Fish Fry Friday #4: Benedictine High School

I have a new rule to live by: if a fish fry is run by boys stay far away.

Benedictine High School is a private, Roman Catholic, college preparatory high school for men, located in Cleveland off Martin Luther King Boulevard. The school serves grades 9–12 and has an enrollment of just under 400 young men.

I don’t even know where to start with this disaster. OK, driving in. Apart from a sign on the road there is no indication which outbuilding houses the fish fry. I had to ask a bunch of young men who explained it was in the cafeteria, but don’t ask me where that was. I drove toward a building that said Field House and asked someone else and he explained I could park and walk under the walkway and it would be on the right. Luckily the weather was nice and the door was propped open or I wouldn’t have had a clue which door to go in. Some signage with arrows would be very helpful. Or even just someone standing in the parking lot directing people where to go. But the fish fry wasn’t all that well-attended, so that might be overkill. I should have caught the clue then.

Once I walked into the cafeteria I had to figure out what was going on. The big sign on the wall was apparently from lunch. I missed the silverware, cafeteria trays and napkins, so if you go know that it’s against the wall to your right. There were four dinners to choose from. The signs taped to a table informed me that I could have a two pieces of fried fish, one piece of baked fish, nine pieces of shrimp or eight pierogi. The dinners come with baked potato or french fries, cole slaw or applesauce, bread (grab a piece from the open bags of wheat or white bread sitting there), and coffee, tea or milk. Side orders were available for $2.50 or $3.50 depending on what you wanted. Pop was $0.50 a can. Dessert was available at a bake sale off to the side of the cafeteria. I spent $14 for my meal, sides and two cans of pop.

I was there at around 5:30 and was informed they were out of fish and it would be about 2 minutes. As I stood there they plated up a side of pierogi and a bowl of chowder and stack of crackers for me. I grabbed some condiments and my slice of bread and a pat of butter and waited. When the fish came out they started serving the people who had just walked in until one of the older men supervising noticed and had them serve me. Some of the fish had broken apart and the young man tried to give me a couple pieces parts until I pointed out to the supervisor that there were supposed to be two pieces. Awkward.

Once I paid, bought my pop and sat down I opened up the to-go box (which I requested because I knew I wouldn’t finish) and was just overwhelmed by the food service of it all. I thought I’d have a couple pierogi and chowder with a few bites of fish and pack up the rest. The chowder was the blandest, worst chowder I’ve ever had, so I popped the lid back on and will be doctoring it up tomorrow for lunch. Nothing a little dill and seasoned salt can’t fix. The pierogi did not look appetizing at all, but they weren’t as dry as they look. That was the best part of the meal. The fish was okay. It could have been moister, but it was at least edible. The cole slaw was okay. I chose the baked potato since it is easier to warm up as leftovers, although this isn’t a meal I am looking forward to eating again.

When I left at six o’clock they had run out of individual sour cream packets and had a pint of sour cream and a spoon sitting on the table with the condiments.

If you ever find yourself at this fish fry (but I wouldn’t recommend it), do yourself and order the grilled cheese. It seemed like the most popular choice.

Contact info:

Benedictine High School
2900 Martin Luther King Jr Drive
Cleveland, OH 44104

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Burton-Middlefield Rotary Pancake Breakfast

Burton is known as Pancake Town USA. Every March since 1951, Burton has been serving pancakes every spring to over 20,000 guests. It became so popular that the Burton-Middlefield Rotary Club decided to officially trademark the town as “Pancake Town USA.” Today the Rotary Club, the Century Village Museum and other groups continue to serve these annual March Sunday pancake breakfasts. Downtown Burton was packed with cars yesterday (and I would imagine every Sunday in March), as everyone parked on the square and on Main Street to enjoy the pancake breakfasts at the Century Village Museum, Red Maple Inn, the fire station and the high school and visit the Burton Log Cabin. The American Legion’s pancake breakfast is tucked away on a side street across from the entrance to the high school. I went to that one a few years ago and really enjoyed the fried potatoes.

