Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Blessed Sacrament

Hey all, it's the last Friday for Fish Frys and we're feeling bittersweet. On one hand, it's another chapter of our lives past, and after today we'll have to wait a whole year before we can stuff our faces with fish in church gymnasiums again. On the other hand spring is coming (so we're told) and we're craving fresh veggies, sunshine, and a run. But all that aside, let's talk about last week's visit to our reigning number one favorite Fish Fry: Blessed Sacrament.

Blessed Sacrament is killing it you guys. Going back, I was a little afraid of being let down. Like, maybe I remembered it was better than it was, or last year was a fluke. Either way, all of the just-okay Fish Frys this year had me feeling like there was no way Blessed Sacrament could really be as awesome as I remembered. Boy was I wrong. Blessed Sacrament knows what they're doing, I mean their fish game is tight. It's Cod you guys. Cod. I mean Whitefish, and Pollock, and Perch are fine, but Cod? Cod rules. I understand why it's not used often, it's way more expensive than those other fishes, but thank you Blessed Sacrament for knowing when to splurge on good fish.

This photos aren't the best (yeah iPhone 4) but check out that crispy breading… This isn't an all-you-can-eat event, but some nice volunteers did come around and offer us extras from the kitchen. Not that I needed them, I was stuffed. Like, uncomfortably full. Not only that, but I still felt full going to bed that night. Not that I vouch for eating to the point of illness (although sometimes I do) but my point is that you won't be left wanting.

Our non-fish-eating (don't ask me) friends were happy to have pasta and breadsticks to eat and the salad bar is a nice addition. All you need to know is everything here is good. We shared a 312 Bourbon County Stout, which is a CRAZY beer you guys. I like boozy beers, but wow, this one was too much for me. Chris and the other guys liked it a lot though, I think it's a pretty special beer.

Tonight we'll be capping off the season with a visit to the Knights of Columbus on Muskegon Ave.

Blessed Sacrament
2275 Diamond Ave NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505

Arrival time:
Wait: <10 minutes
Parking Lot
Cost: adult fish $8.00; adult pasta $6.00; children’s dinner (ages 4-12) $4.00; 3 and under are free
Take-out: Yes
Tables: Long cafeteria style

Would we go back? You know it!

Ok, for real one criticism though. If anyone at Blessed Sacrament reads this, PLEASE do not post your Fish Fry flyer as a .pub file. PDF would be the way to go on this one.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Review: Ravenna Community Fish Fry

Last week we made the 40 (40!) minute drive out to Ravenna for one very important reason: we had to see Gene Helsen's fish breading machine. And that, we did.

Check out this video of the machine in action!

The fish are placed on the hooks by a volunteer, then they travel into the first chamber, which coats them in flour. It's like a tiny flour tornado in there. After that they are dipped in batter and go into the second chamber which coats them in breading. Gene said it took him a year to build the contraption at home, and they've been getting positive feedback ever since. "People say the fish tastes better now because there's less breading and you can taste the fish more," Gene told us.

We agree. The Ravenna Community Fish Fry, which is held at St. Catherine's Hall and is hosted by a different group each Friday serves up some good fried perch. No baked fish here people, because obviously you wouldn't need a breading machine for that. The sides are pretty standard: french fries or baked potato, cole slaw, green beans, garlic bread, and desert. This is not an all-you-can-eat event, but my portion was plenty. Beverages offered are water, fruit punch, and coffee. We brought along some Founders Centennial IPA.

We had a great time. Thank you Ravenna Senior Parents and thank you to Gene for taking us behind the scenes to see his amazing invention!!

Ravenna Community Fish Fry
3381 Thomas St
Ravenna, MI 49451

Arrival time:
Wait: <5 minutes
Parking Lot (You guys, we parked on dirt. It's the country.)
Cost: $10.00 for Adults, $5.00 for Children 5-12, Free for Children under 5
Take-out: Yes
Tables: Long cafeteria style

Would we go back? The only reason we wouldn't is the drive.

Tonight we return to Blessed Sacrament like the prodigal son. We'd love if you came too!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Review: Holy Trinity

As part of our plan to reach more of the West Michigan area fish fries, last Friday we took a trip to Holy Trinity in Comstock Park. With rather large group of 7, we reached out destination around 6pm to find a well attended fish fry. After a $10 charge (the most we've paid so far this year) and a manageable wait of about 10 minutes we were ready to collect our choices in a served buffet style line.

