Fish fry season is officially in swing, and there are dozens of Twin Cities restaurants that get into the act. Here are eight that I recommend.
St. Paul: 7th Street Social
One person’s “fish fry” is another’s “fish and chips.” The formula is easy: cod, lightly battered in a Summit Extra Pale Ale-fueled batter, served with a hefty handful of salty, skin-on fries and a house-made tartar sauce (pictured, above). It’s a single-serving portion, and the usual $13 price is knocked down to $8, through April 14. “Some people who are used to all-you-can-eat were confused, but it’s a hefty portion, and we’re giving you a good deal,” said manager Britta Torkelson. Make that a great deal. “We did it last year for the first time, and it was the Wild West in here,” she added with a laugh. “We’re expecting a big crowd again this year.” When it comes to navigating the bar’s all-Minnesota tap roster, Torkelson suggests Summit’s Sagá IPA, “something hoppy to cut through the fatty greasiness of fish and chips,” she said. “Or my current favorite, Tallander, from Bauhaus Brew Labs. It’s a Scottish-style dark ale, and it really lends itself to fried foods.”
St. Paul: The Little Oven
In the fish fry pantheon, this huge-portions/low-prices East Sider owns the Embarrassment of Riches edition. Get this: beer-battered, hand-cut cod filets, served with a choice of potato (fries, hash browns, baked), a daily vegetable, a soup-or-salad option and a freshly baked popover. Cod can be ordered by the piece (three is $11.99, four is $12.99), or by the all-you-can-eat option ($14.99), and it’s available daily through April 15. The Little Oven has plenty of fish fry experience. “We’ve been doing it forever, and ever, and ever,” said manager Joe Lindgren. “We’ve been here since 1990, and the pizza place that was here before us did a fish fry, too. There has been a fish fry on this corner since the 1980s.”
St. Paul: Groveland Tap
Every Friday, Mac-Groveland’s corner (well, close-to-the-corner) bar does the fish fry thing, and goes the all-you-can-eat route ($11.59), serving Grain Belt Premium-battered swai, fries and coleslaw. The beer to drink? No. 1 Kölsch-Style Ale, from sibling restaurant/brewery Freehouse in Minneapolis, of course (drop in during happy hour — 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and 10 p.m. to close — for $2.50 taps). Here’s another advantage: the kitchen remains in fish-fry mode for 13 1/2 hours, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
St. Paul: Citizen Supper Club
During Friday lunch (11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) at this stylish downtowner — it’s located on the first floor of the InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront Hotel — the fish fry is reconsidered as a blue plate special. “We’re a scratch kitchen, and we take pride in that,” said chef Jennifer Farni. “We’ve come a long way from the days of the Radisson spinning rooftop restaurant.” Indeed. Fresh cod from Coastal Seafoods gets a tempura-style batter, and it’s served with fries and a house-made tartar sauce. This isn’t an all-you-can-eat scenario, but the bargain price of $8.97 also includes a nonalcoholic beverage. Sales are brisk, but Friday’s blue plate special isn’t as popular as Meatloaf Monday. “Which did so well we ended up putting it on permanently,” said Farni. “It sells really well, but now I’m deathly tired of making meatloaf.”
Lake Elmo: Machine Shed
This vast, family-friendly, Iowa-based chain is the place for a crowd (and, yes, reservations are accepted), particularly on Friday, when the all-you-can-eat fish fry is the daily special. It’s all about choices, and bounty. The fish is Atlantic cod, served either broiled or beer-battered. There’s a lengthy list of potato options: mashed, garlic mashed, baked, fries, sweet potato baked and sweet potato fries, and the potato-averse can select wild rice pilaf. As for the side dishes, they include a seasonal veggie, applesauce, coleslaw and bread. It’s a year-round tradition, served 3 to 10 p.m., and cost is $13.49 per person.
Minneapolis: Cafe Maude
During this time of year, Friday night embraces the fish fry at this southwest Minneapolis charmer. All-you-can-eat? No. But for $18, chef Michael Morton serves tempura-battered Alaskan cod (and plenty of tartar sauce) with well-seasoned potato wedges and coleslaw. It’s available from 5 to 11 p.m. Bonus: the bar’s craft cocktails and mocktails.
Minneapolis: Red Stag Supperclub
Those in search of the all-you-can-eat format that’s deeply ingrained into the Wisconsin supper club’s Friday fish fry tradition should look elsewhere. Better yet, consider recalibrating expectations, because this year-round rendition (available 5 to 10:30 p.m.) totally deserves its cult following. Chef Sarah Master isn’t content with merely offering cod, but tosses in the choice of walleye or perch, making each fish available in single and double basket sizes ($12 to $19) served with addictive malt vinegar potato chips, coleslaw and a sweet onion-laced tartar sauce. The kitchen’s other nod to northern Wisconsin culinary culture — its excellent rendition of smelt fries — is totally worth the $9 price.
Minneapolis: Gluek's Restaurant & Bar
This historic downtown watering hole is the setting for a long-running Twin Cities' fish fry experience. It's all-you-can-eat beer-battered cod, plus hush puppies, fries and coleslaw. Price? $13.95, and served every Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For those in search of the definitive Catholic church fish fry listing, the Catholic Spirit has answered your prayers. Go here for the publication's exhaustive roster of parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and start reading; there are nearly 100 churches on the list (that's last year's jam-packed dinner at St. Albert the Great in Minneapolis, pictured, above).
And for those in search of advice regarding a different kind of fish fry -- fish sandwiches at six fast-food places -- find my 2016 guide here. (That's my favorite -- the fish sandwich from My Burger -- pictured, above).
Where's your favorite fish fry place? Share the details in the comments section, or hit me up at email@example.com.