This year the pancake breakfasts at the high school and fire station are on March 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st. The American Legion and Century Village Museum will also be hosting theirs on April 7th as well.

This year I decided to try the Burton-Middlefield Rotary Pancake Breakfast because they serve omelets in addition to all you can eat pancakes and sausage. Two of my other friends opted to go to the Fire Station for their all you can eat breakfast featuring regular, blueberry and buckwheat pancakes. I’ll try it next year.

My friends and I decided to meet at 11 on the 24th because we had an event later in Orange that started at 2. I got there shortly before they did. They parked in the post office lot, while I parked down and across the street from the high school lot, which was jam-packed with cars. I drove through the entire lot and not a single spot was free. I had an inkling this would not be a quick breakfast like the last two pancake breakfasts were. We queued up once we walked in and wound our way up the stairs and through the hallways of the school. They had pins for the visitors to mark where they came from. There was a board for Geauga County residents as well as one of Ohio. One pin was from Toledo, while several others were from Pennsylvania.

About forty minutes later we found ourselves at the table to pay, where we specified what we wanted. They took credit cards, but I happily handed over my $12 for the pancakes and sausage with an upgrade of a Western omelet. My friends ordered veggie omelets. Since they are vegetarians I got their sausage patties after we sat down. We were given a print-out indicating our order and a colored cardboard piece with a number (#1 for Western, #2 for ham and cheese, and #3 for veggie – peppers, onion, mushrooms and cheese) and handed the print-out to the person at the door to the cafeteria serving area. We wound our way through that area, grabbing a tray and silverware and collecting our pancakes and sausage patties, choice of milk (regular or chocolate) and orange juice. They then assigned us a table and whisked away our trays before we even had a chance to sit down. The omelets were quickly brought to our tables, and we handed them the colored cardboard.

The omelets were huge and really delicious. They were served with little cups of salsa, but I preferred mine just as it was. The pancakes were fluffy and had a great taste to them. The sausage was well-cooked. The coffee was in big thermoses on the table as well as cream and sugar. Real maple syrup was in squeeze bottles on the table. The tables also came equipped with wooden sticks painted in yellow and red for more “cakes” and “sausage” and green and brown for more coffee. The yellow and red sticks got a lot of use. They gladly kept serving more pancakes and sausage until we couldn’t eat any more. The woman overseeing our table whisked my plate full of leftovers away (I had stacked my plates together) and brought it back in a to-go box. I had half an omelet and four sausage patties left. I hadn’t asked for any more pancakes or sausage, but did ask for more coffee and butter as we sat down since our table was running low. Once we were finished they cleaned our plates and detritus away. Once someone left the table they were immediately there wiping the spots down and putting a placemat down for the next group of diners. When we left at noon the line had died down considerably. However, as we learned from one of our fellow diners if you go a little later you may find they have run out of something – in their case a few years ago pancakes. They serve from 8:00 am – 1:30 pm.

We checked out the little craft fair in the gymnasium before leaving. I bought some kolachky, and my friends bought some jam. My leftovers made a great dinner that night.

Contact info:

Burton-Middlefield Rotary Pancakes & Omelets Breakfast
Berkshire High School
14510 N Cheshire Street
Burton, OH 44021

Goodell Farm Pancake Breakfast in Shalersville

Goodell Family Farm hosts pancake breakfasts on three Sundays in March in the Shalersville Town Hall in Ravenna. It is located at the intersection of OH-44 and Route 303. The pancake breakfast features all you can eat pancakes (regular and buckwheat), sausage and their own pure maple syrup. You also get a small glass of orange juice and all the coffee you can drink. And don’t forget to enjoy a soft serve maple ice cream cone when you are finished.

Adults pay $8.00, children (ages 4-12) are $4.00, and children 3 years of age and under are free. The pancake breakfasts this year were March 3rd, 10th, and 17th from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm. I met a girlfriend, and we spent an hour and a half enjoying pancakes and sausage and catching up.

