Growing up Catholic, we weren’t allowed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. As a kid, I actually didn’t mind this too much. I liked the tuna fish sandwiches my mom would pack for lunch and my local church would host a soup and sandwich night where everyone in the parish could get a dinner that met the Lenten guidelines. I remember enjoying not just these Friday meals but also being able to run around in the Church hall where the dinners were held.
As I grew up, though, the charm of skipping meat on Fridays started to wear thin if I went out to dinner and had problems finding something meatless and appetizing on the menu. Plus, I missed the community-feeling the parish dinners always held for me.
This changed when I moved to Cleveland, which seems to transform into ‘The Land of a Thousand Fish Frys’ during Lent. No more am I found wanting for an alternative to meat on Fridays. Everywhere I turn there’s either a church or a restaurant offering some sort of Fish Fry or Lenten menu. From pierogies and potato pancakes to coleslaw and macaroni and cheese, my mouth is usually left watering from the options. And then of course, there are the fish. Fresh perch and walleye lightly breaded or battered are the most common options. And no matter how you like it – plain or seasoned with a bit of lemon, tartar sauce or malt vinegar, you can’t really go wrong.
Fish Frys seem extremely popular not just in Cleveland but also throughout the entire midwest region. I’d take a guess that the area’s close proximity to the Great Lakes and their freshwater fish is one of the reasons for this. Because of their popularity, it’s easy to sample at least a few Fish Frys each Lent.
Many Fish Frys are sponsored by local churches and can be used as fundraisers or activities for that church’s community. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I attended the Annual Fish Fry at St. Joseph’s Church in Avon Lake which was sponsored by their school’s 8th grade class. So I was able to not only get a tasty serving of fish, cole slaw, fries, dessert and orange soda (which definitely brought me back to childhood!), but also contribute to a good cause.
However, local restaurants and bars get in on the action as well. This past Friday, I tried out the Lenten menu at Jake’s on the Lake (again, in Avon Lake) and was very satisfied. Of course, this wasn’t too surprising since they always serve up delicious food from Haas’ 4 Way Chili to a French Dip with Green Peppers Sandwich to an incredible Pasta with Sausage, Blue Crab and Mushrooms dish they had on their specials menu last week.
For Jake’s Lenten menu, we started with their potato pancakes as an appetizer. The 2 pancakes with sour cream offered a very large and tasty starter. And while Scott ordered the all-you-can-eat beer-battered fish fry (and he ate a lot of it!), I ordered the herb-battered fish. At five pieces, it was the perfect size for my slightly smaller appetite and the light-breading was delicious. The batter was light enough that the taste of the fish did not get lost in it.
Fish Frys in the Cleveland area are typically held each Friday during Lent and can be found in almost every neighborhood of the city. A guide to Cleveland Fish Frys was created by ClevelandMagazine.com. It has a search function based on different preferences (such as region, the type of fish served, and whether pierogies or alcohol are served) — making it a lot easier to finally get my Friday Fish Fix!
Fish Frys 411:
Search for a Fish Fry at ClevelandMagazine.com
Fish Fry Guide