Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The last supper

Blessed Sacrament
2233 Diamond, N.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
north of Knapp, between Fuller and Plainfield

Click here for a map
advice in the girl's bathroom--
Date of visit: March 21

Parking: school parking lot, street parking, fairly easy despite the snow

Cost: $7.50

Wait: About 15 minutes

Tables: banquet tables with chairs

No gambling opportunities!


  • very efficient operation
  • entertainment
  • both baked and fried fish about equally tasty
  • stylish aprons

Sweet Home Alabama? Not quite—it was definitely Michigan as we arrived at Blessed Sacrament School on Good Friday for the last fish fry of the season. However, the nasty winter weather on the second day of spring wasn’t much of a deterrent for faithful fish eaters. When we arrived close to 6 p.m., there was a line, but the wait was made more pleasant by friendly people and a guitar duo who serenaded us with the well-known Lynyrd Skynyrd tune and others.

BS has a very streamlined operation. When you purchase your meal, you’re asked: baked or fried fish (cod), baked potato or French fries, applesauce or cole slaw. You’re then handed a slip of paper with your choices highlighted, and give that to the kitchen worker who quickly presents you with a tray holding a plate containing your choices. Then you enter the gym, where you pick up cutlery, a lettuce salad, roll, condiments, and beverage.

The gym was crowded, but we were able to find seating for the eight of us. In the taste department, the consensus was that the baked fish barely inched out the fried. Volunteers, including members of Boy Scout Troop 230, whisked away the trays as soon as we sat down, and made many attempts to top off our coffee cups which contained not coffee but Bell’s Amber Ale. Signs notified us that because it was Good Friday, there would be no seconds, but the amount of food was ample and I doubt if anyone went away hungry. The ubiquitous dessert table had a mix of home-made and store-bought treats.

As far as we know, BS was the only church-run fish fry held on Good Friday in Grand Rapids. Not only was it the last fish fry of the season, but it was also the last one to be held in the building as it has been known as Blessed Sacrament School. Sweatshirts were on sale for All Saints School, which Blessed Sacrament School will become next fall as the result of several Catholic grade schools closing.

Would we return? Perhaps ... it was a good, all-around fish fry, and having it on Good Friday was an added plus.

Area for improvement: allow diners the option of having some fried and some baked fish

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

An empty parking lot

Sacred Heart's empty parking lot

A lesson in verifying information
Where were the cars? Where were the people? All that we saw at Sacred Heart on Friday around 6 p.m. were empty parking spaces. It was clear from the lack of activity that there was no fish fry. We attempted to regroup -- rumor had that Our Lady of Sorrows had a fish fry so we headed over there. No fish fry. Holy Name of Jesus on the S.W. side had a fish fry, so we sped over there but by the time we arrived, around 6:30, the "sold out" sign was up. Some of us ended up getting take-out from El Adobe to have with this week's libation (Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA); others headed to Thousand Oaks for a less hurried dining experience.

Apologies to all who headed to Sacred Heart for the non-existent dinner. Next Friday the plan is to go to Blessed Sacrament, on Diamond N.E., but I'll verify that they are holding the dinner before posting directions.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Father, the Son, and the Mighty Condors

Holy Trinity
1200 Alpine Church Road, N.W., west of Alpine
held in the school gym

Click here for map

Date of visit: March 7

Parking: church parking lot, easy

Cost: $7.50 for adults

Wait: About 15 minutes (arrived around 6:20)

Tables: banquet tables with chairs

Gambling opportunities: 50/50 raffle and a drawing for a free dinner at next week's fish fry--and one of us won!

High points:
  • served baked potato halves -- great idea!
  • "real" cutlery
  • cole slaw, while no doubt out of a carton, was rather tasty
  • baked fish quite good
  • beverages located on tables
A frosty late winter sunset over the fruit ridge greeted us as we pulled into HoT's parking lot. We used our noses to find the location for the dinner, and apparently got there just in time because shortly after we sat down to eat, we learned that they ran out of fried fish. No problem for us, though, as the servings were ample and the baked fish was worth getting seconds.

Macaroni and cheese was served along with French fries, the aforementioned baked potato halves, cole slaw, and bread. While not bad, there's no contest in the mac & cheese division; St. Isadore's remains the best so far this year. However, the cole slaw was quite good. Baked potatoes were a tiny bit underdone, and French fries average. Didn't have the bread or dessert. While in the queue we spied some peanut butter cookies with the Hershey kisses on top in the kitchen, but they never made an appearance on the dessert table (conveniently located behind us). Maybe they were hanging onto them for the kitchen crew, who looked exhausted as we passed by.

We had no problem enjoying our beverage of choice, this week Bell's Winter White ale--a perfect accompaniment to pollock on a Friday evening.

Would we return? Maybe, if we were in the neighborhood. As we have other fish to fry next week, the member of our party who won the free dinner for next week gave it to a family sitting nearby.

