Fish Fry Friday: St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Ross Township

Name: St. Sebastian

Pittsburgh Fish Fry
Fish Fry Map Logo

Date: March  11, 2016

Time We Ate: 5:30 PM

Random review of #fishburgh adventures during Lent. Find a fish fry on this Google maps collection. You can also follow them on Facebook and find tons of reviews and suggestions. Here is our general criteria:

In review, the factors we assess or review include:

  • Location/directions/parking/signage
  • Atmosphere/Volunteer Friendliness/Engagement
  • Accessibility
  • Menu: variety, portions, taste and price
  • LGBTQ cultural competency
  • Ecofactors such as reusable/disposable items, recycling bins, takeout containers

The parish of St. Sebastian is tucked behind our favorite Starbucks in Ross Township (on Siebert Road.) We often see parishioners and students trickling into the coffeehouse so our general impression was that it was a semi-affluent suburban parish with a school, but located at a cruddy intersection when it came to traffic.

We opted to give it a try this week because we were both exhausted, hungry and wanted something simple. A fish fry required few decisions, so it seemed ideal. I visited the website and was heartened to see that they not only took credit cards, but had curbside take-out service. These folks must be efficient!

When we arrived, we looped around a giant circuitous loop dug into the hillside and found ourselves talking to a guard. He directed us to the upper parking lot, but told us we would have to back out onto Siebert Road and make a left. During rush hour. On a Friday.  Around sunset. Those of you familiar with the North Hills realize the futility of that effort, so we had to turn right and go back down on McKnight Road to approach from the correct angle. I was annoyed, so Laura left me out to go get us  table while she managed parking duties.

Young women were posted at the door to the school and told me which general direction to walk. The entrance took me past several elementary school classrooms which were festively decorated with all sorts of material. I saw that several classrooms had prominent signage stating that they were nut free rooms. And otherwise, I just kept walking forever until I found some stairs and descended.

This elementary school is bigger than my public high school was. So I walked into a cafeteria entrance and saw a big beautiful board with all of the food options and the helpful arrows pointing out which items went best with what. One young woman was staffing a station selling fruit in a bag and another young man was supposed to be selling pop and bottled water for some class trip, but he was less than enthused. God Bless the children.

The pay station was great. We could use debit or credit. All I had to do was pay and identify my main dish. Then I would walk my order form to the next station.

Ledcat was still parking, but we had previously discussed our choices so I decided to brazenly go ahead and walk by myself into the cafeteria.

The food choices were pretty standard – fried or baked fish or shrimp. Choice of pierogies, fries or macaroni & cheese, also a choice between applesauce and cole slaw. Everyone received a serving of vegetables. The $10/meal price also included a choice of water, lemonade or iced tea. Extra side dishes were available for purchase as well.

Fish Fry Pittsburgh
All the hungry people …

I walked into the cafeteria proper and was overwhelmed by the smell of fried fish and the enthusiasm of Catholic school parents. The place was about 50% full and it didn’t take long for me to figure out where to get in line. Apparently, we were doing it real cafeteria style – no servers here. I was a little worried about being able to balance a tray (when I’m tired, my hands tremor a lot) but I figured I could ask for help from the adults and surely they would draft a reluctant but able-bodied young person to carry my tray for me. Then Ledcat arrived and found me using our secret lesbian detection system.

We each received a tray with a plastic plate and were instructed to go through the line of food being served from steaming trays. Laura had a fish sandwich, pierogies and applesauce. I opted for the frish fish, macaroni and cole slaw, so we could both try everything.

Fish Fry Pittsburgh
PIerogies, fish and veggies.

Then we realized that we were required to accept a big spoonful of boiled broccoli and cauliflower florets. Ledcat accepted begrudgingly. I saw the really small portion of macaroni and hoped the veggies would fill me up.

Fish Fry Pittsburgh
Just sigh.

We were on our own trying to find seats which Ledcat finally did and then realized we were tightly squeezed in. She tried to get us drinks, but they were out of everything but water, so we sipped H2O from styrofoam.

Let me blunt – the food was terrible. The boiled veggies were probably the highlight of the meal. The fish was blah, the shrimp were burned and tasteless, the pierogies were overcooked and the macaroni & cheese was like wallpaper paste. The portions were suitable for a 5th grader, but a little chintzy for $10 fundraisers. The baked fish was the exception – it was huge, overwhelming the bun, the plate and the tray. It was also slightly scorched. The entire meal was absolutely terrible.

We looked at each other a few times, but we ate our meal. Just having spent nearly $400 at the veterinarian, we were not in a place to throw away $20 worth of food. I polished off the boiled veggies in no time and even ate Ledcat’s. I chewed, chewed and chewed my shrimp. I swallowed the macaroni & cheese without tasting it. I begrudged Ledcat getting that delicious canned applesauce while I had to make do with overly peppered watery coleslaw.

We agreed that we would immediately go to Starbucks afterwards (I had a free drink coming) rather than take our chances with the dessert tray.

The room was filled with student volunteers. Our table had other guests who were discussing someone’s pregnant daughter and something about a purse.  But no one really spoke to us. The adult volunteers at the food line were very nice. And very nice made a difference. It took away the sting of throwing down $20 for a cruddy meal. No one else really paid us any mind at all.

And regular readers  – you know that means missed opportunity. They completely missed the opportunity to connect with us. There was no promo information at the table or on the tray. No one invited us to come back. No one did the slightest bit of outreach beyond the lanky kid trying to sell us dessert to help pay for a class trip. No sign of the priest. People were friendly to us, but that was it.

Pro’s: friendly adults, takes debit/credit, clean & efficient space, parking lot guard/monitors, served veggies

Con’s: food was terrible, lack of signage, tightly cramped seating, no beverages, no table service, no sign of recycling and a reliance of styrofoam. The parking situation is a nightmare.

Neither pro nor con: accessibility. I’m confident this space has accessible options but there was ZERO signage. Also, I don’t think we were clocked as lesbians because we came in separately. So no real way to assess beyond general friendliness.

Overall, this is a dud of a fish fry. If any of the major food items had been good, it might be worth supporting. But if my niece was a student here, I would just give her $10 as a donation and cook my own food.

Ledcat says I am being harsh because they were nice. Maybe so. But she had the applesauce.

The future of this feature is up in the air. We are going to a cheesesteak night at the Elks Lodge tonight so that will make for a fun addendum. Next week, we are going to a queer burlesque murder mystery event so I’m unsure if we can fit in a fish fry dinner to that. And that brings us to Good Friday.

Ledcat really wants to make a return visit to the Church of the Assumption in Bellevue. So I guess we’ll see what happens.

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