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Are you the sort of dude or gal who goes from fish fry to fish fry, evaluating the various parishes based on the crispiness of their fried cod, whether they serve beer to those waiting in line, and how many crazed children are running amok between the tables? (Hey, it’s fun to watch kids freak out if you’re not the one who has to discipline them.)
If you’re a Lent-lover, than you know that perhaps the most important gauge of the fish fry is the presence of the weekly special.
Weekly specials, seafood dishes offered on that Friday only, can separate the wannabes from the gourmets. And at St. Peter in Kirkwood, the weekly specials are surely the stars of the menu.
During the 2012 Lenten season, guests at the St. Peter school cafeteria have enjoyed such specials as fried scallops and crab cakes. Last week’s special, beer-battered hoki (at right), was a moist, flaky filet with a rich and crispy-battered exterior; shpritzed with malt vinegar, it was worthy of a British pub. The side dish, thick-cut, house-fried potato chips, was addictive, too.
Upcoming specials include “Catholic spaghetti” (meatless, that is) with garlic bread (March 16), tuna-salad-stuffed tomato and coconut-fried shrimp (March 23), and “Fisherman’s Catch” (read “leftovers,” March 30).
That fish-fry staple, the fried cod, tasted pretty average, but the tasty fried shrimp was, in fact, larger than average (it’s the 12-to-15-tails-to-a-pound size). A workable Italian salad was a good way to get yer veggies.
St. Peter sells no beer, as fish-fry manager Michael Kerins pointed out, because the school cafeteria is truly small by modern standards.
“We need to keep people moving in and out to make sales,” said Kerins, “and beer makes people linger.”
While you’re doing an acceptable amount of lingering at St. Peter, you’ll get a kick out of the toothpaste-green kids’ school-cafeteria trays (below left) with depressions for each serving that they serve the fish fry on, too. (Your green beans will not come in contact with your mac and cheese – it’s physically impossible.) You might also patronize the Girl Scouts selling sinfully delicious Thin Mints in the lobby, or check out a girls’ basketball game in the gymnasium.
And, as with all fish fry’s, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to meet your St. Louis neighbors in a low-key, festive atmosphere. “Fellowship,” said Kerins, “is what it’s all about.” (Amen.)
If you’re into architecture, St. Louis history, or other edifying pursuits, fish-fry-hopping can be a really fun education, too. St. Peter, founded in 1832, is the second-oldest parish in the County (and we’re headed to the oldest one next week, by the by), but the main church was designed in the ‘50s by Washington University School of Architecture Dean and celebrated architect Joseph Murphy. It reflects an unusual willingness by the Catholic Church to embrace new styles. St. Peter’s Monsignor Jack Costello explained that the design is decidedly not gothic, and, with its rounded shapes and funky “canister” chandeliers, was considered positively hip at mid-century.
Also advanced: the gluten-free Eucharist the church offers to parishioners with celiac disease.
St. Peter Catholic Church Fish Fry
March 16, 23, and 30, 4:30 to 7 p.m.
215 N. Clay