A few years ago, Tony Colyer bragged to some former high school buddies that his alma mater (St. Bernard â€™97) had the best fish in town. Naturally, they quickly protested that their respective parishes hosted top-of-the-line fish frys, and a debate ensued. The solution to settling the issue was obvious to Tony and his pal, Jeff Ames: They decided to try them all, and, thus, the Fish Fry Challenge was born.
In its third year, the Fish Fry Guys are back on the hunt for the fish fry that will take top honors in 2012. Past winners include St. Bernard and St. Raphael.
Each Friday, Tony and Jeff lead a group they call â€œFryarsâ€ on a journey for good food, old friends and cold beer at local fish frys. They also go because they appreciate the selfless volunteers who proudly serve each weekend. This is the first installment in their foray to find which parish provides the perfect catch.
St. Patrick Church, 1000 North Beckley Station Road
For most, it was just Feb. 24, but for the twenty-five Fryars â€“ as we call ourselves â€“ who kicked off the 2012 Fish Fry Challenge, it was St. Patrickâ€™s Day. And the Celtics did not disappoint. With great food, cold beer, a great venue and the ever-so-warm reception, St. Patrick set the bar high for 2012.
Fish: St. Patrick served up a steaming hot, hand-breaded white cod on delicious marble rye bread. The single filet portion was certainly large enough, and the peppery breading gave it a subtle kick that pleased the taste buds. Points for temperature as well. Some of the Fryars voiced their desire for a little more fish, a little less breading and it was pointed out that the a la carte style menu versus a dinner option was rather unorthodox. But $4.50 for a sandwich was certainly reasonably priced.
Fryarâ€™s Score: 3.65 of 5.00
Sides/Desserts: One word echoed through the Fryarsâ€™ ballots on this category: Dairy Queen Blizzards. In a breathtaking display of ingenuity and good olâ€™ fashioned financial resources, St. Patrickâ€™s served a variety of Blizzards for dessert. Most Fryars were equally impressed by the fries, although others found them a little too salty. Feelings regarding the mac & cheese were mixed, some giving two thumbs up approval and others finding it just a tad creamy. Props to the Celtics for (ahem) â€œrollingâ€ out the oysters too.
Fryarâ€™s Score: 3.80 of 5.00
Beer: Serve â€™em cold, serve â€™em cheap and serve â€™em quick is the name of the game. The Celtics did it right. They featured three tap beers, including Miller Lite, Coors Lite, and Killianâ€™s. Ice cold and very reasonably priced at $2 a pop for 16 oz. Some Fryars (not this one) noticed no Bud Light, no canned beer, and at least one noted a lack of variety. Extra points for the immediate presentation upon entrance.
Fryarâ€™s Score: 3.93 of 5.00
Venue: The Celtic Center was an exceptional locale for fish to be fried â€˜n tried. The very organized, pay-then-play system cut the line-standing to about 15 minutes, which was remarkable for Fish Fry rush hour. In the large gym, seating was plentiful and gave the Fryars plenty of room to roam. The only negative brought to the Boardâ€™s attention Â was the short hike up the hill.
Fryarâ€™s Score: 4.49 of 5.00
Friendliness: The Board admits its general preference for the good â€˜ol boys club of frys that run South of I-64, and the hills of Lake Forest are generally out of its comfort zone.
That said, the Fryars were indeed touched by the authentically warm reception, which gave the Celtics one of the highest marks here that will be seen this season. The Celtics are a lot of fun.
Fryarâ€™s Score: 4.57 out of 5.00
Overall: Indeed, the good folks at St. Patrick know how to put on a party. And they proved this to the Fryars on February 24, which will go down in Fish Fry Challenge history as â€œSt. Patrickâ€™s Day.â€
Good food, cold beerÂ and great people have set a high standard for 2012.
Fryarâ€™s Overall Score: 4.00 of 5.00
Contact the Fish Fry Guys at YourVoice@voice-tribune.com.