CINCINNATI - Each week throughout Lent we'll join contributor Paige Malott as she and her friends track their adventures in their Fish Fry passports. Along the way Paige will rate the offerings on a scale of one to five.
St. William’s MagnifiCod the stuff of legends
Reeled in by the West Side, we made our way to St. William Church in Price Hill for what claims to be the best fish fry left of I-75. With rumors that navigating the west side of town would be tricky, we found St. William fairly easy to locate along the main thoroughfare of West 8th Street . Connected to the church was a vast parking lot without a single free space to be found. It was clear we had just hooked a very popular fish fry.
While finding Price Hill was pretty easy, finding the entrance to the fish fry was a challenge for us newcomers. After circling the church on foot looking for signage, we spotted the masses heading towards a small side door tucked away behind a low-lying stairwell. Once inside, we realized our fish fry journeys had just reached a whole new level.
The best organized fry we’ve visited to date, St. William queues guests along a lengthy access ramp inside their rec room while workers walk the line with iPads taking food orders. After the order is electronically sent to the kitchen, guests continue to the cashier at the end of the ramp to pay and collect a snazzy order number sign on a big blue “W” – a dual icon for William and West Side.
- Do you tweet? Use the hashtag #FFFCincy to follow the Tri-State Fish Fry Tour.
Known for their MagnifiCod meal, I decided to go with the flagship dish. Looks were deceiving -- what came out of the kitchen looking like an oversized fish stick was actually an incredible thick cut of beer-battered cod topped with a slice of cheese on a rye bun. It came with two overflowing portions of homemade mac n’ cheese and simmered-all-day green beans, plus two perfected hush puppies: a soft golden cornmeal inside with a crispy outside.
St. William also has one of the most extensive menus of Cincinnati fish fries. Everyone at our table was eating something different, from bountiful butterfly shrimp, a savory beer-battered “tavern fish” platter, and a moist, well-seasoned plank of baked salmon. These options, plus a baked tilapia, are available as an entrée or as a sandwich – even the shrimp! While I’m still partial to the MagnifiCod, if you’re looking to break free from fried fish on Fridays, this parish offers the most options.
We were excited to see both booze and a bake sale at St. William, but the offerings left something to be desired. A full counter was dedicated to beverages, yet the only options were soda and Budweiser. The bake sale was tucked away in a corner, offering sugar cookies and rice crispy squares.
The quality of the food definitely carried the score for St. William in our Fish Fry Passport. A few other shortcomings, such as difficulty finding a table and noise level would have bumped this West Side institution down to an “average” rating. However, being the only church to impress us by using technology for speedy service coupled with the legendary MagnifiCod earned St. William a 4 out of 5.
With so many tasty options, check back every Thursday as I give the fin-side scoop on the seven Tri-State fish fries that got us hooked. What's your can't-miss Tri-State fish fry?
READ: (Week 4) Tri-State Fish Fry Tour: How does Burlington's Immaculate Heart of Mary Tommy Boy stack up?
In considering which venues to visit, the Fish Fry finders look for the following information from a church or organization:
- Detailed menu with types of fish, list of side dishes and beverages
- Specialty dishes or themes that make a venue unique
- Dessert: are there multiple sweets to choose from, like at a bake sale, or is just one item offered?
- Is beer or wine available?
Connect with WCPO Contributor Paige E. Malott on Twitter: @Paigetastic01 .