Just because we’re into the being “the new North” doesn’t mean we don’t have a deep love of some throwback institutions like a rockin’ Lenten fish fry—and don’t you dare say ironic, we’re legit-ly into them. And to get you into them, too, Liz B. is ourFish Fry Finder for this season. #blessed! She’s going to help you explore some of the delicious fish + sides + desserts + maybe even beer options that the Twin Cities has to offer.
The Cardinal is like one of those big boat cars with the plush bench seating, driving down Hiawatha, blasting The Eagles. Comfortable, mostly clean, family friendly, accessible. Easy like Friday night in South MPLS.
The restaurant was pretty packed at 5:45 PM, but we managed to snag the last table available. Pitchers of domestic beer are only $11 from 4 to 6 PM, so we loaded up while the deal was on. Our group of seven ordered our baskets of fish fry at a leisurely pace, and they were delivered in a similarly leisurely fashion, popping out of the kitchen in ones and twos.
The baskets are loaded up with two to three filets of beer battered cod, a pile of fries, a bit of tartar sauce, a little cup of hearty coleslaw, and two triangles of buttered wheat toast. The table is stocked with ketchup and malt vinegar. The flavor of the fish was good, but we found that the quality of the fry was somewhat inconsistent. The first few baskets had an overdone-ness to the fish, but it wasn’t altogether bad. It made the fish filets a tad more chewy. The next few baskets seemed to be at the correct level of done-ness. The fries were also inconsistently fried, some were tepid, and some were crispy.
They are not joking when they say All You Can Eat (AYCE) here. We were offered more fish before we were finished with our first baskets. We took the offer, and then it was expanded to all of the sides! We got more coleslaw. That stuff is great. The second basket of fish was expertly done. Dripping with grease, piping hot, crispy crispy goodness. Hallelujah!
The Cardinal Bar is a perfect balance of dive bar and family restaurant. They have a claw game where you could win a Garfield stuffed toy, pool tables in the back of the room, and a shelf of activity books and games. I took my notes on a page from the Old Testament coloring book I found on that shelf, which felt very appropriate.
The Cardinal Restaurant & Bar. All you can eat fish fry. Fridays, 5-9 pm. Beer battered cod, coleslaw, french fries, and bread. $10.95
Scorecard: Taste: 6.9 Atmosphere: 8 Religiosity: 1.5
Also consider: The Rail Station circa 2012, RIP. 5-8 Club.
The Cardinal, 2920 E 38th St, MPLS; cardinaltavern.com