Whether you observe Lent or, like us, you just can't pass up a great fish fry, Cleveland is blessed to have no shortage of places that make meat-less Fridays more gain than pain. Below is short listing of places that do it well.
The Public House (17219 Lorain Ave., 216-252-6608)
For years, this Kamm's Corner institution has set the bar for fish fries. Using a famous batter recipe that literally has been "handed down through generations," this west-side pub's grub is as traditional as they come. For $15, diners get lightly breaded and expertly fried Lake Erie perch served with fresh-cut fries, housemade coleslaw, and the Kelly Family recipe for Irish Soda bread. Get here early, says co-owner Therese Chambers Arth, because "Our fish fry is served from 11 a.m. till there is no more!"
Prosperity Social Club (1109 Starkweather Ave., 216-937-1938)
Prosperity Social Club's Lenten fish fries are such a hit, the Tremont pub opens up early for Friday lunches, a break from tradition — and it runs clear up to 2 a.m. to meet demand. One bite and you'll understand why: Prosperity uses fresh haddock, which is beer-battered by hand and cooked to order. The large portion of flaky white fish is sided by homemade mac and cheese, coleslaw and the house tartar sauce ($10.50/lunch; $12.50/dinner). "Pair with an old-school Schlitz or craft draft and you have a solid winner!" promises owner Bonnie Flinner. We couldn't agree more.
The Academy Tavern (12800 Larchmere Blvd., 216-229-1171)
How can you argue with seven-plus decades of fish fry experience? You can't, that's how. "We have the best fish fry," boasts owner Sam Gantous. "We have been doing it since 1939." Rather than argue with Gantous, simply stop into this Shaker Square-area landmark and judge for yourself. The Academy's fish fry is also famous for its variety; diners can select from pike, ocean perch, tilapia, catfish or walleye ($9.95-$11.95). Each platter includes fries and creamy coleslaw. Not able to make it on a Friday? No sweat; The Academy offers these killer fish dishes on Thursdays and Saturdays as well.
St. Dominic School (3455 Norwood Rd., 216-991-1444)
Hours: 5-8 p.m. Fridays through March 30
After 20-some years, Father Tom Fanta of St. Dominic School in Shaker Heights felt it was time to upgrade the fish fry. So he called upon self-described fish fry pros Kathleen and Leo Pullella to revamp the whole magillah. They quickly got to work on a new family friendly menu built around fresh ingredients prepared by veteran cooks. "We have a professional team that has a passion for great food and fun," explains Kathleen Pullella. On the bill of fare is a choice of fresh-fried cod, baked lemon-pepper cod, jumbo coconut shrimp, pierogi and mac-and-cheese dinners ($10). All are served with baked potato, fries or baked sweet potato and coleslaw, dinner roll, coffee, tea and even a dessert.
Saint Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral (3352 Mayfield Rd., 216-932-3300
Hours: 5-8 p.m. Fridays through March 30
What's better than a towering platter of crunchy fried fish? An all-you-can-eat fish fry dinner, that's what. And that's precisely what you get at Saint Constantine in Cleveland Heights, a favorite stop among near-eastsiders. This AYCE feast includes hand-breaded and fried whitefish, French fries or rice pilaf, coleslaw, roll and butter, coffee or tea ($9.50). If you are not in the mood for all that food, you can choose baked or fried walleye, deep-fried shrimp, calamari, clam chowder and mac-and-cheese dinners as well. Don't skip the homemade Greek pastries like the heavenly baklava. Best part? Saint Constantine sells beer and wine!
St. Helen Catholic Church (12060 Kinsman Rd., 440-564-5805)
Hours: 4:30-7 p.m. Fridays through March 30.
Taking the trip to Newbury is not the end of the world, especially when they are dishing out serious fish fry dinners. For 13 years now, this small parish has been growing its fish fry business to the point where more than 200 patrons arrive each Friday during Lent. A key to their success is the all-you-can-eat, cafeteria-style service with beer-battered or baked cod ($10), fries, coleslaw or applesauce, macaroni and cheese, roll and butter, and the "special of the week." The special of the week might be cabbage and noodles, or pierogi casserole. "Come one and come all to enjoy a night of friendship and community...and a lot of good food," says Linda Koeth.
With reporting by Jason Beaudert