Okay, so I’m late to the fish fry party. The meat-free meals are dished at church, veteran and fraternal organization halls across the land on Fridays during Lent, and there are only one or two opportunities (not all places serve on Good Friday, March 29) to enjoy the catch of the day before Easter on March 31.
After talking about it last year my friends Tania and Minnie and I finally got together last week to take part in the tradition at Sweetest Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church in an old Polish neighborhood in Detroit.
We knew the dinner was a popular event but were a bit surprised to see a line of folks shuffling into the Parish Hall entrance. It was a short wait and we were entertained by a young man, Sam, playing the accordion as we snaked through the tent-covered porch. I even saw some familiar faces in the crowd—a nice surprise! It seemed as though everyone but we three had been there before.
Once inside a swarm of chipper volunteers—many wearing “Got Fish?” T-shirts—efficiently took orders and directed us to a choice of dining rooms, on the main floor, second level or basement (“It’s not the basement, it’s the Bistro,” one volunteer said cheerily).
We headed upstairs, sat at a communal table for eight and were soon joined by a young family and a young couple (hey, why is everyone I refer to “young” all of a sudden?).
While waiting for our dinners to be delivered we had a chance to visit and nibble Goldfish crackers placed on each table. The strolling Sam came by with his squeeze box and added nice background music.
A young (there it is again) lady arrived with our dinners of beer battered cod, plus a plate of pierogi and fried dill pickles, and we were happy. We somehow managed to tuck away the three pieces of deep-fried, light and crispy fish (delish!), Cole slaw and most of the sides (the $9 meal comes with a choice of French fries, baked potato or macaroni and cheese, coffee or tea).
It was great to see so many people enjoying the food and fellowship—and so many volunteers, including kids and young adults, making it happen—at this historic site in the city.
Sweetest Heart of Mary’s Lenten Dinners are served from 3-8 p.m. on Friday the 22nd and Good Friday, the 29th. In addition to the fried fish there are baked fish, fried shrimp and pierogi dinners plus sides and desserts on the menu.
You don’t have to be Catholic or Christian to enjoy the tradition; check your community newspapers and websites and go fish!
Tip: Arrive early as some places have been known to run out of food.
Here’s a sampling of Detroit area Lenten Friday fish fries that get good reviews:
Sweetest Heart of Mary Church, Detroit: 3-8 p.m.
St. Francis D’Assisi Church, Detroit: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Gaelic League of Detroit: 5-8 p.m.
American Polish Century Club, Sterling Heights: 3-8 p.m.