at Sacred Heart almost failed my sister in high school religion class, you’d be wrong. She slacked off and slept through most of the classes - she deserved the D.

A Sign Of The Times

As fore mentioned earlier in the season, it seems fish fries are coming back in style. No, not since CNN recently reported from the fry at St. Cecilia’s, and not even because I write this incredibly entertaining and educational blog, but the true sign of the times is fish tacos.

Some fellow fish fry attendees may have noticed this year the ever-evolving menus. Gone are the days of fried cod patties and bland green beans; diners are now offered grilled fish specialties and fried mac’n’cheese bites.

Our recent trip to St. Stephen’s in South City opened my eyes to just how creative some parishes are getting to bring customers in the door. The South City parish offers a wide variety of fish dishes, sides, desserts, beer and wine. They even raffle off sweet attendance prizes, such as patchwork quilts, house plants and doodads.

The fish tacos, new to the menu last week, were surprisingly tasty, and the grilled tilapia received good scores as well. The line moved fast, wait staff was pleasant and Grandma gave the pink zinfandel two thumbs up. I give them bonus points for the generous portions and hush puppies.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10 fish patties

Friday, April 3, 2009

Illinois Bureau: Great Entertainment; Edible Food

This past Friday we traveled a little bit off of the beaten path by visiting the St. Ambrose/Knights of Columbus fry in Godfrey. For those of you that are unfamiliar, the Village of Godfrey represents the northernmost limit of the STL metro area. This event was hosted by St. Ambrose but is held at a brand new K of C facility.

Although very busy, the wait time was pretty much average and we had our food within 10 minutes. Unfortunately seating was scarce and our choice of fish was limited to buffalo or whitefish by the time we arrived. Sides were plentiful though and included green beans and onion rings for a change. A standard platter was served with tea or coffee.

On a weird note, when you walked up to the iced tea dispenser a man actually operated the tapper for you! I guess nobody is to be trusted with that kind of high-tech equipment?

A nice surprise at this fry was the 5-piece band that was playing some really old school dance tunes. I particularly liked the old guy that played the trombone! The food ended up being edible but not great, and desert choices were sort of weak. I would suggest arriving early at this popular fry to maximize your experience.

Overall Rating 6.5 out of 10 Crab Cakes

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Everything is Better Fried

I’ve seen the signs, I’ve received the e-mails, and so this week, we’re headed to St. Stephen Protomartyr Catholic Church in South City. Not because one of my city-dwelling friends coerced me into it, but because I heard they offer fried mac’n’cheese bites and hush puppies.

And judging by the crowd in this picture from a St. Stephen's fry of yesteryear, it's sure to be a crazy Friday night. So bring your beer money, and get there around 6 PM.

St. Stephen Protomartyr Catholic Church
3949 Wilmington Ave
St. Louis, MO 63116

South County's Best Kept Secret

Sometimes the best eateries are those that don’t advertise - the ones that no one knows about, like Schottzies Bar & Grill in South County or The Gravois Grill in Fenton. The same goes for the fish fry at Mary, Mother of the Church in South County. In my humble opinion, it’s the best kept secret since QT taquitos.

Even with the addition of cheese toasted ravioli and cheese pizza, there was no wait at Mary Mother. The food was tasty, portions were generous, and beer was only $1. The dessert table was filled with all the sugary treats most Catholics give up for Lent – which is probably why the staff was offering all diners seconds.

It’s a toss up on if the highlight of the evening was Aunt Kathy’s hot milk cake or the moment when J Carnage, a first-time fish fry visitor, immediately dumped his tray of food on the ground upon sitting down to the table. I’ll let you decide.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10 fish patties

Monday, March 23, 2009

Illinois Bureau: Oldie But Goodie

This week we ventured back to an old favorite fish fry, the Edwardsville Knights of Columbus. We are no strangers to this location and frequent it on a regular basis during the off season. No waiting in line here, just sit down, place your order and presto - your food is delivered to the table! Catfish and cod were sampled, and both were scrumptious as usual. Unfortunately there are no choices with the sides at the K of C, slaw and fries are standard.

Prices were pretty much in line with other locations, with one exception - the dessert. A sweet treat in E-ville will set you back a whopping $1.50. However, the pecan pie was tasty so I shouldn't complain. We would recommend this fry to anyone.

Overall Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Tuna Melts

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Menu at Mary Mother

This week we're headed to Mary, Mother of the Church in So Co, not only because it's my God Mom's parish (although that has a lot to do with it), but I feel obliged to test the new menu items. Looking forward to the cheese toasted ravioli and the new potatoes, but the highlight of the night is sure to be the Hot Milk Cake.

If you're intrigued, join us tonight at Mary Mother around 6 PM.

Mary, Mother of the Church
5901 Kerth Road
St. Louis, MO 63128
Fry runs from 4 - 7 PM

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Early Bird Gets The Worm

So yes, this review is long overdue, and yes, I’m giving everyone less than 24 hrs notice on where we’re headed this week. However, until writing fish fry reviews starts paying my rent and health insurance, blogging takes a back seat to my actual job.