The menu is standard fish fry fare: fried and baked pollock, bread, macaroni and cheese, green beans, homemade coleslaw, and french fries.  Beverages were available in pitchers at every table consisting of as always lemonade and water. Our beverage of choice was a milk stout that was homebrewed by yours truly.

The consensus in our group was that the food was not great. We love fried fish but found this round to be lack-luster. Small portions and pieces with more breading than fish and not a lot of flavor.  The mac and cheese was just okay as were the green beans and bread.  The homemade coleslaw and tartar sauce were pretty rad but they couldn't make up for $10 admission fee. This was an all you can eat fish fry, and most of us did get seconds, but without much enthusiasm.

However, we still had a great time. Lenten fish fries are not always about the just the food but the experience. There was a good, welcoming atmosphere and sense of community.  We ate, we drank, and were merry.

Would we go back? Probably not, but that doesn't mean you can't check it out for yourselves, if only to prove us wrong.

We will be witnessing the next generation of fish fries tonight, boldly going where no man has before: a fully automated fish breading machine at St. Catherine's of Ravenna. Yeah, that's a thing.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church 
1200 Alpine Church Rd NW
Comstock Park, MI 49321

Arrival time:
Wait: <10 minutes
Parking Lot
Cost: $10.00 for Adults, $9.00 for Seniors, $5.00 for Children (immediate family max of $45)
Take-out: Yes
Tables: Long cafeteria style

Would we go back? Honestly, no.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fish Breading Machine (Seriously!)

(image credit Matt Gade, The Muskegon Chronicle)

You guys, have you SEEN this? Gene Helsen (now my personal hero) invented a MACHINE that BREADS AND BATTERS FISH to make the Ravenna Community Fish Frys more efficent. Hello, why hasn't this man been canonized yet?! I mean, I know technically you're supposed to be dead first, but I think we can make an exception here.

This guy is going down in Fish Fry history, and we cannot wait to visit the Ravenna Community Fish Fry this Friday to see this beauty for ourselves.

Check out the full 2011 MLive story on Gene and his machine here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Tonight's Destination

Hey guys, tonight we're going to check out Holy Trinity in Comstock Park. We hope to see some of you there. Of course if you go to a Fish Fry and have something to share, leave a comment or shoot us an email.

Happy eating!

Review: Holy Redeemer

Hey all, happy Fish Fry-day! Today we have a review of Holy Redeemer in Jenison. We made the drive out there last Friday to check out their Fish Fry which is put on by the Knight of Columbus in the Activity Center.

We were drawn there because the menu is expansive guys, like they have broccoli. I love broccoli. Plus, not one, but TWO kinds of fried fish. Hello fried friends, get on my plate.

Despite the distance (kind of far away for us) we had a great time. We had a pretty big group (8) and luckily we were able to find a table to accommodate all of us. I mean, the place was packed, but we never had to wait more then a few minutes in line.The volunteers were super friendly too. They even have people who come around to refill your beverages. A few members of our group were digging the pink punch.

The food was good, I'd say a definite go-to if you're in the area. Personally I preferred the fried pollock to the fried perch. The perch was a little too chewy for me. But the pollock was flaky under the crispy batter. Mmmm… I really enjoyed the baked pollock as well. The mac and cheese was my favorite of the sides, gooey and rich. The broccoli was honestly a bit of a let down for me, although it probably would have been better with the melty cheese topping they had. Why did I turn down the cheese?! Momentary lapse of everything I hold dear, I have no excuse. They also have grilled cheese, rolls, coleslaw, baked potatoes and fries.

I for sure went up to the conveniently separate seconds station. And helped myself to some delicious brownies from the desert table, which is included in your ticket price. We brought along some Left Hand Sawtooth Ale, which is a pretty delicious brew.

Holy Redeemer Catholic Church
2700 Baldwin St.
Jenison, MI 49428

Arrival time:
Wait: <5 minutes
Parking Lot
Cost: $9.00 for Adults, $8.00 for Seniors (62+), $5.00 for Children (5-15)
Take-out: No
Tables: Circle

Would we go back? Yes, but it's a little out of the way for us. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mapping West Michigan Fish Frys

You guys, we were thinking... wouldn't it be cool if there was a map of all the Fish Fry locations so you could see what's close and get directions and all that? Well, we started putting together this Google map. It's got the Fish Frys that we know about plotted. If there's something we've missed, please let us know. Happy fishing!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday! Friday!

