St. Cecilia's in south city gets all the attention when it comes to the Mexican fish fry, but it's not the only local Catholic church that caters to a large Mexican congregation. Near the city-limits line that separates Cool Valley from Ferguson, tiny Our Lady of Guadalupe brings the Lenten fiesta to north county.
The signs here aren't as slick as the ones at St. Mary Magdalen's. But they're sweet and earnest, giving no clue to the treasures inside the church basement.
There's no line early in the evening, so volunteers have time to explain the dishes if the photos of each item aren't enough. There's Midwest fish fry staples: flaky cornmeal-breaded cod loins, the usual sides and, at long last, hush puppies!
The fish is on a par with last week's excellent fillets: crisp outside and flaky and moist within. But we've been eating fried fish in church cafeterias for five frickin' weeks. Time for a change of pace.
Those crisp cod loins get wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla with lettuce and cheese. Dressed with a variety of homemade salsas on the condiment table, it's the best fish taco in town.
Even better? Potato tacos. Corn tortillas are filled with mashed potatoes, roasted jalapeños and green peppers, fried, then topped with salsa, shredded lettuce and queso fresco. They're a beautiful balance of spicy and creamy, soft and crisp, and a bargain at three tacos for $4.
The chips with guacamole -- the latter made to order with avocados scooped from their skins just a few feet from the line -- are worth the wait. (The volunteer staff is small enough that sometimes there's a ten-minute lag time between ordering and chowing.) It's not the smooth guacamole you see at too many Mexican restaurants. Here we get large chunks of onion, tomato and pepper along with rough-smashed avocado. A healthy dose of garlic and lime juice add to the depth of fresh flavors. The chips are warm and taste fresher than what comes from a bag. A twelve-ounce cup and a heaping serving of chips? Two bucks.
There's no alcohol, but who needs booze when the potato tacos are so good?
RATINGS: [1 fish = meh; 5 fish = fry me to the moon!]
(Especially in taco form)
(The traditional Midwest sides are just OK, but the Mexican à la carte items more than compensate)
(They come from Schnucks)
(No booze -- but where else can you get a soda for 50 cents these days?)
(We didn't actually see the Mexican dancers, but the crowd they drew was enough to conclude they must be good)
(Potato tacos and guacamole of this magnitude more than make up for a lack of beer and homemade cake.)
Our Lady of Guadalupe 17 Hawkesbury Drive Cool Valley 314-522-9264
Friday, March 26 is the last fish fry of the season. Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner 4:30-7 p.m.