Welcome to Fish Fry Fridays, 2018 Edition! Click here to learn more about this project.
Name: St. Catherine of Sweden (Allison Park)
Date: March 2, 2018
Time We Ate: 6:30 PM
Random review of #fishburgh adventures during Lent. Find a fish fry on this map! You can also follow them on Facebook and find tons of reviews and suggestions. And vote in The Incline’s Fish Fry bracket.
In review, the factors we assess include:
- Atmosphere/Volunteer Friendliness/Engagement
- Menu: variety, portions, taste and price
- LGBTQ cultural competency
- Ecofactors such as reusable/disposable items, recycling bins, takeout containers
I sought out a new venue for us to visit this week, deciding that heading north was the most pragmatic given traffic on any Friday rush hour and the impact of all this rain. With an assist from the Pittsburgh 2018 Lenten Fish Fry Map, I found St. Catherine in Allison Park – a Pittsburgh suburb nestled near McCandless and Shaler. I think of it as a place home to megachurches, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a Catholic Church with a fish fry.
The parish was established in 1934, the building is new as of 2004. There is no Catholic School attached to this parish; it closed in 1972.
So over the hill and thru the traffic on McKnight Road we drove, winding our way through the back roads of Hampton and Allison Park to this church which was actually much closer to Route 8 near Butler. But the drive gave us a chance to see the older houses and the mobile homes that are tucked far away from the 1990s megahouses. The drive, in fact, didn’t look too different from a drive though the older parts of Castle Shannon or West Mifflin or Turtle Creek.
There was a huge parking lot with plenty of space (the church is home to 1700 families) and something I noticed right away is that they had created memorial brick walkways next to the handicapped parking spaces which was a pretty effective way to visually protect the space necessary for vans to unload and people to walk safely onto the sidewalk proper.
There wasn’t any signage so we used our Scouting skills and followed people right into the foyer of the sanctuary. We headed downstairs and I did see an elevator. Eventually we ended up in a large hall. Again the signage wasn’t great, but there was one area for take-away orders and another for eat-in folks. They had 4 people taking orders for eat-in and all of them had access to a credit card processor. Unfortunately, they had a $10 minimum which is always a turn-off and disproportionately impacts lower-income folks.
The menu was pretty standard with some interesting add-ons including fish tacos, pizza, a large-sized vegetarian salad entrée, and haluski (which you don’t see everywhere.) They also served baked potatoes.
We decided to stick with our usual fare, dividing an array of side dishes between two adults meal orders. One meal was for baked fish, macaroni & cheese, and applesauce. The other was for fried shrimp, pierogies, and coleslaw. I ordered clam chowder because of course I did. The woman who took my order informed me that the baked fish came with a bun or dinner roll so Laura choose a bun. Then she told us we both received complimentary pudding, did we want chocolate or vanilla. Finally, she tried to convince Laura to add stewed tomatoes to her mac & cheese for just a $1 upcharge. We declined. Emphatically.
The meal included iced tea, lemonade, water or coffee. Cans of pop were available for sale as well. The grand total for everything was $25 which is slightly less than we’ve paid elsewhere, maybe a few dollars. We also learned later that we received a complimentary cookie each in addition to the pudding. So from a price perspective, this is very competitive.
The women who took our order thought Ledcat was a kid because I was ordering & paying, while Ledcat slouched against the door. We were even seated at a table with crayons. This continues to be amusing and slightly weird, but no harm done.
Anyway, we were instructed to take our order form to the reception desk where a very nice woman greeted us and found us two seats at a table for 8; a family group occupied the other seats. They didn’t speak to us or acknowledge us or anything. I tried to make friendly ‘hello’ eye contact, but they were eye-contact averse.
The hall was huge, partially closed off with colorful fish themed banners. Young adults were drafted as runners and servers. At 6:30, they were still pumped and engaging. But the time we needed a drink refill, they were gathering in packs of alienated youth slouching along the sides of the hall, surely planning mischief and sin. I was okay with both mischief and sin, as long my lemonade was refilled. It was amusing watching them skitter away when someone’s grandma came over to snap their fingers and send them around to check on the tables.
But our drinks came quickly. Our places were set with a place mat complete with advertising and the Lenten schedule. The tableware was disposable plastic. The condiments were packets tucked into cute little holders that were kept filled.
Our food arrived about 20 minutes later. My entrée was wrong, so I had to wait another five minutes but I had my soup. Meals were served on black styrofoam plates, as was the soup and the pudding. The servings were generous.
The baked fish was perfectly fine. It was boring, really, but that’s what you expect from baked fish. The fried shrimp was popcorn style and also perfectly fine.
As for the side dishes, the pierogies were fine but obviously mass-produced. Someone cooked them nicely with minced onion and butter so there’s that. The coleslaw was actually delicious – very creamy and tangy. The macaroni & cheese was also pretty darn good. It was creamy, cheesy and had some color to it. It didn’t homemade, but it didn’t have that school cafeteria taste to it.
The soup was fine, but a slightly smaller portion than I’ve received elsewhere. The pudding was more of a taste than a serving, but it was fine and ‘sweet’ ending. We couldn’t eat the cookies so they went into my purse along with the leftover fish which we save for our feral cats.
There wasn’t a hint of recycling efforts. Not a hint.
Overall, this was a perfectly fine experience. The food was fine, if not great. The prices were good. The space was good – accessible which is important. It is a little far from the Northside for us to return for just a perfectly fine experience.
But as with almost every Catholic space we visit over these reviews, the significant issues are the lack of engagement and the lack of respect for environmental stewardship. Both are glaring examples of how the Catholic Church has lost touch with core values and with growing their community. It is genuinely shocking that any event involving young people doesn’t incorporate sustainability efforts.
I did see some people who are differently abled volunteering and dining, but it was a very white crowd with just a few people of color here and there. There was not a hint of LGBTQ friendliness anywhere, but no one had on a MAGA cap so that’s something. Still, I’m sure our comfort stemmed from being middle-aged white women who look relatively cis het and grew up in church basements. It was passing, not acceptance. We felt at ease enough to talk about current events from the day’s news, but not enough to openly declare our lesbian love.
Pros: accessibility, parking, good prices with some diversity on menu, involvement of youth, polite volunteers, macaroni & cheese, coleslaw, complimentary pudding and cookies
Cons: lack of sustainability, lack of engagement beyond politeness, slight delays in service, no entrance beyond the sanctuary foyer, lack of signage, the discriminatory impact of the credit card policy, too much styrofoam
If you have suggestions for us regarding fish fries, please leave a comment. Tell us your favorite. See you next week!