CINCINNATI -- Fish and Fridays are tradition this time of year in Cincinnati, a town with deep Catholic roots. Whether it's a fish fry at a local parish, a fish sandwich at Frisch's or something a little less traditional, no restaurant in Cincinnati would think to skip the fish dish on a Friday in Lent.
Here are WCPO's Top 9 places to try, whether you're dining out, getting take-out, or cooking for yourself. Satisfy pescatarians, Lenten dietary needs or just that random fish craving.
Wildflower Cafe (Mason): Perhaps better known for its burger (also on a WCPO Top 9 list!), Wildflower Cafe has a fantastic, sustainable seafood selection. Best choice? Lobster cakes — think of a crab cake, but with fresh Maine lobster in addition to crab, with ricotta and a lemon riesling creme fraiche.
Jungle Jim's (Fairfield and Eastgate): With the freshest fish in the northern suburbs, the stores have almost any fish you can think of, shipped in five days a week.
Employees will steam a lobster, filet a fish — whatever you need to get dinner on your table. They also have pre-made selections, including crab cakes and seafood salad. Ask their crew what they recommend, and they'll tell you how to prepare it, too.
Pelican's Reef (Anderson): Do you ever want to relive vacation? Florida vacations, as a kid, always had at least one trip to a restaurant on the beach that deep fried everything. Somehow, even fried shrimp tastes better when you're looking at the ocean. There's no ocean in Anderson, but Pelican's Reef reminds me of childhood vacations. It has a wide array of seafood (much of it fried), including great crab cakes and coconut shrimp.
Keegan's Seafood (Hyde Park): Want to cook your own fish at home? This is where you should get it. Whether you want to do a lobster bake or just want advice on the best way to cook salmon, Keegan's has the experience (and product!) to show you how. Or, you can buy delicious pre-made items, including crab cakes and lobster bisque.
The Anchor OTR (Over-the-Rhine): One of the best sandwiches in the city is the Trout BLT at the Anchor. The bacon part isn't exactly Lent-friendly, but the crispy trout on Blue Oven ciabatta is a perfect bite. The rest of the menu is a Lenten dream: fish and chips, piled high with freshly made tartar sauce, is crispy perfection and the whole fish of the day always is impressive. This is some of the freshest fish in town. Pop in on a weeknight for $1.50 oysters during happy hour.
Alabama Fish Bar (Over-the-Rhine): The line extends out the door most days, so I suggest you study the menu before you go to Alabama Fish Bar. Order quickly and know what you want, and the efficient but friendly staff won't give you a hard time. This is the kind of fish you get in the South — whiting, perch and cod — served with a lot of hot peppers and tradition.
Bridgetown Finer Meats (Bridgetown): You can't have a Lenten list without touching down on the West Side, where you give directions based on which Catholic parish is nearby. Don't let the name fool you — Bridgetown Finer Meats does a great fish fry. The signature item, the Fabulous Fish Sandwich, is a giant piece of cod on Servatii rye with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. Of course, there's house-made tartar sauce on the side. For $9, this feeds two, particularly if you add a side of macaroni and cheese.
Immaculate Heart of Mary (Burlington): This is as traditional a fish fry as you can get. Run by the church's men's club, the school's gym is taken over every Friday to a packed house. The star of the show? The Tommy Boy, a grilled cheese sandwich with horseradish and a fried fish filet in the center. It's cash only, and there's a line, but the food is worth the wait.
The Pub (Crestview Hills, Rookwood): Leave it to an English pub to do fish and chips right. The battered haddock has crispy edges and tender filet, complemented by homemade tartar sauce. You also can get this as a fish sandwich on a brioche bun; both are great choices.