Area for improvement: group the tables differently so they are in groups of three, rather than long rows of six. Also, the lack of artwork was disappointing.

the reason for the season

Friday, February 29, 2008


St. Alphonsus
205 Carrier N.E., near Leonard and Plainfield
held in the school gym
Click here for map

Dates of visits: February 8 (take out), February 29 (eat-in)

Parking: parking lot or on street; somewhat challenging

Cost: $7.75 for adults

Wait: 15 minutes at around 6:15 p.m. for eating there; no wait for take out

Tables: had to sit at one of those annoying lunch tables with the seats attached, but the 8 of us were able to sit together

Gambling opportunities: 50/50 raffle


  • wonderful walleye
  • baked potatoes
  • cudos for using reusable plates and cutlery
  • Coca Cola products (instead of the mystery fluids often served at these things)
  • servers' cool fish hats
It's so good that we had to go to St. Alphonsus twice. St. Al's is renown for its walleye, and rightfully so. It seems there's always a line, but they're so good at this that it moves quickly and everyone is friendly. It was no problem for the last two of us to get in line with the others, rather than going to the end of the queue. The servers wore stylish fish hats, which added to the festive atmosphere. There were the requisite number of kids running around, but we did not notice a priest in attendance.

Both the baked and fried fish were exceptional, with the baked ranked just a tad higher than the fried. Seemed the sweetness of the fish came through more with the baked. Reports are that the french fries were great, and I had no complaint with my baked potato; it was moist and thoroughly cooked.

We were able to enjoy the beverages we brought, but it wasn't as easy to pour them into cups as it was at St. Izzy's. Plus, the cups were those very flimsy paper ones. Environmentally more sound but not as sturdy as the guilt-inducing styrofoam. One of our party shared with us that a church in Caledonia has a keg at their fish dinner; we'll have to add that to the list for next year.

St. Al's school, as well as St. Isadore's, will close at the end of this school year. They and some other Catholic schools are consolidating, and a new school will be established at the current Blessed Sacrament school (which will be our final destination this year, since they serve on Good Friday). Artwork containing the theme of the school closing decorated the walls near where we sat. Some was rather poignant. It was nice, but no competition for the eyes of Jesus.

Cole slaw was available as a side dish, as were rolls. They were okay, but nothing to write home about. I was told that the desserts--mostly cakes and brownies--were good.

Would we return? Definitely. Walleye! Need I say more?

Area for improvement: cole slaw

Time to call it quits?

St. James
733 Bridge N.W., just west of downtown.
held in the (former school) gym
Click here for map

Date of visit: February 15

Parking: parking lot or on street; somewhat challenging

Cost: $8.00 for adults

Wait: less than 10 minutes at 6:30

Tables: we were able to get a table for our entire group

Gambling opportunities: 50/50 raffle

Styrofoam plates and plastic cutlery


  • redskin new potatos
  • free state highway maps, courtesy of Rep. Michael Sax
Maybe it's because we got there on the late side, but except for the redskins, which were quite good, the offerings were okay, but not extraordinary. Maybe it was because it was set up buffet style. The baked haddock was better than the fried, probably because baked fish survives swimming in a serving container better than fried, which was soggy and tired. The macaroni and cheese was scary.

The dinner was held in the gym of the now closed St. James Catholic School, and perhaps that was the reason it felt so lethargic. It just didn't feel like a "live" place.

Would we return? Probably not.

Areas for improvement: fish, mac & cheese, atmosphere

Possibly the best M & C west of the Clarkston Union Grill?

St. Isadore
625 Spring N.E., not far from I196 and Fuller.
held in the school gym
Click here for map

Date of visit: February 22

Parking: parking lot or on street, not a problem

Cost: $7.50 for adults

Wait: less than 10 minutes at 6:15

Tables: we were able to get a table for our entire group

Gambling opportunities: 50/50 raffle

Styrofoam plates and plastic cutlery

  • fabulous macaroni and cheese
  • "Jesus' eyes are watching you" artwork on south wall
  • embroidered aprons for "fish fry 2008"

We were blown away by the incredible macaroni and cheese that accompanied St. Izzy's tasty, but unidentified, fish. We were told the mac and cheese was completely home made, and it tasted like it. Positively yummy; worth a return trip.

We got in line around 6:15, and it moved smoothly. The food was served at the kitchen window, rather than having a buffet. I think it helped immensely with quality control.

We also had no problem bringing our own beverages, although their attentive volunteers kept asking if they could fill up our coffee cups.

Extra points for St. Izzy's for having a priest in the kitchen cooking, some cool aprons for lenten fish fry 2008, and all-around pleasant atmosphere. Also, some extraordinary art work. I never knew Jesus had eyes like Timothy Leary.

Would we return: yes

Area for improvement: hardly any; French fries weren't too exciting, but still okay.