For a-fish-anados, why stop at Fridays when it comes to early spring fish fries? Taking it a step further, why stop at fried fish?
There's more than one day to get your fish fix in the Twin Cities — and much more than one way to have it.
Take Tavern on Grand. The St. Paul institution claims to serve more walleye than any other restaurant in the world — 2,000 pounds a week. There are currently five preparations of Minnesota's state fish on the menu, including fried, blackened and grilled — and countless more ways to consume it, from cakes and spring rolls to fried in a basket and smothered in brandy cream sauce.
The family business has long been a popular spot for walleye — since it prepared the dish for a state visit from then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990. But this time of year? "It's our postseason. It's our playoffs," said owner Eric LeMay.
"We gear up and get ready for Lent all year and make sure all of our cooks are ready to rock and roll. Especially Friday nights, we have just about all hands on deck."
By early evening on Fridays, LeMay said, there will be a line outside the restaurant.
"People come out in droves," he said. "We love it."
But that walleye isn't going anywhere the rest of the week, either. And a midweek lunch BLT with blackened walleye can hit the spot any time of year.
We scouted other creative handhelds, some with traditional fried fish and some that are grilled, blackened and smoked, all available most days of the week. Here are seven great sandwiches in the Twin Cities — and a bonus from Duluth.
Cod sandwich at Buon Giorno Deli
This Lilydale deli is putting an Italian spin on the trusty fish sandwich for its seasonal special, serving a beer-battered cod fillet on the in-house bakery's signature crusty ciabatta, and sprinkling a kick of seasoning on a surprisingly tasty (for March) tomato. Available daily, both in sandwich and platter form.
$13; 981 Sibley Memorial Hwy., Lilydale, 651-905-1080, buongiornodeli.com
Blackened walleye BLT at Tavern on Grand
At the 30ish-year-old Tavern on Grand, famous for serving walleye to Mikhail Gorbachev in the '90s, the Minnesota lake fish comes in just about every iteration imaginable. For lunch, we always go for a BLT, only with the addition of the Tavern's heavily spiced blackened walleye. (Be sure to get a side of the jalapeño tartar sauce.)
$18; 656 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-228-9030, thetavernongrand.com
Grilled fish tacos at Coastal Seafoods
Coastal Seafoods' cafe menu is about 75% fish, so you really can't go wrong with any of the sandwich offerings, including a rich smoked salmon Reuben and a Nashville hot cobia "burger." (Also, for purists, the Fulton beer-battered fish and chips has the fun addition of skewering cod fillets on sticks, very State Fairish.) But these grilled and blackened fish tacos wowed with the accompaniment of punchy pico de gallo and house-made rémoulade.
$10; 2007 E. 24th St., Mpls., 612-724-7425, coastalseafoods.com
Lox sandwich from Asa's Bakery
You can put just about anything on an Asa's Bakery bialy and we'll be grinning from ear to ear. The New York-style roll with a hollow, onion-filled center is in rare supply in Minnesota, but baker Asa Diebolt has cornered the bialy market, and is serving it up right with delicately cured and smoked salmon and a rotating selection of cream cheese flavors — we went with dill scallion.
$13; 5011 34th Av. S., Mpls., 612-615-9132, asasbakery,com
McMahi sandwich at Ono Hawaiian Plates
To make this sandwich, once a special menu item but now promoted to permanent status, at his North Loop Galley stand, chef Warren Seta starts with fresh mahi mahi straight from Hawaii. He encrusts it in panko, and shmears the bun with a kicky tartar sauce that blends house-made cucumber kimchi with Sriracha. A quick pickle on a spear holds together this fancified Filet-O-Fish, which comes with a big pile of crinkle fries.
$12.50; 729 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 808-365-8802, onohawaiianplates.com
Crabcake sliders at CōV
CōV's happy hour is a lively one. That might have something to do with the extensive menu of discounted deep-sea bites, including this pair of sliders, stuffed with crabcakes so crabby that they barely hold their form after the first bite. No matter; with an abundance of tangy slaw, it's all one delicious mess.
Miso sea bass sandwich at Baldamar
Baldamar tends to be our pick for dessert, but when starting with something savory, we went for the tender miso-glazed sea bass, served here on a brown-buttery brioche bun, and a nice frisee and carrot salad on the side.
$25; 1642 W. County Road B2, Roseville, 651-796-0040, baldamar.com
Cajun Finn from Northern Waters Smokehaus
We'll never stop singing the praises of what many consider to be Minnesota's best sandwich. So what if it requires a two-hour drive from the Twin Cities to pick up this smoky legend? Northern Waters' house-smoked and Cajun-spiced salmon is layered with scallion cream cheese, pepperoncini, roasted peppers and mixed greens, all inside a crisp ciabatta. A trip to Duluth isn't complete without it. And with the tiny slip of a shop about to expand, more Cajun Finns are on the horizon.
$15; 394 Lake Av. S., Duluth, 218-724-7307, northernwaterssmokehaus.com