This place is a well-oiled machine. The room is not that large, but the line is not long (at least it wasn’t when we were there). You pay when you walk in and walk past a table full of Goodell Family Farm products. The gentleman at the end then finds a seat for you and your party. We were seated with another older married couple, which was a little awkward. I had already blown past them getting off the turnpike, so I wasn’t too thrilled to be seated with them. Then to add to the awkward they sat next to each other, so we then also had to sit next to each other. As their penance they had to hear my girlfriend and I talk about our lives and high five each other several times.

I opted for a combo stack of pancakes – a mix of two regular pancakes and one buckwheat pancake – and it came with three sausage links. The pancakes and sausage were delicious. I liked the regular pancakes a bit more, but the buckwheat ones were definitely great. There are people walking around the room refilling coffee cups and doling out more pancakes and sausage. I had one more of each. There are big pitchers of maple syrup and sticks of butter on the table to help yourself.

I purchased a quart of maple syrup for $17 as I left. It’s already opened and now in my fridge. Next year’s pancake breakfasts will be March 8th, 15th, and 22nd, so mark your calendars. It’s worth the drive.

Contact info:

Goodell Family Farm Pancake Breakfast
Shalersville Town Hall
9090 OH-44
Ravenna, OH 44266

Frostville Museum Pancake Breakfast

Yeah, don’t bother.

The Olmsted Historical Society holds its annual Pancake Breakfasts on three Sundays in March from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm in the Events Barn at the Frostville Museum, 24101 Cedar Point Rd (at the corner of Lewis and Cedar Point Rd. in the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River Reservation). Adults $7.00, Children 10 & under $5.00. Menu 1 includes unlimited pancakes, juice, hot beverage and sausage. Menu 2 includes scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes (no refills), juice & hot beverage. Additional sausage is 3 for $1.00, additional orange juice is $.50. Maple syrup was also extra. Syrup was on the tables, but the maple syrup was doled out in little portion cups. I upgraded to add scrambled eggs to Menu 1 and bought an extra orange juice, so I spent $10.50. The coffee was at a table in the back of the room (see above photo).

Being from Olmsted Falls and since they host a farmer’s market here I had such high hopes for this, so I arranged for my dining friends to meet here for breakfast on March 3. There were eight of us. None of us liked it. The eggs were chalky, the hash browns were food service and not cooked very well, and the pancakes were just okay. They could have at least cooked the hash browns on the flat top grill.

The money raised helps maintain the historic buildings at the museum, so at least we donated to a good cause. We did a paczki crawl afterwards and shopped at Chuppa’s in Parma. Go for the farmer’s market. Save your money on the pancake breakfast.

Contact info:

Frostville Museum
24101 Cedar Point Road
North Olmsted, OH 44070
(440) 779-0280

Fish Fry Friday #3: Firehouse Grille and Pub

The fish fry at Firehouse Grille and Pub in Willoughby Hills was listed as one of Cleveland Magazine’s Fish Fry We Love. It features Icelandic cod battered in Great Lakes’ Dortmunder Gold or broiled ($11.99 for the regular dinner portion and $12.99 for the all-you-can-eat Friday special) and is served with two sides. They had me at Icelandic cod, and I knew I needed to come here for one of our Lenten fish fries. That wasn’t and was a mistake. It wasn’t a mistake because the fish fry is delicious; however, it was a mistake because I could have come here at any time during the year for their AYCE Friday special. In fact, I can’t even eat more than one piece of fish and some cole slaw and fries before tapping out, so just ordering it off the menu on, say, a Monday would also work.

This place is crazy on Fridays during Lent. I was told that you need to call on Monday or Tuesday to get a reservation for Friday and by Wednesday they are booked. You can still get in to have dinner, but you are going to wait. I had a group going, but decided to cancel it because of the wait. A couple of us went anyway and ended up waiting for 40 minutes (after being quoted 30 minutes). The place is tucked away in amidst about four different restaurants, so parking was seriously lacking. I lucked out and got a spot near the door without realizing the nondescript building in back was in fact The Firehouse Grille. Another complaint is that patrons do not comply with state law of smoking 25 feet from the building. Instead they smoke under the roof, right outside the doors, and the cigarette smoke wafts in while you are standing or sitting in the hallway waiting for a table. Sure, it’s a bar with pool tables, but if you have asthma or an allergy you might want to actually sit at the bar instead of stand/sit in the hallway.

