Fish Fry Friday: Elks Lodge 339

Welcome to Fish Fry Fridays, 2018 Edition! Click here to learn more about this project.

Name: The ELKS Lodge 339 (Northside) 

Date: March 29, 2018

Time We Ate: 5:50 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 bracketThere’s a winner!

In review, the factors we assess 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 wrap up the year, as we have in years past, by stopping by the Elks Lodge for dinner. I have to admit that when I revisited previous reviews I was taken aback to realize how little has changed, right down to my taking pretty much the same photos from year to year. That’s a little eerie. Check out our visit to the Elks in 2017 and in 2016.

This lodge is located on Cedar Avenue in the Northside neighborhood known as both East Allegheny and Deutschtown. There’s plenty of street parking available. They have a jaunty sidewalk sign and a big rainbow fish windsock to bring in the folks.

We decided to head over early to avoid a crowd and because we were both hungry after skipping lunch. I walked in the door about 5:20 while Ledcat parked. Everything was set up with about a dozen people also arriving early. I was asked to seat myself, then come up to place my order at 5:30 sharp – but also encouraged to order a drink from the bar.

Things got a little folksy when a lady from the kitchen yelled to the ladies at the desk “We are ready back here – let’s get started” and the hungry dozen diners swarmed the desk to order. Ledcat was at the back of a line snaking down the hall and I had to call to her to make her way through. She was wearing a LL Bean trucker hat and her LL Bean winter coat so I assume everyone thought she was an upstart young boy who was looking for his mom. Sigh.

The menu remains unchanged – fish sandwiches, broiled fish, grilled cheese with the side options of french fries, cole slaw and macaroni. And stewed tomatoes. That’s it. No pierogies, no pizza, no shrimp, and no special kids menu. Fish. And sides.

We ordered the exact same items as in the past two years – fish sandwich for Ledcat, grilled cheese for me, sides of cole slaw and macaroni & cheese for us both. We both got a can of pop from the bar and I spent $15 with tips. Total. Compare that to the Our Lady of Grace prices with a plastic pitcher of wine versus a full bar. Ha.

The tables were set with colorful placemats and silverware. Small baskets with packets of condiments were spaced out. And that was it – a missed opportunity to put out information about the Elks. But a comfortable environment.

We waited about 15 minutes for our food; we were order number 3. The fish was once again covered in a delightful batter that was excellent and sort of melted in our mouths. The grilled cheese was your standard American cheese on lightly toasted white bread sort of thing. It was perfectly tasteless, but satisfying in an American cheese sort of way.

Elks Fish Fry

Also, as in years past, we differed on our macaroni & cheese opinions – Ledcat really liked this dish and I thought it was a little too pasty and definitely too peppery. The cole slaw was a letdown compared to years past, opting for a more vinegary base. It is nothing that a little swish of low-fat mayo wouldn’t fix to give it a creamier texture.

We ate everything because we were hungry. We sat back to bask in the completion of this year’s fish fry friday reviews and realized there was a line out of the door, so we cleared our plates and headed home – we were back in time to see the national news.

The big twist to this year’s festivities was the Banjo Club sampler who played us through the evening while promoting their programs and selling shirts. If you are not familiar with Banjo Club, you should definitely click this link – it’s a huge, huge Wednesday night happening in Pittsburgh. At the Elks Lodge.

Banjo Club Pittsburgh
A few members of Banjo Club preparing to perform

And that my friends is how you use a fish fry dinner to convert people from one-time supporters into long-term investors. You bring your banjos to the fish fry, distribute information & sell tee shirts.

The folks at the Elks are pretty friendly, but efficient. There’s not a lot of time for small talk at the ordering table. I asked about the pretty antiquey looking wooden cash box and got a small sigh in response so I quickly returned to giving our order. The servers were very nice and helpful. And bustling. Folks didn’t really talk with us except Laura’s childhood friend who is a member and was there with her family. It was nice to see her and chat a bit. But otherwise, I was pretty content to just sit and listen to the banjo music while I ate.

This is a reliably good fish fry that I would highly recommend to anyone who wants a piece of tasty fried fish. There’s no flash, no pizzazz, nothing to write home about (unless you are a blogger?)

In terms of sustainability, they receive moderate marks for using some reusable items (tableware) and not using styrofoam that we could see. But the paper plates were not composted which is unfortunate. I know that lodge has a slew of gardeners as members, so I’d love to see them lead the way in composting to support community gardens.

My general impression is that the Elks know that they have a good thing going with a full kitchen, a full bar, and a slew of volunteers. Based on social media chatter during the fry, most of the Northside was planning to stop by. I’d personally like to see a little more variety on the menu and I’d like to know if stewed tomatoes appeal to Millenials?

Pros: tasty fish, moderate prices, banjos

Cons: sustainability, lack of promotional materials/interaction beyond music, cole slaw sliding downhill from previous years

And that wraps up another year of fish fry friday reviews. I’ll have a summary post later this week to honor our favorites.

Thanks for reading. Here’s a Banjo Club video for your enjoyment.