The best part of being a non-Catholic in Pittsburgh has to be Fish Fry Fridays during Lent. This year might have been my most prolific yet as I've hit five different fish fries over the past six weeks. Here's my expert take on each one:
Week 1, St. Bernard's in Mt. Lebanon - Things did not get started right at St. Bernards. For such a big church, I assumed there's would be pretty good. But despite a crowd large enough to be annoying, I was very wrong. The batter could hardly stick to the fish and the sides were forgettable. Making matters worse, the ordering system was anything but orderly as it seemed like a free for all more than a line and there was absolutely no direction to the parking system. I won't be back to this dud of a fish fry.
Week 2, St. Anne's in Castle Shannon - Again, slightly underwhelming. The fish portions were small, but flavorful. There's was more of a breaded topping than battered, which I typically like. I'll also give them high marks for making it easy to order and get out of the way until your fish were up. By far the smallest portions we saw though.
Week 4, St. Joan of Arc in South Park - I drove out to this one on the recommendation of the Kornosky family and I wasn't disappointed. The fish portions were large, the service was excellent and the sides were unmatched. Seriously, a lot of the churches really mail it in on the side dishes, but the fries and slaw here were both obviously home made and excellent. Evelyn went with the mac 'n cheese on the side, which was also very good. Not the best fish I had, but still very good and worth going back to.
Week 5, Christ United Methodist in Bethel Park - The only non-Catholic option I went to, this is also the church I attend. And, surprisingly enough, this was probably my favorite fish overall and, really, isn't that what it's all about? The portion was large and the flavor was excellent. This was also a breaded fish, as opposed to the typical beer battered fare. However, huge negative mark for serving bagged Lay's and a very small (but tasty) cole slaw portion as the default sides with the sandwich.
Week 6, St. Margaret of Scotland in Greentree - I hit this one up today based on a message board recommendation, but it didn't live up to expectations. The fish was undeniably large, but something was slightly out of place about it. There were, like, edged corners and a bland taste to the batter that make me think they're ordered frozen and pre-battered, rather than freshly prepared. Even the fries and slaw gave off a Costco vibe. If they deserve one major point of emphasis though, it is that their cocktail sauce was seriously spicy from the horseradish, which I think is freaking fantastic. Too many places don't place enough emphasis on their cocktail and tartar sauces, handing out only packets of generic brand. I've taken to mixing my own cocktail sauce at home as a result of this oversight.
Only one more week of the Lent season, and most Catholic churches don't do the fish fry on Good Friday, so the options are limited. I know that Christ UMC is open for business, so that's probably where I'll end up to wrap up the 2011 season, unless someone else has a recommendation for a place I haven't tried yet that is open this week.
Let me know your favorite fish fry in the comments.