Once we were shown to our table the friendly server greeted us and got our drink orders. Once he brought our drinks we gave him our orders. I wish I hadn’t looked at the menu, because I decided not to get the fish fry when I saw a sandwich called The Crabby Boy. It is basically a Big Mac made of crab cakes instead of burger patties. Specifically, two crab cakes in a triple sesame seed bun, topped with American cheese, shredded lettuce and Cajun tartar sauce. And yes, it is on the regular menu. It is served with spicy homemade chips. The chips were a bit too spicy for me that day, as my stomach was feeling a little dodgy. The sandwich itself was definitely a unique sandwich. The crab cakes were soft so it didn’t hold up real well once I cut it in half, but it was a fun Lent alternative.

I also ordered the clam chowder. It is a New England clam chowder, and wow, was it tasty. It was chock full of clams and chunks of potatoes and celery. Definitely homemade. It had a buttery taste to it with some serious dill undertones. I would go back for the chowder alone!

My friends loved the fish and chips there. They are hard-core fish and chips fans (one is from England), so that is high praise. They are going to be back for it. The fish was flaky and perfectly fried – not too greasy. The french fries/chips were nice and thick like they serve in England. They even got to douse them in malt vinegar, which I have to say really added to the flavor. They were less enthused about the cole slaw, which they found to be a little too sweet. But they will definitely be regulars at the Firehouse from now on. We’ll be back – just not on a Friday during Lent.

I got to enjoy my meal with cold beer on tap (a red ale) and they enjoyed some Strongbow Cider, which you can’t do at church fish fries. It was a good night.

Contact info:

Firehouse Grille and Pub
2768 Stark Drive
Willoughby Hills, OH 44094
(440) 943-4983

Fish Fry Friday #2: Luchita’s

Luchita’s has been in my awareness since it opened in the 1980s. My father used to work at Richman Brothers with Luchita’s son-in-law, Tedd. He would talk about Luchita and her cooking. I didn’t get a chance to try it for myself until after I moved back from Germany in the early 2000s. Luchita is long retired, but it is still family-run.

From the outside, Luchita’s looks like a dingy corner bar in a working-class neighborhood, but magic happens inside. Luchita’s is one of Cleveland’s best Mexican restaurants.

I learned about Luchita’s fish fry last year in one of my food groups. Since I am a sucker for Mexican street corn I knew this had to be on the list this Lenten season. I got a group of friends to trek to W. 117th in Lakewood to enjoy this delicious and out-of-the-ordinary fish fry. I made a reservation because they want prior notice for tables of 6+.

My one friend and I carpooled together and got there very early because we were expecting heavy traffic on the roads. We arrived 40 minutes before the 6:30 reservation, so we parked ourselves at the bar and had a margarita and dished all things Broadway. The margarita was freshly made, but I was less than impressed with it. It tasted mostly like ice/water. I’ve had good margaritas at Luchita’s before, so I’m going to chalk it up as a one-off oops.

Once two more in our party arrived we were shown to our table in the adjacent dining room, even though we were still before the 6:30 res. We managed to order another round of drinks after we sat, and I decided on a sangria. This was definitely the better choice. One of my dining companions upgraded the tequila and enjoyed her margarita. We fell on the delicious chips and salsa like a bunch of locusts. By the time our other friend arrived the server brought us another salsa and chips. The chips are warm and inviting, and the salsa had a nice kick and flavor to it. I am embarrassed to say I filled up quite a bit on that salsa – and had a couple of bites of a side of delicious and creamy guac one of my dining companions ordered.

