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 our Fish 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.
Friends, I have a confession to make. I was growing weary of all of the fish. This week it was difficult to muster up the strength to return to yet another Friday Fish Fry, but I did it for you. And boy, I am glad that I did. The Holy Family Maronite Friday Fish Fry is unlike any other in town, thanks to their Lebanese side dishes. 

It’s a fairly standard set up: buy your ticket, wait in line. The price is a little steep for a church fish fry at $15, but believe me, it’s very well worth it. Once you’ve reached the front of the line you’ll be shuttled through a series of friendly and welcoming church moms and grandmas. The church ladies will serve you baked or fried pollack, Lebanese green beans in a red sauce, a nutty rice pilaf, fried cabbage, Lebanese salad (think Caesar but a tangy-er dressing), and flatbread served with garlic sauce. Snag a piece of confetti cake from the dessert table, too. 
Everything is very good. We admired the crispiness and lightness of the fried pollack. The baked pollack was not as enticing, but a nice option to have. The sides are really the stars of the show. The fried cabbage is sinfully buttery and I want to bathe in it. The green beans in red sauce are so simple but incredibly tasty. The garlic sauce and I are getting married. Try putting the garlic sauce on your green beans, stir it in the cabbage, or just dip your fish in there. It works with everything, except maybe the confetti cake. Thankfully, this is a true AYCE dinner, there is absolutely no shaming and no questioning if you return to the serving area for another plate with anything you’d like. I wish I could live there. 
Tip: Snag a $3 container of garlic sauce on your way in the door, they do sell out and may not be available as you exit. You’ll want to take this magic home with you. 

Scorecard:   Taste: 9   Atmosphere: 6.9   Religiosity: 5

Holy Family Maronite Catholic Church – 1960 Lexington Avenue S Mendota Heights, MN 55118  
   4:30-7:00 P.M. Fridays through March 23.
Also consider: nothing else. There are no similar substitutes. 

Bonus Finder: 
Lentchilada Lunch, by Erica E.:

At a fish fry recently the question came up: why is fish okay for Catholics but not meat? The best answer I could come up with was, “I dunno, because Jesus ate fish?” (I recommend this fascinating history but here’s the short answer: the Catholic church decreed that thou shalt not eat any warm-blooded flesh, but cold-blooded fish is fine. Ok then!) Catholics are not very good at being vegetarian so their solution to meat-free Fridays is fish. All the time, fish. Says the 15th century English schoolboy: “Though wyll not beleve how werey I am off fysshe.” I hear ye, kid. 

If you’re looking for a meat-free alternative to fish on Fridays, head to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on the West Side of St. Paul. Their Lenten Enchilada Dinner goes from 11:30 – 6:30. Pay $6 for 1 enchilada, and $10 for 3, plus rice and beans. (Rice and beans! The meat-free staples of ancient civilizations!) I went with coworkers for lunch, and it was delightfully not-crowded around 11:45. The service at Guadalupe is truly the highlight of the experience – first, they help you find a seat for your entire group. There is an adorable tiny chip/salsa appetizer waiting for you at the tables decorated with paper flowers. Your dinner will be delivered to you, as will water and coffee refills. As for the food, everything was tasty without being mind-blowing, and very filling. Then comes the dessert cart – full of many delicious handmade options. Our Lady really knows how to class up a church dinner, and I found myself wondering where the tip jar was to reward all the helpers. The 1 enchilada option left me comfortably sated and not so full that I would fall asleep during afternoon meetings. Still, if you can’t finish your large dinner, they’ll set you up with a to-go box.  

If you’re in St. Paul for lunch or can make it for an early dinner, head to the west side! Take a break from fighting for tables to eat fish again. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church 401 Concord St, St Paul, MN 55107  http://www.olgcatholic.org/announcements/11:30am-6:00pm Fridays through March 30.