Fish Fry Friday: 2017 Wrap-Up, Best Winners Announced

The end of another year of #FishFryFriday reviews of local fish fries in the Pittsburgh area. We missed one week, but we did include a Shrove Tuesday event so that events out. Here are this years reviews

Shrove Tuesday February 28 – Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner Calvary United Methodist Church (Northside)

Friday, March 3 – Fish Fry Friday: Return to Church of the Assumption (Bellevue)

Friday, March 10 – Fish Fry Friday: St. Peter & Our Lady Queen of Peace on #NorthsidePgh

Friday, March 25 – Fish Fry Friday: St. Teresa of Avila (Perrysville)

Friday, March 31 – Fish Fry Friday: Judah Fellowship (Hill District)

Friday, April 7 – Fish Fry Friday: St. Maximilian Kolbe (Homestead)

Friday, April 14 – Fish Fry Friday: Elks Lodge 339 (Northside)

A few of these are regulars on our rotation while others are new to us. Our ability to travel to certain parts of town has everything to do with Ledcat’s work schedule, traffic/construction on Friday rush hours times and the hours of the fish fry.

Let’s start with the two most significant things that could be improved at ALL of the fish fries – community engagement and environmental stewardship.

Community engagement includes everything from who says hello to the guests/customers to the information about your congregation or establishment. If you want me to return as a guest, member, ally, friend or any other capacity, you have to do some work to make me feel welcome. Roll out your extroverts and put them to work. Put out printed materials telling me about your community and describing options for me to get further involved. When are your services? What is your history? Who is your leader? Why do you want me to be there in the first place? What is the fish fry funding?

This is a transactional opportunity and a chance to turn me from a once a year fish fry visitor to a more involved member of your community. It is also just good manners. I don’t feel good when I come to break bread with you and no one talks with me beyond a perfunctory exchange. You can’t put that burden on a few shoulders; it should be inculcated in everyone involved. They don’t have to chat me up, but you’d be surprised how much impact a few roving greeters can have. Maybe I’m not going to join your church, but I might come back for other fundraisers.

One note. Ask your members not to wear “MAGA” hats. I get how free speech works in small groups and maybe you don’t want to have that conversation, but I am telling you this – when I walk into any social space and see obvious leaders of that space boasting that hat, I know BEYOND A DOUBT that I am not welcome and not truly safe in that space. One of the spaces we visited this year featured that lovely hat and I will never go there again.

The environmental stewardship is a significant issue. The fish fries are doing harm to the earth and to our communities based on the waste they produce. This is the reason – the sole reason – I might discontinue this feature. I can’t stand to see so much styrofoam used along with disposable everything. There was no evidence of recycling, even of cans and bottles, but I allow for the fact that maybe it takes place behind the scenes. This is especially worrisome when it comes to communities focused on children (aka Catholic Schools) which should be recycling warriors.

What I’d love to see is the Diocese of Pittsburgh (and the Elks regional lodges) team up with the Pennsylvania Resources Council to apply zero waste techniques to the fish fries and other community events. Leveraging the assets of the larger diocese will make it more fiscally possible to implement even small changes in the poorest of the parishes. If the Diocese coordinated the purchase of compostable plates and tableware on a diocesan scale, for example. Or implemented a composting program at every Catholic school – you can’t compost fish, but you can certainly compost many of the side dishes.

Altogether, these two steps could actually revive the fish fry as a Pittsburgh-centric fundraiser and destination. There are thousands of Millenials who’ve never set foot in some of these older, historic churches. They need a reason to reconnect with their heritage and the heritage of their communities. I don’t want an orange infused craft fish sandwich with rings of sunflowers on bread baked during the whole moon. I want good food and a reason to turn out. I have about a million ideas, but I’ll leave it at this.

So, those are my two ongoing concerns that apply to each place we visited. My third issue is accessibility – many of the spaces are accessible, but that information is hard to find either on the website or online in general. There’s poor signage. I feel this is a poor showing from communities of faith and service organizations purporting to serve the community. You can all do better.

That brings us to our ‘Best Of’ for 2017. This is purely based on my opinion with some of Ledcat’s opinions.  I type up the reviews, but she usually drives.

Best Fish Sandwich – The Elks. Excellent batter and a proportional size that wasn’t wasteful.

Best Cole Slaw – Assumption Parish. This is literally the best coleslaw we’ve both ever had.

Best Macaroni & Cheese – Judah Fellowship. Reverend Shanea Leonard handmakes a creamy goodness that is untouched

Best Pierogie – St. Maximillian. O.M.G. These were like heaven in a styrofoam (sigh) cup.

Best Overall Fish Fry – Assumption Parish. Diverse & tasty menu, more incorporation of reusable items, organized, accessible & lots of friendly faces among the student servers.

And that brings us to the end of the 2017 Fish Fry Friday season. We’ll see you on Wednesday February 14, 2018. I can’t wait to see the kerfluffle over Ash Wednesday coinciding with Valentine’s Day.


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