We were there for the fish fry, so we did not bother perusing the menu closely. All five of us ordered the fish fry, which made our server’s life easier. The fish fry features beer battered fish, chipotle tartar sauce, Mexican street corn, mac & cheese with salsa verde, and a cucumber-radish-carrot salad that was delicious. The fish was perfectly fried and not too greasy. The Mexican street corn was just a delicious mess. I ended up wearing it down the front of my shirt and had to wash my hands. The mac n cheese was a nice version of noodles covered in a cheese with a bit of a kick to it. The cavatappi were not overcooked, and the noodle to cheese ratio was just right. I have no idea what was in the dressing for the salad/slaw, but we all agreed that it was fantastic. The dinner was $17.95 and worth it.

I couldn’t make up my mind, so I also ordered the lobster and shrimp quesadilla. I figured we could all eat it as an appetizer, not realizing that it was a dinner portion size. I should have known it would be a lot when the waitress was taken aback when I ordered it. It was filled with large chunks of lobster and shrimp, and I really, really loved every bite. Be forewarned: the quesadillas were $18.95. I was surprised when I got the bill, but it truly was worth it with the chunks of seafood.

We rolled out of there with boxes for our leftovers and happy stomachs. If you are looking for a good fish fry and love Mexican definitely check this place out!

Contact info:

Luchita’s Mexican Restaurant
3456 W 117th Street
Cleveland, OH 44111
(216) 252-1169

Fish Fry Friday #1: Arthur Treacher’s

Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips is a fast food seafood restaurant chain. At the peak of its popularity in the late 1970s, it had about 800 stores. Now, there are only four of the original old-style stores left – all in Northeast Ohio. The busiest is on Rockside Road (near the intersection wtih Turney Road) in Garfield Heights. I love going there and reliving my childhood memories of fried fish and that amazing cole slaw. I went a long time without eating there, and just one bite of the cole slaw had me realizing that it was the cole slaw I had been comparing all other cole slaws to. It is a nice, wet, mayo-ey cole slaw, which I prefer.

Things have not changed much at Arthur Treacher’s. The decor is firmly from the 1970s – as is the carpet. The food is still served on trays, and the condiments are pumped into little paper cups. You have your choice of ketchup, tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. I wish they wouldn’t use so much styrofoam, but understand their business model hasn’t changed since the 1970s so why wouldn’t they.

I made the mistake of going there on Good Friday once. That is probably their busiest day of the year. The line was almost out the door and didn’t let up the whole time I was there. Business had slowed down until the Cleveland.com article in 2016 and then news of its existence also hit social media, so they are happy to report they are doing well. It’s apparently become somewhat of a tourist attraction, with people traveling there from far away to experience it again.

Chicken dinner with cole slaw

The food still stood up to my memories. It isn’t gourmet, but childhood memories rarely are. I ordered the chowder, a fish and chip combo and a side of cole slaw. I can never finish the meal here and always bring half of it home. The fish is better than some of the fish I’ve had at other fish fries – flaky with a light batter. The chips are satisfying and made my British friend happy and “more at home” than most chips. And I usually save a hush puppy as my last bite. I really enjoy the sweet flavor yet savory texture of the perfectly fried hush puppies.

Seafood combo dinner – fish, shrimp and clam strips – and a cole slaw

I ordered the fish and chicken dinner here once, and although it was okay I will continue to order the fish. It was too jarring for me. Chicken doesn’t seem to belong with all the seafood, but I guess folks who don’t like fish or seafood have to eat too. I like the fried shrimp. They are plump and well fried without drying out. I am less enamored with the clam strips. They tend to get dried out and are a little too chewy for my tastes.

I can also recommend the seafood chowder. The first time I ordered it I don’t know what happened but it had an overwhelmingly metallic taste. I gave it a second chance the other day and enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for a decent chowder.

Contact info:

Cleveland area:
12585 Rockside Road
Garfield Heights, OH
216-662-6067

Akron area:
926 E. Waterloo Road
Akron, OH
330-724-9990

1833 State Road
Cuyahoga Falls, OH
330-923-8900

Niles:
2 Youngstown Warren Road
Pinetree Square
Niles, OH
330-505-2625