Return to St. Albert the Great’s Fish Fry
By Tom // Posted 26 February, 2010 in: Food + Drink, Minneapolis
Saint Albert was almost not a saint at all, thanks to the discovery during his beatification process of extensive studies of the occult: black magic. Among his writings on the subject was found a recipe for a depilatory potion that required burning a large frog whole and mixing the ashes with water then spreading the mixture on the to-be-hairless area. In the end though, Albert did earn his sainthood and luckily for us the Catholic parish in Seward bearing his name hasn’t taken any cooking cues from their patron; instead of burning it they prepare some of the finest fried and baked fish available for Lent, served for your convenience in two fast-moving lines. It’s the church fish-fry of the season and after the great time we had last year, Martha and I were not going to miss it.
Last year, we came on the last Friday of the Fish Fry’s operation, and it was crowded: line-wrapping-all-the-way-around-the-room crowded. This year we were a little more on the ball and showed up the second Friday of Lent. The room was certainly still full, but the line was not nearly as long and we were able to purchase our tickets ($10 for adults) and get our fish and sides in short order. So my advice to anyone thinking of visiting the great Saint Albert’s but intent on skipping the line is to get there sooner than later, before people realize Lent is almost over. Then again, waiting in line can be pretty fun; there are lots of interesting people to talk to.
The Catholic church sometimes gets a bad rep for being conservative, reactionary, even regressive. But it’s also rarely fair to judge individual parishes by the policy of the church as a whole, and without intending to direct any specific critcisms of St. Albert’s I’d like to commend them for their very environmentally-friendly reusable ticket system. I’d like to think I got the same ticket as last year!
There are a lot of reasons to make it down to Saint Albert’s for the fish fry: the always friendly volunteers who do everything from serving your food to clearing your plate, the irrepressible wit and humor of Fr. Joe Gillespie who works the crowd for the evening, microphone in hand, the bingo. But ultimately a fish fry is about the food. Given how much I enjoyed it last year, I was glad to see that the menu was unchanged from last year: in order there was: cheesy mashed potatoes, fried Alaskan Pollack, baked Alaskan Pollack, meatless spaghetti, cole slaw, rolls and of course tartar sauce and lemon wedges. Immediately after the savory line there’s a whole table of desserts to tempt you, but I’d recommend maintaining one free hand to pick up a glass of lemonade on your way to find a seat. You can always go back for dessert. And more fish.
The food prompted no complaints from me: who can object to lemon spritzed fried fish with tartar sauce? As with last year, though, the standouts were the sides; particularly, the meatless spaghetti which from its appearance you would expect to be as saccharine as any jar of Ragú but is actually somehow meaty and deeply flavored. I don’t know if this sauce is some secret church recipe or if it just comes out of a different can than I was expecting. Maybe it’s black magic. Frankly I don’t want to know. I just know I like it.
With two years under our belts at Saint Albert the Great’s, we’re starting to feel like regulars (though I can tell we’d need quite a few more years to meet others’ expectations for that title). Given how little time we spent in line this year, we might just be back before Easter. We’ll definitely be back next year, when I’m hoping for the addition of St. Albert’s famous blackened frogs’ legs to the food on offer. Does frog count as meat?