St. Cecilia's Fish Fry Is the Best Tradition in Town

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Two entrees, two sides — a fish fry the St. Cecilia way. - PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
  • Photo by Kelly Glueck
  • Two entrees, two sides — a fish fry the St. Cecilia way.

It's 37 degrees outside and my mom and I have been in line for 45 minutes. This is not Black Friday. We are not waiting for big screen TVs. We are waiting for our annual fix at St. Cecilia's Mexican Fish Fry (906 Eichelberger, 314-351-1318).

I grew up Catholic. I went to church three times a week, volunteered as an altar girl and went to events benefiting my parish. However, my family never went to fish fries — my mom and I didn't care for fish or plates of yellow-brown.

So how did this annual tradition come to be? I blame the quart-sized margaritas.

If this isn't your idea of a fish fry, we can't be friends. - PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
  • Photo by Kelly Glueck
  • If this isn't your idea of a fish fry, we can't be friends.

For $12, attendees can choose two entrees and two sides. Options for entrees include, but aren't limited to, jack salmon in its true form (whole, fried fish complete with head, tail and bones), fried cheese quesadillas, and my favorite, chile rellenos. The chile relleno is so delicious, they have to limit you to one per dinner so no one misses out.

The dinners include lemonade, but with a cooler full of $3 Modelo and big-ass $9 margaritas, who really cares about lemonade?

Volunteers do their best to keep customers happy and the line moving. - PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
  • Photo by Kelly Glueck
  • Volunteers do their best to keep customers happy and the line moving.

St. Cecilia understands the wait here is atrocious — we waited in line outside for 45 minutes, followed by 25 minutes inside and then another 25 minutes to receive our food after ordering. People are bound to get impatient, but the parish volunteers try their damnedest to make the wait less painful by allowing drinking in line, as well as chips and salsa and a tamale cart outside to take you from hangry to happy.

And once you make it inside, you can expect some entertainment. The mariachi music bounces off the walls of the parish grade school's gym, filling the room with traditional Mexican folk songs. When the band isn't getting down to "La Cucaracha," young girls in traditional Mexican folklorico dresses twirl around to El Toro Mambo.

Folk dancers entertain while you wait. - PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
  • Photo by Kelly Glueck
  • Folk dancers entertain while you wait.

So yes, the wait is long and sometimes cold, but the food is delicious and the drinks and entertainment keep you happy. It's not just about the fish; it's about the experience. And that is worth the wait.

If you really can't wait, St. Cecilia has online and to-go ordering, as well as VIP reservations. For $100 per person, you can feast on dinner, dessert, and unlimited drinks and chips and salsa. And get this: Because the event is a fundraiser, $74 of your purchase is tax-deductible.

Dinner is served. - PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
  • Photo by Kelly Glueck
  • Dinner is served.
But much as it would be tempting to cut the line, you don't come to St. Cecilia for a VIP experience. The wait is part of the fun.

And so next year, Mom and I will be right back in line, dreaming of those chile rellenos. And once again, I suspect, we'll skip the lemonade and head straight for the margaritas. That's the kind of Lent tradition I can get behind.

PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
  • Photo by Kelly Glueck

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