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Thursday, February 14, 2013 / 2:24 PM

The Cod Chronicles: Your Best Bets for Lenten Fish Fries in St. Louis

The Cod Chronicles: Your Best Bets for Lenten Fish Fries in St. Louis

The Catholic church will be temporarily headless soon, but Lent must go on. Around these parts, that means a dizzying array of temporary cafeterias dishing up fried cod and sides of widely varying quality, each Friday for the next six or seven weeks.

Here are some of our faves.

Maryland Heights’ Holy Spirit, which we reviewed here, offers a weekly raffle for a meal served on china by Girl Scout-waitresses, but it’s the off-menu specials that are really special. Rev. Rich Bockskopf and his small army of volunteers make goodies like New England clam chowder, crab soup, gumbo, lobster-and-cheese ravioli, parmesan-encrusted tilapia, and pasta tutto mare that are each available for one Friday only, and typically sell out well before the end of service. Don’t miss the complimentary, from-scratch potato/sage dinner rolls, too.

St. Cecelia, as we gushed about last Lent, offers dynamite chiles rellenos (skip the cod), Mexican dancers (above left) and live mariachis, table service, and an amazing sanctuary (below), if you can wangle a tour.

Similarly, the weekly specials at St. Peter in Kirkwood have included coconut shrimp, fried scallops, crab cakes, and a beer-battered hoki (right) worthy of a British pub. We described its fried awesomeness here.

At Our Lady of the Pillar in Frontenac, says Relish honcho George Mahe, “The moment you enter, there's a table to the right, tended by the parish priest, who's offering wine by the glass. The joke practically writes itself. The cost is $3 per, as I recall, and my glass of Cab was even served at ‘cellar’ temperature.”

At St. Pius V, the cod is hand-breaded, the dinners are served on real china, and every Friday features live music by “Clan Jameson.”

The grande dame of all the fry’s, St. Ferdinand in Florissant, was no culinary revelation, but it offers fun in spades. Last year, a piece of cod that, according to one overheated church lady, emerged from the fryer “looking just like an angel,” made our week. Make that call yourself (see left).

The Unitarians get into the act in appropriately kind fashion with the annual “Unfish Fry,” a one-night-only vegetarian meal, scheduled for March 8. A meager six bucks gets you falafel, hummus with pita, dolmades, veggie Chili, salads, mac-n-cheese, and, of course, veggies.

 

Saint Stephen Protomartyr offers something that no other fry can boast: a mascot. “Sharky” the shark (right) waves in drivers from the street and hugs the kiddoes, to their squealing delight. We also got a kick out of the parish’s “pink spaghetti,” and some truly goofy posters in the gym, which we chronicled here.

Some of the ethnic fries worth checking out include the “other Mexican fish fry” at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, offering ceviche, tostadas, chiles rellenos, fish tacos, potato tacos, Mexican rice, and cactus salad; and Soul Food Friday, March 22 at North City’s St. Alphonsus Liguori, "The Rock Church."

Other fries we’ve heard good things about:

-Two spots that are a hit with politicos, judges, and their ilk, St. Raymond's Lebanese and Dogtown’s St. Gabriel the Archangel

-St. Agatha’s Polish-American fish fry, including Polish beer

-St. James the Greater in the heart of Dogtown

-The Frog legs (which are not beef, I guess) available at St. Peter Parish in St. Peters

-The desserts at Kirkwood’s St. Gerard Majella, which include Ted Drewes products and Girl Scout cookies.

Sometimes the food at these Lenten fish fries is okay, and sure, sometimes it’s just barely okay. Frankly, we don’t care much – the real fun is dropping into a folding chair and making new friends around communal tables. Go to a few fish fries, and you might just begin to feel that elusive sense of urban community.

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