Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday fish fry since 2013. Follow his never-ending adventures—sponsored by Miller High LifeHERE. This week, fish fry #535: Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

With signs for a fish fry hanging on both sides of the stairs leading up to Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa (2160 N. Wauwatosa Ave.), I didn’t think twice when I ran up and pulled on the front door. It was Good Friday, I had made a conscious decision to eat a church fish fry for the holiday, and now I was yanking on the front door of a church. But the door was locked. It should have occurred to me that church fish frys aren’t served in churches, but usually in their basement or in a hall adjacent to them. It also should have dawned on me that since Saints Constantine & Helen is a Greek Orthodox church, they weren’t observing Good Friday until May 3. Still, when it comes to the Lenten fish fry season, Saints Constantine & Helen wraps up their season on the same Good Friday observed by Catholics and other Western Christian denominations.

Although there might have been another door at the front of the building that would have worked—which I may have unknowingly bypassed since the fish fry signs were not next to it—I walked myself to the back parking lot and pulled on a door that seemed like it might lead me to a fish fry. The sound of voices and smell of fried fish confirmed my hopes, and I walked left down the hall to the Founder’s Fellowship Hall, a room large enough to be a church, with the long lancet windows to go with it, a basketball court as its floor, a kitchen at the near end, and a stage at the far end.

I stopped at the tables near the entrance and was asked if I was picking up or dining in. After confirming I was dining in, I was told I could take a seat anywhere I’d like. There were two long tables with “reserved” signs on them directly next to the stage, and 21 large, circular tables with numbers atop them spread throughout the hall. Actually, as far as I could tell, there were only 20 of them and there was no table with the number 16 on it. Was there any significance to this? Had the number been lost? Had it accidentally not been used? Was I unaware of a ban on the number 16 from the Greek Orthodox Church? Was someone just suspicious of the number? I took table 15, in the center near the stage.

A menu was at the table and I looked it over. Listed at the top was a three-piece cod fish fry with fries ($15). Extra pieces were available for $3. Other options were baked fish with rice ($16); Plaki, a Greek-style baked fish with tomato sauce, vegetables, and rice ($17); perch with fries ($18); eight-piece shrimp with fries ($15); two-piece cod and four-piece shrimp with fries ($16); and two-piece perch and four-piece shrimp with fries ($19). A Greek side salad could be added to any meal for $3 or purchased on its own for $8. There was a children’s fish fry and chicken tenders, each with fries, for $10 each. French fries and rice were available as sides for $4 a piece. Baklava and kourambiethes were available for dessert for $4 an order, and beer and soda were also listed at the bottom, for $4 and $2, respectively.

While the operation largely looked to be run by adults, a middle-school-aged girl came to my table and said she’d get me set up, and soon came back with silverware and a glass of water. She brought to mind the Fry Kids at Saint Sebastian Parish, being so polite, organized, and hard working, and gave me renewed hope for the world’s future. When she returned she asked if I’d want some bread, and came back with a basket with three slices of what I believe was Italian bread, not Greek bread. She then took my order, marking off the three-piece cod on a slip of paper. She told me I could have rice instead of the fries, but I stuck with the fries. I wasn’t sure if I should order a beer from this child, but that’s what I did. An adult brought the Miller Lite out in just a few minutes.

Only a minute or two after that the fish fry arrived. There was a small cup of slaw, which I assumed was store-bought, but very likely could have been made in-church. It was crunchy, with a light, creamy base, and seasoned with seeds, all amounting to plenty of flavor. Crisp but not hard, the straight cut fries might be considered filler, only because of how good the fish with them was.

Not only was the cod flaky-white and flavorful—as flavorful as cod can be—the breading on it was a perfect match, wrapping around it seamlessly. Mildly crisp, but not excessively crunchy, it had a rugged texture, with a flavor of its own, too. Together, the cod and its breading were firm but flexible, and when broken apart could easily be dunked into the tartar, a thick and tangy, pickle- and lemon-forward blend that, like its breaded fish counterpart, was ideal for dunking.

After last week’s mound of five pieces of fish and four shrimp, I was planning on being more circumspect this week and sticking with three pieces, but when my server came back and asked how I was doing, I decided to go for one more piece and requested another tartar. As she set down the plate, the sun shone through the lancet windows, illuminating the fish, as if Resurrection Sunday had already arrived and driven out all the somber darkness of Good Friday.

Somewhat surprising, the fish and tartar also looked like they had gone through a transformation. The fish was smaller (I checked to make sure it wasn’t perch) and its breading lighter in complexion than the first batch, and it turned even more golden as the sun hit it, while the tartar had noticeably more celery seeds, which I had barely come across in the first cup. While these transformative miracles undermined the consistency of the fish fry, besides the dainty nature of this new fish, there was no drop in quality with either the fish or tartar.

As I was finishing, not long after 5 p.m., the hall was still largely empty. Was the Good Friday rush I had anticipated still to come? Or would it not be happening because Saints Constantine & Helen wasn’t observing Good Friday until May? Before going up to pay, I sat for a few moments, finishing the Miller Lite on the church gymnasium, and reflected on the fish and the holiday. While the fish fry at Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church is more than great enough to be served every week, you and I will just have to wait until next season to try it again.

Takeaways: Basket bread; fries that are only filler because the fish is so good; near-excellent breaded cod and tartar; Greek dessert options; this fish fry is seasonal; a tip of the hat to Corey from Future Plans and Robits—who also once saw Public Enemy play at a family reunion in the same city as this fish fry—for suggesting this fish fry to me.

Note: I’m getting married this month, so I’m pausing the column for a short period of time. See you soon!

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About The Author

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Originally hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin—home of Walleye Weekend, the self-professed "World's Largest Walleye Fish Fry"—Caleb Westphal has not missed a Friday night fish fry since sometime in 2013. He plays saxophone with the surf-punk-garage outfit Devils Teeth. He also spins classic 45s and would love to do so at your roller skating party, car show, or 50th high school reunion.