Sunday, April 5, 2009

Better late than never: St. James review

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

Date of visit: March 13, 2009

Beer-battered Pollock
Baked Lemon-Peppered Pollock
Seasoned Fries
Macaroni & Cheese
Cole Slaw
Garlic Toast
Lemonade/Fruit Punch/Iced Tea & Coffee
Cookies - 5 for $1.00

Parking and lines - parking a challenge; lineup of ticket purchasers was still "out the door" at 6:20 pm. 

Our experience at St. James was markedly improved over 2008.  We had great fish, both fried and baked, but we preferred the fried  (don't we always?).  Redskins and fries were both very good, and it's nice to have the redskins as an alternative.  Fries were nice and HOT.  Can I say again, the fried pollock was delicious!!

There was a special "no waiting" table for getting seconds.  However, food moves off this table a little more slowly, so it's not quite as hot and crispy as the original.  Mac 'n Cheese -- you're not missing anything -- save room for the fish and potatoes.

Highlights unique to St. James:

  • Roy Schmidt bussing tables
  • Decor -- Mosaic-style painted crucifix, reminiscent of Orthodox iconic painting
  • Homemade cookies looked delicious but we had no room after all the good fish.

Would we go back?  We sure would.

The final destination: Blessed Sacrament

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

4:45 -- 7:00 p.m.

Because April 10 is Good Friday, the fish fry will not be serving seconds.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

St. Izzy's mac & cheese rules!

St. Isador's

625 Spring, N.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

click here for a map
(The church is on Diamond, N.E., but the fish fry is held in the former St. Isador School gym on Spring, N.E.)

Date and time of visit: April 3, around 5:45 p.m.

Parking: parking lot adjacent to gym and on street; not too bad

Accessibility: one little step

$8.00, adults
$7.00, seniors
$5.00, kids 5-11; under 5, free

Desserts available (donation suggested)

Wait: about 10 minutes

Tables: banquet tables with folding chairs

Gambling opportunities: 50/50 raffle

Chocolate opportunities: "World's Best Chocolate" bars 

  • macaroni and cheese
  • lemon slices
  • the only fish fry we've been to that had a climbing wall

The decision to abort West Catholic High School's fish fry was wise. St. Izzy's macaroni is not to be missed. It's seasoned with something (a pinch of nutmeg?) that sets it apart from others, and if you're lucky, a little crust from spending time in the oven complements the creaminess nicely. Next year we might skip the fish altogether and just get the mac and cheese, although the fried pollack is pretty tasty too. French fries, rolls, and cole slaw (of course) rounded out the menu, along with the usual fluids and milk. Our fluid of choice was the recently released Bell's Oberon. 

We ate off styrofoam plates and used plastic cutlery. A couple centrally located tables held tartar sauce, malt vinegar, ketchup, and lemon slices (a nice feature). 

There was no problem getting a table for our group of seven, the queue moved quickly, and there was virtually no wait for seconds. The crowd wasn't as big as it was last year, perhaps due to the St. Isador school closure. It, along with St. Al's school, became part of All Saint's Academy, housed at what was Blessed Sacrament school. Last year there was a steady stream of enthusiastic school-aged helpers seeking to refill our beverages and whisk away empty plates. Too bad; their presence and art work made it more festive. Plus we had to bus our own table. 

Still, this is one of the best parish fish fries around, and a good one for one of our party's maiden voyage into the world of GR fish fries. 

Be sure to see the article from the Grand Rapids Press  (March 28--and the article also has a link to this blog!)  about fish fries. We're not alone!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Be prepared (to wait)

St. Alphonsus
205 Carrier, N.E. (near Leonard and Plainfield)
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

click here for map; click here for their flyer

4:30--7:00 p.m.

Date of visit: March 27, 2009, around 5:30 p.m.

Parking: challenging

Accessibility: stairs whether opting for dining in or take-out

Wait: for dining in, interminable; for take-out, 7 minutes

Tables: variety, including the standard lunch table with attached seats and round tables with chairs

Gambling opportunities: we think there was a 50/50 raffle

  • The delightful fish head hats
  • reusable dishes and cutlery
  • and of course, the walleye
We knew from previous experience that the line at St. Al's would be long, but were dumbfounded by the hordes of hungry fish eaters queuing for walleye. It filled the hallway and then some;
probably at least a 45 minute wait at the time we arrived. Perhaps it was because the weather was relatively pleasant (last year, our visit followed several days of snow), or maybe because St. Al's walleye is so darn good. Anyway, after standing on line for 15 or 20 minutes, we assessed the situation and reluctantly but wisely decided to opt for take-out.