It's Friday guys! It may be snowing like crazy, but weather can't keep us away from a good Fish Fry. If you're willing to brave the outdoors, come join us tonight at Holy Redeemer in Jenison.Hope to see you all there.

Holy Redeemer Parish 
2700 Baldwin Street
Jenison, MI 49428

Review: Polish National Aid Society

Last Friday, we checked out a new spot: the Polish National Aid Society. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is one of the local members-only halls that opens its doors to the public every fall for Pulaski Days. This year they started doing Friday lenten Fish Fries.

The first thing you need to know is when you walk in, you will immediately feel confused, lost, and out of place. It's a members-only club for goodness sakes, any non-member would feel that! So, what you need to do is walk confidently into the empty, dark bar and stroll over to the door next to the bar that leads down into the basement where the fish is. This is how you will navigate the apparently secret Fish Fry like a boss, and not walk into the bathroom looking for fish (like I did).

Another thing you need to know is that the fish is made fresh, per person. So after you pay the guy your $8 and fill your plate at the salad bar, just sit down and wait cooly. Someone will then come over to take your drink order (they serve soda and beer!) and shortly after that someone will bring you a heaping plate of freshly fried fish and chips. Depending on how many people show up, this could make for a small wait for your food, although we didn't have to wait too long.

The fish was really good, the beer batter was thick and puffy. Plus being made fresh, it was not sitting out on warmers. The fries were great, and the rest of the sides were pretty basic: coleslaw, rolls, rolls, and noodle salad.

Of course this wouldn't be the Fish Fry for everyone. There is no baked fish or baked potatoes for you healthy fish lovers. No mac and cheese either for you non-fish eaters. And obviously it's not a religious organization for those that only want to eat their fish in a church or school. The vibe was pretty chill, not like some of the high-energy family focused events. This could be good or bad depending on what you prefer.

All in all it was a good dinner for anyone who wants classic fried fish and chips with a domestic brew to enjoy in the basement of a Polish hall. Not too shabby in our books. We recommend checking it out and supporting the hall. 

Polish National Aid Society
921 Jackson St NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Arrival time:
Wait: 0 minutes
Street parking
Cost: $8.00 all you can eat
Take-out: no
Tables: Long cafeteria-style

Would we go back? Yes

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Correction: St. James

Good morning! We hope you're staying warm this cold winter day. We're sipping some hot coffee and counting down the days till Friday.

But first, we'd like to make a correction. In last year's St. James review,  we stated that the church has their fish fry catered. Mary Swidwa, a 23-year veteran volunteer wrote to correct us. Mary writes:

"A catering business is run out of the kitchen (that is why you saw the catering truck) however we do NOT hire this catering business to cater our fish. We cook it all ourselves the night of the fish fry. We are volunteers (most of us attend St James ) that work this fish fry."

Our apologies to all the hard working volunteers at St. James for this mistake. We also hear St. James is looking for volunteers this year, so if you're curious what it's like behind the scenes at a Fish Fry, give them a call at 616-458-3065.

And check back tomorrow for our review of the Polish National Aid Society! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentines treat from our inbox

(image credit Glenbow Museum)

We received a lovely email the other day. It was from an employee of the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids who has put together an incredibly comprehensive event calendar of Fish Frys at Catholic schools and churches in the area. So we are sharing it with you all as a Valentine's treat. We'll certainly be referencing the calendar when looking for new spots. Super handy. Probably best to just skip the crowded restaurants tonight and take your special someone out to a Fish Fry tomorrow night.

Thanks for sharing JoAnn!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Our house is in full Mardi Gras swing tonight as we celebrate the last day before Lent. We made a big pot of Jambalaya (recipe here) and made our Polish grandmas proud by smashing gooey, sugary paczkis from Schnitz Bakery into our faces.

Even though we are stuffed full of andouille and shrimp, our mouths are already watering thinking about a big plate of fish and chips! We are planning out our schedule for this Lent and we're really excited to visit some new Fish Frys and tell you about them. Our goal is to have each week's review be a Fish Fry we've never been to before. We will be saving one Friday to revisit a past favorite (can't wait!).

We're going to start this Friday at the Polish National Aid Society. We're looking forward to their $8 all-you-can eat Alaskan Whitefish. This will be our first non-church fish fry, and we have high hopes. We hope to see you there too!