Without further adieu, below is a list of pros and cons of the fish fry we attended at St. Cecilia’s last week. Note: the cons, while few, may weigh heavily depending how hungry you are.

Convenient location: to my house, of course
Diverse crowd: while most fish fry crowds consists of 70% elderly white people and 30% soccer moms and their kids, St. Cecilia’s attracts diners of all ages and races. I even saw a few people my own age.
Lively atmosphere: loud music, crowded bar, tiny Mexican-American children in costumes and long lines of hungry Catholics – what more could you ask for.
Friendly parish: the pastor and the deacon walked through the line all night, greeting the diners and pretending to understand Uncle D’s jokes.
Extensive menu: they offer your typical fish fry menu on top of the tasty authentic Mexican dishes
Decent desserts: my chocolate cake was awesome, and my friend Andrew said he thoroughly enjoyed the flan.

Two hour wait time
Ran out of food at 8 PM and resorted to giving diners plates full of corn or offering full-refunds.

Bottom line, I think St. Cecilia’s offers a truly unique fish fry. However, the secret is out and if you want to take full advantage of the menu, get in line by 4 PM or call-in a take-out.

Overall Rating: 7 out of 10 fish patties

Monday, March 16, 2009

Illinois Bureau: Worth The Wait

For St. Patrick's Day weekend we decided to try our luck at the Knights of Columbus in Bethalto.

Out of the gates the wait time was a little bit long, but things improved from there. The vast menu boasted cod, catfish, buffalo, whitefish, shrimp and "Kermit the Frog's" legs. The list of plentiful side items included spaghetti, fries, slaw and potato salad. As a bonus all meals came with fresh bread, a desert and a drink.

Here is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, fish (minus shrimp and frog legs) and sides were all you could eat! Wash everything down with a $4 pitcher of refreshing brew, and you get a night to remember.

Overall Rating 9 out of 10 Fish Tacos

Guest Blogger: St. Clare of Assisi

Since I started this venture a couple years ago, I like to think that this blog has had a positive impact on fish fry sales in the St. Louis area. Or, maybe just boosted sales at the fries I attend. Still, some readers have really embraced fish fry Fridays. One of these readers happens to be my boss, Mr. Marc Abel.

On Friday, Marc sprung and took his family somewhere real nice -- the fish fry at St. Clare of Assisi. Below is a review of the establishment from his daughter, Sam:

1. It was really really crowded and hard to find a place to park. 2. The fish was great!! 3. It was kind of expensive - $8. 4. We payed extra for a brownie that was the best brownie ever and was an inch thick!! 5. No croutons in the salad. 6. The line was sooooo long that we had to take it to go. 7. My dad said the beer was good.

I would give it a 7 out of 10 fish patties.

- Samantha Abel

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Get Ready for a Fish Fry Fiesta

Some of you may have heard how the Goedeker family celebrates Jesus' rising from the dead every Easter Sunday -- stuffing ourselves stupid at the all-you-can-eat Casa Gallardo brunch (classy, I know). So when I read the below article on www.stltoday.com this morning, I figured, why wait another 4 weeks?

In addition to the traditional fish fry fare, St. Cecilia's in South City offers authentic Mexican food (made by authentic Mexicans), such as tacos, quesadillas and chilie relleno. They also boast Mexican-themed entertainment every Friday. Fingers-crossed they serve Margaritas!

So brush up on your Spanish and don your sombreros, we're heading south to St. Cecilia's for a little culture this Friday.

Nuevo For Lent

St. Cecilia’s Parish
5418 Louisiana Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63111
Fish Fry runs from 4:30 - 8PM
(Arrive shortly after 6PM)

(photo by Christian Gooden/P-D)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Leeps and Bounds Above The Rest

Some people might say cutting in line at a church fish fry is a sin, I say it’s a small price to pay in the name of journalistic integrity. When I arrived to Our Lady of Providence (OLP) to hear that frog legs were running low, I took the liberty of jumping to the front of the line with my friends, the Sedlak’s, who had been waiting for over 30 minutes. My guilt was quickly lifted when I received a heaping plate of deep fried shrimp and frog.

My excitement quickly fizzled after realizing that frog legs bare a striking resemblance to frog butt, and are connected by a center pelvic bone. The black veins running throughout didn’t help either. While they didn’t taste terrible, I’d only recommend them to a blind man.

Everything else on the menu was pretty top notch by fish fry standards. Crinkle fries were crispy, mac’n'cheese was creamy and both of my desserts were a sugary delight.

Only complaint - no beer. I was under the impression that alcohol was considered to be a cornerstone of the Catholic religion. Apparently this rule doesn’t hold up in Crestwood.

Overall Rating: 8.5 out of 10 fish patties

Illinois Bureau: Holy Family Delivers Last Course First

On the list this week was Holy Family Catholic Church in Granite City. We enjoyed this fry last year and it didn't disappoint this time. Upon arrival the joint was packed, but Holy Family had an efficient three step system.