There's a separate entrance for take-out -- on the Leonard side of the building (the entrance for dining in is off Carrier). That line moved quickly and took advantage of the legendary St. Al's efficiency. One advantage of take-out is you get to observe the inner workings of the fish fry. St. Al's has a ton of volunteers who appear to have been doing this for years, and have the routine down pat.

After getting our meals, we headed to one of our party's houses where we could openly enjoy our beverages (Blue Moon and Schmohz Brewey's tasty Hopknocker imperial IPA). Our meals contained both fried and baked walleye (equally delicious), French fries or baked potato, cole slaw (of course), and rolls. Some were savvy enough to ask for macaroni and cheese and apple sauce. Not being at St. Al's for seconds wasn't a problem as the take-outs contained very generous portions of fish. The stryofoam take-out containers kept our food warm for the 15 minute trip to our destination, although the fried fish would have been better at the site. No complaints, though; it was still very tasty.

We missed out on the ambiance of dining at St. Al's, but enjoyed the more relaxed environment around a dining room table.

Would we go back: of course, but we'd arrive earlier -- or a lot later -- if we wanted to dine in. Take-out is a viable and delicious option.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another try: St. James

St. James
733 Bridge St., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

(616) 458-3213

click here for map

4:00--7:00 p.m.

$8.00, adults
$7.00, seniors (60+)
$4.00, kids 5-12; under 5, free

According to their website, St. James' fish fry includes baked and fried fish, redskin new potatos, French fries, cole slaw (of course), applesauce, macaroni and cheese, garlic bread, and beverage (dine in only on the last four items). 

Some of our group did go to St. James on March 13, and the brief report received was that it was very good. Notable was that they had a separate line for seconds and that the redskin new potatos were excellent.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

St. Paul(i)

St. Paul the Apostle

2750 Burton, S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
(616) 949-4170
click here for a map 
4:45 - 7:00 p.m.
Date of visit: March 6, 2009, around 5:30 p.m.
Parking: right next to entrance
Accessibility: easy; no steps to negotiate
Cost: $8.00, adults
$7.00, seniors (55 and up)
$4.50, children
$4.00, pizza
Wait: none
Tables: round tables with chairs
Gambling opportunities: none
  • the maiden voyage into the world of lenten fish fries for yet another member of our party
  • venue was uncrowded; plenty of room to maneuver around the tables
  • round tables and chairs were pleasant
  • nice dessert assortment
According to one of our sources, St. Paul has been doing fish fries for a few years but hasn't built up the following enjoyed  by some of the longer-running venues. We decided to give it a try.
Things got off to a bit of a shaky start. First, when your correspondent was purchasing tickets, she was asked if she was 55. Yes, I am over 55, but do I look it? Apparently. Well, I took advantage of the discount and purchased a "senior" ticket. Yikes.

What was more of a dilemma, though, was after paying for the tickets noticing the sign that the proceeds of the dinner were going to Right to Life. Yours truly, as are most other members of our group, believers in Right to Choice. It was a quandary with which I still struggle. Perhaps some supports of RTL have inadvertently supported pro-choice groups. I can only hope.

Anyway, the menu included baked, fried, and extremely fried fish, fried French fries and baked French fries (how can they be French fries if they're not fried?), cole slaw, apple sauce, lettuce salad, and rolls. A lemonade-like beverage, water, and coffee were available; our beverages of choice were St. Pauli Girl (of course) and Founder's Centennial Ale. A nice assortment of home made desserts were offered for donations (50 cents each).

The consensus was that the baked was better than the fried and extremely fried fish (which resembled those pig ears chews for dogs), although one of our party felt the breading for the baked fish was a little greasy. A grown up,  Spartan Girl, took care of our table (#19); we missed the interaction with the young people that we've had at other fish fries. Seemed the kids at this event were relegated to pouring beverages and staffing the dessert table. 

Another disappointment was the lack of decoration. The room was completely void of any adornment, Catholic or otherwise.

We had an all time attendance high, 15, for this fish fry, which made it especially fun.

Would we return? Possibly, but not likely. As it's been stated  before -- so many fish to fry ....

Sunday, March 1, 2009

¡Pescado frito!

Holy Name of Jesus
1630 Godfrey, S.W.
Wyoming, MI 49509
click here for a map 
(Church is located at the corner of Chicago Drive and Godfrey Avenue; school, where fish fry is held, is right behind it)
Adults: $7
Seniors (65+): $6
Kids: $3.50
Date of visit: February 27, 2009
Parking: right next to entrance
Accessibility: easy; no steps to negotiate
Cost: $7.00 (included dessert (assorted baked goods))
Wait: none
Tables: lunch tables with attached bench seats
Gambling opportunities: 50/50 raffle—tickets $1 each, 6 for $5 (none of us won)
  • rice option
  • the maiden voyage into the world of lenten fish fries for one of our party
  • the dessert assortment
  • the slight Mexican spin
Holy Name of Jesus' fish fry was sold out when we tried to dine there last year, so we made it a point to visit early in the season this year. We arrived around 5:40 p.m. and experienced no wait either for tickets or the food. 

