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.

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