The meaning of the term “fish fry” is more than a bit malleable. The permutations are endless.
For some, it’s an epic, bargain-priced, eat-’ til-you-drop, year-round, deep-fried food fest at a local watering hole. For others, it’s a late-winter signal to line up in a church basement on a Friday night for Lenten fellowship, fun and fried fish.
The type of fish can vary: cod is the lingua franca of the fish-fry universe, but it’s not uncommon to encounter catfish, whitefish, pollock, basa fish, perch or another inexpensive option.
Sides are anyone’s guess: fries, hash browns, beans and rice, coleslaw, you name it. But tartar sauce? An absolute requirement.
We’ve compiled a list of Twin Cities fish fries that cater to all kinds of tastes.
The Little Oven
If there was a fish fry Book-of-the-Month Club, this huge-portions/low-prices East Sider would be the volume titled “Embarrassment of Riches.” Get this: beer-battered, hand-cut cod filets, served with a choice of potato (fries, hash browns, baked), a daily vegetable, a soup-or-salad option and a freshly baked popover. Cod can be ordered by the piece (three is $11.99, four is $12.99), or by the all-you-can-eat option ($14.99), and it’s available daily through April 15. The Little Oven has plenty of fish fry experience. “We’ve been doing it forever, and ever, and ever,” said manager Joe Lindgren. “We’ve been here since 1990, and the pizza place that was here before us did a fish fry, too. There has been a fish fry on this corner since the 1980s.”
1786 E. Minnehaha Av., St. Paul, 651-735-4944, thelittleoven.com
Every Friday, Mac-Groveland’s corner (well, close-to-the-corner) bar does the fish fry thing, and goes the all-you-can-eat route ($11.59), serving Grain Belt Premium-battered swai, fries and coleslaw. The beer to drink? No. 1 Kölsch-Style Ale, from sibling restaurant/brewery Freehouse in Minneapolis, of course (drop in during happy hour — 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and 10 p.m. to close — for $2.50 taps). Here’s another advantage: The kitchen remains in fish-fry mode for 13½ hours, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.
1834 St. Clair Av., St. Paul, 651-699-5058, grovelandtap.com
This vast, family-friendly, Iowa-based chain is the place for a crowd (and, yes, reservations are accepted), particularly on Friday, when the all-you-can-eat fish fry is the daily special. It’s all about choices, and bounty. The fish is Atlantic cod, served either broiled or beer-battered. There’s a lengthy list of potato options: mashed, garlic mashed, baked, fries, sweet potato baked and sweet potato fries, and the potato-averse can select wild rice pilaf. As for side dishes, they include a seasonal veggie, applesauce, coleslaw and bread. It’s a year-round tradition, served 3 to 10 p.m., and cost is $13.49 per person.
8515 Hudson Blvd., Lake Elmo, 651-735-7436, machineshed.com
During this time of year, Friday night embraces the fish fry at this southwest Minneapolis charmer. All-you-can-eat? No. But for $18, chef Michael Morton serves tempura-battered Alaskan cod (and plenty of tartar sauce) with well-seasoned potato wedges and coleslaw. It’s available from 5 to 11 p.m. Bonus: the bar’s craft cocktails and mocktails.
5411 Penn Av. S., Mpls., 612-822-5411, cafemaude.com
Citizen Supper Club
During Friday lunch (11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) at this stylish downtowner — it’s located on the first floor of the InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront Hotel — the fish fry is reconsidered as a blue plate special. “We’re a scratch kitchen, and we take pride in that,” said chef Jennifer Farni. “We’ve come a long way from the days of the Radisson spinning rooftop restaurant.” Indeed. Fresh cod from Coastal Seafoods gets a tempura-style batter, and it’s served with fries and a house-made tartar sauce. This isn’t an all-you-can-eat scenario, but the bargain price of $8.97 also includes a nonalcoholic beverage. Sales are brisk, but Friday’s blue plate special isn’t as popular as Meatloaf Monday. “Which did so well we ended up putting it on permanently,” said Farni. “It sells really well, but now I’m deathly tired of making meatloaf.”
11 E. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, 651-605-0190, citizensupperclub.com
7th Street Social
One person’s “fish fry” is another’s “fish and chips.” The formula is easy: cod, lightly battered in a Summit Extra Pale Ale-fueled batter, served with a hefty handful of salty, skin-on fries and a house-made tartar sauce. It’s a single-serving portion, and the usual $13 price is knocked down to $8, available daily through April 14. “Some people who are used to all-you-can-eat were confused, but it’s a hefty portion, and we’re giving you a good deal,” said manager Britta Torkelson. Make that a great deal. “We did it last year for the first time, and it was the Wild West in here,” she added with a laugh. “We’re expecting a big crowd again this year.” When it comes to navigating the bar’s all-Minnesota tap roster, Torkelson suggests Summit’s Sagá IPA, “something hoppy to cut through the fatty greasiness of fish and chips,” she said. “Or my current favorite, Tallander, from Bauhaus Brew Labs. It’s a Scottish-style dark ale, and it really lends itself to fried foods.”