1. Place order and pay
2. Get drinks (free tea and coffee) and buy delicious dessert
3. Sit and eat delicious dessert

By the time you are finished eating the last course first, your food is delivered to the table. The service was great, and prices were pretty reasonable. As a bonus, everyone's favorite toothy freshwater fish (Wally the Walleye) was all you could eat! Sides such as mac n' Cheese and french fries were dealt in generous portions. The only knock on Holy Family is that they ran out of cod and the fry finishes at 7!

Overall Rating: 7.5 out of 10 Fillet O' Fish Sandwiches

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Illinois Bureau: Never Fear, Beer is Here!

Welcome back fish fry fans! The Illinois Bureau is up and running with a new list of venues to visit. While we don't have any fancy digital photos or links this week, here is a nice review of an east side fish joint.

Our first victim was Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Fairview Heights. Holy Trinity is a brand new church and the set-up was well organized. Top that off with plentiful seating and a friendly staff, and this fry gets an A for atmosphere!

When first arriving we were a little disgruntled with an extremely long waiting line, but never fear, beer is here! That's right, 16 ounce drafts of your favorite adult beverages were only $2! That pretty much made the wait for food enjoyable.

We were a little disappointed that the only fish choice was cod (baked or fried), but it tasted great so why complain. Unfortunately, the sides weren't anything to get excited about. The prices were in line with other fries and two adults could eat for around ten greenbacks. The dessert set-up had coffee and hot tea available, but everything was cleared out by the time we got there. This seems to be the common theme with local fries.

Holy Trinity takes a hit on wait time, selection and sides, but gains points for atmosphere and awesome beer prices!

Overall 7 out of 10 Gordon's Fish Sticks

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Crestwood Fish Fry is Sure to be Hopping!

Another week, another fish fry to ambush. This week, I propose we head west to Our Lady of Providence (OLP) in Crestwood.

The OLP men’s club who hosts the fry, claim to have “the best of the basics.” As many of us have experienced, a statement such as this really doesn’t mean much. However, when I heard they offer fried frog legs, I was sold. While I used to catch tiny frogs as a kid and keep them as pets in my Dad’s cooler, I’ve heard their legs taste like chicken - which might be a nice change up from the bone-filled salmon I choked down last week.

If you’ve got a hankering for fried cod (or amphibian) on Friday, or if you’re up for story time with Uncle D, join us around 6 PM at OLP.

Our Lady of Providence Parish
8866 Pardee Road
Crestwood, MO

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Rough Start

For those of you who failed to attend the fish fry at the Cathedral Basilica last week, below is a run down of what you missed.

1. An impressive menu, including baked fish and cheese pizza, most of which had sold out before 6 PM
2. A hefty eight dollar ticket price (+) an extra charge for drinks and desserts
3. The pleasure of watching me choke on stray bones in my jack salmon
4. Dry and bland mac ‘n cheese

Apart from being unimpressed with the food, they could use some help in the operations department. Word of advice from someone who’s been around the block, if you’re going to charge $8 only to run out of coveted dishes, such as baked fish and spaghetti, best to give me a generous portion of something chocolaty and free-of-charge to make up for it. At the very least, hand out free booze to help drown our sorrows.

Lucky for the Cathedral parishioners, it was the first Friday of Lent, so they have six weeks to get their act together. As conciliation, we contributed to helping keep the Cathedral School open (http://cathedralstl.org/school/), and got to hear Uncle D talk about when he delivered three of his four daughters. Abooya!

I give this fry 4 out of 10 fish patties.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is It Possible For a Fish Fry To Be Trendy?

My friend, and finder of obscure news, Sean, passed along the below link this morning. It appears someone is attempting to map out the fish fries in St. Louis city and beyond. While I think we’ll all agree, his/her starting point is really a sad attempt, I was shocked at how many responses the said mapper received from average joes suggesting additional fish fries to add – some EVEN I have never heard of.

So I ask you this, are fish fries becoming trendy in St. Louis? While yes, we live in a predominantly Catholic city of beer drinkers, I never imagined that fish fries would eventually become mainstream. Can we credit my blog for this apparent new-found popularity, you ask? Well, considering most of my readers are either related to me or close friends, I think not.

If someone creates a group on Facebook entitled “Fans of St. Louis Fish Fries,” I’m quitting.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Put On Your Eatin' Pants

Hey folks,

It's that time of year again. Time to celebrate the sanctity of the Lenten season with fried cod and cheap beer. This week we're kicking the season off at a classy joint -- the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

For those of you who are new to the blog, the point, or lack thereof, is to attend a fish fry every Friday during Lent as a means to entertain ourselves with irrelevant fish fry fodder. It also serves as a cheap happy hour.

In other news, looks like we may have some competition this year. At first, after reading this article, I thought...maybe we need a catch phrase and t-shirts. Shortly after, I decided authoring a fish fry blog is all the public humiliation I'm good for. At least for the time being.


Friday, February 27 @ 6:15 PM
Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis
4431 Lindell Blvd
St Louis, MO 63108
(314) 373-8200