HNoJ serves fried Alaskan pollock, choice of baked or fried potato or rice, and a variety of salads and desserts (which were included in the ticket price). Featured were a three-bean salad, a "Mexican" pasta salad (still can't figure out what made it Mexican), and the ubiquitious cole slaw which one of our party
liked and another didn't. There was an ambiguous green Jello dish that straddled the line between salad and dessert; definite desserts included cookies, cupcakes, and a German chocolate cake that we understand was quite tasty but was gone by the time we got around to sampling it.

Students made the rounds providing coffee and water fill ups, clearing tables, and selling raffle tickets. Once again we were disappointed in the lack of artwork, but considered that since our dining hall was a "gymateria," it was understandable (wouldn't want an errant basketball to tear something).

We enjoyed Dos Equis with our meal, as well as visiting with one of our party's neighbors who are members of the HNoJ parish.

Would we return? well, as it's been said many times before -- so many fish to fry, so little time!

Next week's destination: tentatively, St. Paul's on Burton S.E.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fellow fish fry fans!

While waiting in line at SJV, we overheard a conversation that sounded a lot like one of ours -- critiquing fish fries previously attended. Hope to see you at future fries!

Let the season begin

St. John Vianney School
4101 Clyde Park, S.W.
Wyoming, MI 49509

 click here for a map 

(Located on the west side of Clyde Park (across from Resurrection Cemetery), between 36th and 44th streets.)

Date of visit: February 20, 2009

Parking: church parking lot right at door

Accessibility: could be challenging; had to trek behind the upper level bleachers of the gymnasium and down some stairs to get to the “village hall,” the basement-level (lunch?) room.

Cost: $8.00 (included dessert (ice cream))

Wait: A reasonable 10-15 minutes

Tables: banquet tables with chairs

Gambling opportunities: 50/50 raffle—tickets $2 each (none of us won)


  • well-organized
  • stylish aprons
  • beverages, seconds, and dessert brought to the tables
  • meeting other fish fry fans!
St. John Vianney in Wyoming got a jump start on the season
 with their pre-Lenten February 20 fish fry. The well-organized feast was packed when we got their around 5:30, but we were able to commandere six seats together. (As an added bonus, some people your correspondent hadn't seen in years sat with us, and it was lovely visiting with them; maybe we'll see them at St. Al's later this season?)

The dinner was organized cafeteria-style. Offerings included fried or baked cod, baked potato or French fries, cole slaw, and a roll. Macaroni and cheese was also available for kids, although in order to provide a thorough review we also sampled it. Tartar sauce was offered at the end of the serving line, and individual servings of margarine and industrial sized ketchup bottles were available at the tables. We didn't see any malt vinegar or lemons.                

The consensus was that the fried fish was far superior to the baked, and the baked potato clearly surpassed the fries. The cole slaw seemed to have too much mayonnaise or whatever it is that holds it together, but everyone ate it anyway. The rolls, however, were unnecessary (read: not that great) and macaroni and cheese -- well, let's say, the kids probably wouldn't complain, but it didn't come close to our memories of St. Isadore's M&C last year. 

While we were disappointed the walls were stark white, with no artwork or decoration, the roving chefs carrying trays of fish fresh out of the fryer more than made up for it. Also, SJV students were quick to remove trays and trash, helping to keep the busy dining area uncluttered and relatively clean. Up to 1000 dinners are served weekly, we've been told.

Speaking of students, we quizzed a group why it was called St. John Vianney and not just St. John (keep in mind that your correspondent is not Catholic), and the most knowledgable, a sixth-grade boy, stated that Vianney was probably John's last name. Whatever.

Appropriately, we enjoyed Sacred Cow, an Arbor Brewing Co. IPA, with our meal.

Would we return? Well ...  the season is young, and there are so many other fish to fry. Not likely, but one never knows.

Check back mid-week to for our Feb. 27 destination.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Training session

The St. John Vianney Athletic Boosters are providing us with a training opportunity for this year's Lenten fish fries.

This Friday, February 20, they are holding an "all you can eat" fundraiser at the St. John Vianney Elementary School. At least some of us will be there. Any suggestions as to whether to do the beer thing?
St. John Vianney School
4101 Clyde Park SW
Wyoming, MI 49509
(in the Village Hall)

The school is located on Clyde Park, between 36th and 44th streets.

More information: 616 914-9824