Fish Fry Friday: The Elks Lodge on Pittsburgh’s Northside

Pittsburgh Fish Fry
Fish Fry Map Logo

Name: Elks Lodge 339

Date: March 25, 2016

Time We Ate: 6:30 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

We opted to wrap up the 2016 Fish Fry Friday tour close to home – the Elks Lodge on the Northside. Frankly, I’m tired of fried fish and the side dishes. I’m also not feeling the love for the local Catholic Diocese this week, in part due to Bishop Zubik challenging the Affordable Care Act and the hideous  sex abuse scandal covered up by the Diocese of Altoona.

So heading over to the Elks was good. We had been there many year earlier when it was still permitting smoking and I didn’t like it. Times have changed.

The lodge is smokefree which is wonderful.

We walked in and found ourselves in a rather long queue with no real sense of what was happening on the other end. Was this for to go orders? Why were some people just going to the bar to sit? Who are these people? The couple in front of us sipped their draft beers after ‘cheating’ by securing seats with some friends already in the dining area. I glared at the back of their heads with all the righteous fury I could muster. They remained unphased.

Just when I began to freak out because of all of the unanswered questions, we made it to the front of the line and realized we might have to find out own seats. I poked Ledcat, whispering to her that we weren’t paying anyone a damn cent if they didn’t have two seats for us. To humor me, she asked and we were directed to a nice gentleman nattily attired in a sports coat and button down shirt. He seated me while Ledcat sorted out the ordering and the paying.

The Elks hall. Patriotic, but comfy.
The Elks hall. Patriotic, but comfy.

The menu was limited – fried or baked fish, some sides and that’s it. Ledcat opted for a small fried fish sandwich, mac and cheese and some coleslaw. I went for the grilled cheese and the same sides. We bought two cans of pop from the bar. Dinner was $14 and the beverages were $2, so even with tips – very affordable.

Elks Fish Fry
Fish sandwich sans bun.

We waited about 15 minutes for our food, but it was pleasant enough to talk about what we each knew of the space and reflect on our fish fry adventures. The order was delivered to our table which had previously been set with a paper placemat and stainless silverware rolled in a napkin.

Elks Fish Fry
Grilled cheese and sides

The fish was excellent. It had a unique batter, perhaps beer? It was crunchy while the fish was moist. Laura devoured her entire sandwich. The grilled cheese was perfectly cooked and just what I needed – an old standard. The coleslaw was a bit bland. It needed some mayo, I think. And the mac and cheese? Here we disagree. Ledcat thought it was terrific and I thought it was just okay, a little too paste-like for my taste.

The food was served on sturdy paperplates, not styrofoam. Hallelujah. Takeout orders were packed in styrofoam, unfortunately. Condiments were a combo of big bottles and individual packets.

We didn’t overtly notice any other LGBTQ folks in the room, but we know a lot of allies who belong to this particular lodge. No one blinked an eye that we were in the same party, paying together and sharing our food.

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The line was still in place when we finished our food so we didn’t linger. The older gentleman hustled over to clean up and wish us a good evening.

Pros: great fish sandwich, low prices, solid to good mac and cheese, bar with lots of beverage choices, use of paper plates and reusable silverware, polite servers

Cons: front is not accessible, use of styrofoam, lackluster coleslaw, better signage for people – should create a separate line for takeout and dine-in to keep the line moving, more options would be nice including something a little sweet

And that bring us to the conclusion of Fish Fry Fridays for 2016. Ledcat and I conclude that the overall best fish fry goes to the Assumption Church in Bellevue. We are divided on the rest of the rankings. Best fish sandwich goes to the Elks. Best coleslaw also goes to Assumption. Best mac and cheese goes to St. James.

The biggest improvement this year was the introduction of credit card/debit payments at several of the venues. The biggest disappointment has been the lack of attention to environmental/recycling issues. The most consistent factor has been the lack of engagement – almost none of these venues (including the Elks) used this opportunity to raise awareness about their venues, programs, services, etc. Lots of missed opportunities.

We hope to be back next year with more fish fry reports. Until then, keep reading the other content!

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