A Lenten benefit: Where to catch a Friday fish fry

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The Friday Night Fish Fry during Lent is a tradition that harkens back to the era when Catholics refrained from eating meat on Fridays. They have expanded to being a meal that fish-lovers look forward to all year. Typically featuring all-you-can-eat basics including battered and deep-fried cod or pollock with fries and coleslaw, there are far more places to sample than there are Fridays in Lent.

Restaurants, veteran's organizations, country clubs and Catholic schools and churches will hook the hungry with Lenten platters that most often range from $9.95 to $12.95. Some places offer lunch as well as dinner.

The Pioneer Press has developed an annual tradition of compiling a comprehensive list places where fish-lovers can dig in on this popular comfort food. Most of the 22 spots on this year's list are in the east metro or in western Wisconsin.

The Catholic Spirit offers an online list of Friday night fish dinners at metro area Catholic schools, churches and Knights of Columbus halls, where proceeds are often used for parish projects. The Yelp website has customer reviews of Friday fish fries at Twin Cities restaurants and also offers readers a feature to help them locate the ones closest to them.

WCCO's website has a story by food writer Amy Rea, who reviewed some of the churches that serve on Friday nights. She said that the Church of St. Albert the Great in south Minneapolis is "possibly the best known for its memorable and tasty fish," and notes that there's Bingo, too. For diners seeking different flavors, she suggests the Holy Family Maronite Church in Mendota Heights, where the fish fry has a Lebanese theme.

Rea is no food snob. Fast food fish sandwiches are heavily promoted during the 40 days of Lent, and she has a first choice. "This may surprise you," she writes, "but the seasonal walleye dinner or sandwich at Culvers can be a quick, tasty and cheap way to get your fried-fish jones satisfied."

In 2013 the GrubGrade website had an online poll with readers about their choice for the best fast food fish sandwich, an item often heavily promoted during Lent. Arby's came in first in the nonscientific poll. A food critic at the Houston Press arrived at the same conclusion. After sampling five fast food fish sandwiches, she acknowledged the irony of finding her fave at a place known for beef. She wrote of the Arby's sandwich, "the fillet of fish was not shaped in the standard square that most fast-food chains serve; it was in the shape of an actual fillet of fish, and it had a true fish flavor. The sesame seed bun complemented the fish fillet because it was the perfect size for the fish."

Let's go!

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