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.