2176 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-330-4688, seventhstreetsocial.com
Red Stag Supperclub
Those in search of the all-you-can-eat format that’s deeply ingrained into the Wisconsin supper club’s Friday fish fry tradition should look elsewhere. Better yet, consider recalibrating expectations, because this year-round rendition (available 5 to 10:30 p.m.) totally deserves its cult following. Chef Sarah Master isn’t content with merely offering cod, but tosses in the choice of walleye or perch, making each fish available in single and double basket sizes ($12 to $19), filled with addictive malt vinegar potato chips, coleslaw and a sweet onion-laced tartar sauce. The kitchen’s other nod to northern Wisconsin culinary culture — its excellent rendition of smelt fries — is totally worth the $9 price.
509 1st Av. NE., Mpls., 612-767-7766, redstagsupperclub.com
Gluek’s Restaurant & Bar
This historic downtown watering hole is the setting for a long-running Twin Cities fish fry experience. It’s beer-battered cod, along with hush puppies, fries and coleslaw, and it’s an all-you-can-consume situation. “If you want 20 hush puppies, you can have 20 hush puppies,” said my server with a laugh. Price is $13.95, and it’s served every Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
16 N. 6th St., Mpls., 612-338-6621, glueks.com
Every Friday, the kitchen drops the price of its single-serving fish and chips by $2. It’s cod, done up in a batter lightened by Alaskan Brewing Company’s amber ale, and it’s paired with well-seasoned, thick-cut steak fries and tartar sauce. The $11.50 price is available all day.
7600 N. 42nd Av., New Hope, 763-278-4242
The Tin Fish Braemer Park
Yes, there is a $10 all-you-can-eat fish fry. The star of the show is pangasius (or more commonly referred to as ponga), a mild whitefish that’s rolled in the kitchen’s secret recipe for cracker-style breading, then fried. Sides include a vinegar-based coleslaw and seasoned waffle fries. It’s the same fish-and-chips meal that normally goes for $12, but Fridays (from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) trigger an all-you-can-eat scenario, for that remarkable $10 price. The deal may extend beyond Easter. “We’re in a unique situation,” said co-owner Sheff Priest. “We’re on a golf course, but the golf course is being renovated, so we’re going to be without a golf course.” And minus hungry golfers. What better way to draw a crowd than with a bargain-priced Friday fish fry? Priest and his wife, Athena, also own the seasonal Tin Fish on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, which is still weeks away from its 2017 opening. “It all depends upon the weather,” he said. “But it’s generally the last weekend in April.”
6364 John Harris Dr., Edina, 952-941-5573, tinfishmn.com
Morgan’s Farm to Table
Every Friday through Easter, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., the kitchen turns out beer-battered Icelandic cod, fries and coleslaw. Yes, it’s all-you-can-eat. And, yes, reservations are recommended. $15.
14201 Nicollet Av. S., Burnsville, 952-435-1855, morgansfarmtotable.com
During Lent, Lyn-Lake’s 17-year-old brewpub observes certain Friday fish fry protocols. From 5 to 10 p.m., the kitchen prepares a batter (using the brewery’s Belgian Blonde Ale) to complement mild Atlantic whitefish. A single serving is paired with fries and a malt vinegar-laced mayonnaise. Price? $12. It’s highly pair-able with the brewery’s High Hop Red Ale.
2922 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-821-0101, theherkimer.com
Laying out a buffet is a tradition that the Tinucci family has embraced for 50-plus years. On Friday night (5 to 8:30 p.m.), the spread at this third-generation restaurant includes steamed torsk, deep-fried cod, shrimp, seafood chowder, au gratin potatoes, mac-and-cheese, a monster of a salad bar and dessert. Adults pay $19.95, ages 5 to 12 pay $7.95, ages 1 to 4 pay $1.25 per year.
396 21st St., Newport, 651-459-3211, tinuccis.com
Finally, when this burger-centric mini-chain (a fourth location is headed to Uptown Minneapolis) goes fish fry, it goes all in, serving it all day, every day, all year. The fish is beer-battered cod, the potatoes are French fries and the sauce is a pickle- and mustard-enriched aioli. It’s all-you-can-eat, and it’s $15.
208 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-238-0050; 3624 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-767-4411; and 393 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-789-0545, redcownmn.com
Rick Nelson • 612-673-4757