I know you're probably busy getting in all your sins and whatnot before the Lenten period that begins on Wednesday, what with tomorrow being Fat Tuesday and all. Maybe you're hedonistically slamming meat products, knowing that as of Friday, your weekends start off meat-free for six weeks. If so, let's pause to consider that the tradeoff is pretty fair: Just like April showers bring May flowers, no-meat-Fridays bring Friday fish fries.
Having matriculated in the fine state of Wisconsin, my first truly great Friday fish fry was in a town I can't remember, somewhere west of the Fox River Valley, on a road trip. We stopped at a VFW which had banners, five-buck all-you-can-eat, PBR in cans, and a line out the door. I remember sitting elbow to elbow with my friends and some craggy old guys who smelled like ashtrays, and we showed them how you can shotgun a beer with a pen, and they showed us how to clean up four plates of fried fish in fewer than eight minutes. My memory tells me that fish was crispy and hot and wonderfully salty along with the chunkiest tartar sauce ever.
So here I am, many years later, looking for the same experience, maybe a little more G-rated. In town, you have to break it down into three categories: churches, clubs (VFW/American Legions), and restaurants. The churches are clearly going to be family-friendly, offering bake sales and bingo and perhaps a raffle—but no beer. Club fries might be a bit rougher and raucous, but there will almost definitely be beer. Restaurants will give you a great fish fry menu, some of them offer it year-round, but then you miss out on the camaraderie, the release from the rut of daily life that comes with licking greasy fingers while bent over a plate of fried goodness with strangers.
St. Albert the Great is one of the top-rated and most recalled. Bingo and bake sales inevitable.
Most Holy Trinity in SLP is rumored to have a killer batter recipe. It doesn't do every Friday, so check the dates.
Holy Family Maronite is said to have a unique Lebanese fish fry dinner that is not to be missed!
Those in the know check out the calendar page from The Catholic Spirit to find the latest church basement dinner.
South St. Paul VFW on Concord has been frying for a couple of weeks already, stand in line and you might see some familiar faces.
Excelsior American Legion is my local-ish place, with decent guys and a great baseball heritage.
The Polish American Club on Arcade doesn't care where you're from, they'll give you lots of Polish beer.
Red Stag's Friday fish fry menu has the best quality; best variety; and hello, smelt fries.
Glockenspiel packs them in on Fridays for its menu version, plus accordion players!
Groveland Tap has always offered a nice beer-battered version.
Cafe Twenty-Eight uses Pabst in the batter and buffs the plate with a mountain of homemade coleslaw.
Worth the trip?
I'm heading out the Valley Bar & Grill in Prescott, Wisconsin this weekend on a tip that it's the nearest and dearest grungy 'Scani fish fry run by third generation friers. But will they have PBR?