Welcome back to Fish Fry Fridays, 2018 Edition! Click here to learn more about this project.
Name: Church of the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary (Bellevue)
Date: February 16, 2018
Time We Ate: 6:15 PM
Random review of #fishburgh adventures during Lent. Find a fish fry on this map! You can also follow them on Facebook and find tons of reviews and suggestions. And vote in The Incline’s Fish Fry bracket.
In review, the factors we assess include:
- Atmosphere/Volunteer Friendliness/Engagement
- Menu: variety, portions, taste and price
- LGBTQ cultural competency
- Ecofactors such as reusable/disposable items, recycling bins, takeout containers
Assumption is a favorite destination for us so we decided to put it at the top of our schedule for the first Friday of Lent.
It was a chilly night as we headed into Bellevue from the Northside. Traffic was on the heavy side and all cars seemed point toward the church. But we got there and found a parking spot in the outside lot (it does have meters so beware) across from the church. It was so cold that I didn’t stop to notice if the usual giant fish sign was in the ground yet directing people to the side of the building. Our ground is frozen so I imagine not, but please correct me if I’m wrong.
Nonetheless the throngs of people will lead you to the door. I want to take a moment here to say that after last year’s review where I stated that I did not see an accessible entrance MANY people contacted me to assure me that there is a ramp on the other side of the building which is actually the front of the hall. They sent me photos, testimonials, absolute affirmations. So the space is in fact accessible.
When we darted into the hall, the line was longer than we usually experience. And that hall was bustling with youth and adult volunteers. It actually felt very good to be back, especially when I saw my friend Angela who is an adult coordinator of the youth servers.
Assumption has an organized system. One line for ‘to go’ orders and one for ‘dine in’ folks. Lots of menus spread out so you can make your choices while in line. Three people at a table taking ‘dine in’ orders who are friendly, but keep things moving briskly along. They do take credit/debit cards which may take an extra moment to process because it is part of one person’s phone, but still pretty efficient. They also gently remind us about patience.
Ledcat and I have refined out system over these years, a divide and conquer approach. We typically each order a dinner plate with different sides so we can both try everything. Our must haves are a fish sandwich, mac & cheese, cole slaw, and pierogies (if available.) Our other entree might be fried shrimp or baked fish. Sometimes, we go rogue and order soup or haluski.
This time, Ledcat ordered a fish sandwich with mac & cheese and a side of applesauce. I opted for the fried shrimp with pierogies and a side of cole slaw. I also ordered clam chowder which is my weakness. A choice of iced tea, lemonade, water or coffee was included with the option of a can of pop for $1. A meal was $11 (the soup was extra) so our grand total was $25 plus the $2 we donated to the dessert table. The price has increased by $2 since 2014, but it is still a good deal considering the portions and that this is a fundraiser.
Our host led us to a table where we were able to sit side by side which makes sharing our food a bit easier. And that’s when I saw the new placemats. I almost wept. The placemat is a list of upcoming events and a clear inscription inviting fish fry patrons to join
Okay, so it’s a little bit Jesus loaded, but it is heading in the right direction toward converting a fundraiser into an ongoing relationship. Good job, Assumption placemat person.
As usual, the youth make this event sparkle. They are so earnest and trying so hard to do a good job. I think they tried to clear my place setting 9 times while I was still eating. It was adorable and uplifting to see them working to support their own fundraiser, learning life skills, etc.
I had to chuckle though that when we needed a drink refill and a table cleaning, they were nowhere to be found. I looked around and quickly saw the reason – the tall, handsome Student Council President strolled into the room and had some sort of magnetic impact, drawing all the youth to him. I smothered a laugh and resisted the temptation to ask him to use that charisma to refill my lemonade. I see a future College Young Republican in the making. But he should be conscious on how he uses his charm when there’s a room filled with middle-aged people who are not awe-struck, but do need some tartar sauce and extra napkins. You know, the people actually paying for his fiefdom 🙂
So let’s talk food.
The portion of fish was really big, 1 2/2 pieces easily which did not even begin to fit on the round bun. The fish was fine, but just ‘meh’ – it lacked any zest and the batter was lackluster. But it was fine. My shrimp were actually perfectly cooked and that batter was pretty tasty.
The mac and cheese took a turn for the better this year. Last year, it was not good especially compared to previous years. But this year it was less orange soupish and more yellow casseroley. The pierogies, we learned, were purchased frozen by one of the volunteers with Eastern European roots who knows the value of a good pierogie. So they were basically heated up, but they were tasty. I’d order them again. And the clam chowder was pretty good, too.
That leaves us with the world-famous cole slaw, made with the recipe of a church member who used to run a catering company. This cole slaw is the stuff of legends – it takes mincing to a new form of culinary art, with just the right mix of creaminess and zesty tang.
Dessert was your typical array of home-baked goodies, all nicely wrapped in saran wrap which in this flu season is good to see. We both had cake and it was perfectly lovely.
In terms of engagement, they’ve done a good job with the placemat and having the youth servers engage the patrons. They had a few folks selling 50/50 tickets and there was a general raffle on the side, but no one was hustling – perhaps a good job for Mr. Charisma? And I still remain puzzled that no one ever 1) asks us to sign up for an email list or 2) asks us to like the page on Facebook. I do applaud that the bathroom is gender neutral.
The eco-factor continues to be perhaps the most unChristian element of these fish fries. Because this is a school, they serve the entree and some side dishes on real plates and use real silverware. But everything else is styrofoam as far as the eye can see. There’s also not a shred of evidence that anything is recycled, not even the pop cans. It is truly demoralizing that these kids are not modeling and promoting more respect for the environment. But this is true of every single fish fry we visit, especially the Catholic ones. I continue to say that the diocese needs to step in and address this across the region.
What about LGBTQ friendliness? Well, we both feel pretty comfortable, but I did note something. As we ate dinner, we learned that a beloved member of our family was having surgery and in critical condition. I most decidedly did not feel comfortable being open about comforting one another, not even a hug. And that was something we discussed as we talked about her condition. That’s the barrier that no placemat or friendly greeting can overcome. Sigh.
Overall, Assumption is one of the better fish fries and delivers a consistent experience. I’ve heard that the school is on the shortlist to be closed next year which would probably derail future fish fries, so go while you can.
Pros: food quality and portions, prices, volunteers, accessibility, takes credit cards, placemat and cole slaw
Cons: reliance on styrofoam, lack of recycling, potential to be shuttered by diocese, lack of hustle around fundraising beyond the food
If you have suggestions for us regarding fish fries, please leave a comment. Tell us your favorite. See you next week!