Have you made fish fry plans? If not, you’re going to miss out.
As my friends know, fish fry season is one of my favorite times of the year. It gets me through that dismal period after the holiday season has ended and it’s still too cold to do anything outside.
You see, fish fry season isn’t just a practical way for Catholics to fulfill their Lenten obligations of not eating meat; it’s a paradise of delicious pop-up restaurants, sprouting out of the woodwork of churches whose parishioners know how to cook that ethnic food you grew up on as well as—or even better than—your grandmother.
If that’s not enough to convince you, here are some more reasons why you should attend a fish fry in the Parma area this season.
1. Parma is the fish fry capital of the world. It’s true, it’s been scientifically proven. Anthony Bourdain is actually on his way over to confirm. But in the meantime, I can assure you from personal experience. After trying to find a fish fry outside of Philly, I discovered they were few and far between and, worse, their idea of a Friday in Lent was serving meatless spaghetti—disturbing. Parma’s frys boast ethnic comfort food that’s so scrumptious you won’t even miss the meat. Plus, we have a ton of churches, most of which will be serving food, so there are more options within the city than enough Lenten Fridays to try them all!
2. You don’t have to be Catholic; you just have to be hungry. Fish fries are open to the public, so don’t feel weird walking in. If you’re really hungry, St. Fancis de Sales is all you can eat!
3. You can enjoy a “real” pierogi. It makes me cringe when people say, “Oh yeah, I love pierogies, my fridge is stocked with Mrs. T’s.” My family gets our pierogies year round from St. Andrew Ukrainian, where parishioners hand make them using techniques passed down for generations. Parma has a Polish and Ukrainian heritage so the same goes for most of the city’s churches. Come down and try a real pierogi—potato, cottage cheese or (my favorite) sauerkraut all soaked in butter and onions. And make sure to put some sour cream on top! You’ll never go back to the freezer aisle again.
4. You don’t have to like or eat fish. The real feature of Parma fish frys is honestly the pierogies for reasons I explained. Other non-fishy options include potato pancakes, noodles and cabbage and even mac and cheese or pizza. Lots of places, such as St. Anthony of Padua, have breaded shrimp too if that’s still inside your comfort zone, or maybe try St. Columbkille’s clam chowder. You can even explore a cup of borscht (a soup that gets its purple color from beets, and which I find tastes much like delicious cabbage soup) at St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian. If you’re into Italian food, St. John Bosco’s is catered by Bruno’s Ristorante and features manicotti and eggplant lasagna (way better than plain meatless spaghetti).
5. You can find healthy options. Ok, the Lake Erie perch is to die for, and I count the cabbage and noodles soaked in butter as a vegetable, but if you’re trying to stick to your diet many churches offer salmon or other baked fish, and even baked potatoes.
6. You can have a beer. It’s not a sin to drink, Jesus did! You’ll find beer and wine at St John Bosco’s, or a fun selection of Ukranian brews at St. Vladimir Orthodox Cathedral. Other local organizations and bars hosting frys are also good places to have a beer with your fish and chips, such as German Central Foundation, The Parma Elks, Ridgewood Inn and The Union House. Some places even have entertainment, such as Holy Family.
7. You can take it home. If you’d rather stay in, you can enjoy a fry to go. Many places, such as St. Charles Borromeo offer carry out orders.
8. You’re supporting the local community. Whether you follow the Catholic faith or not, hopefully we can all agree that it’s important to support the local community, and churches do a lot for the community. So do local organizations, such as the American Legion Post 703. It’s also a great way to come out and meet your neighbors or experience the friendly, down-to-earth nature of the city’s residents.
Fish fry season is short. You only have seven chances to enjoy them, so plan ahead and make them count. See a full list of fish frys in the Cleveland area on Cleveland.com.
Post authored by Kathie Zipp.