Author Jake Oresick on some Western Pennsylvania fish fries of yore.

By Jake Oresick 

Sacred Heart – Originally published on April 11, 2014.

The handsome church springs from idyllic, tree-lined grounds, reflecting Shadyside’s suburban roots.

But, since no one cares about that stuff, let’s talk fish fry.  Sacred Heart is unique in that a concierge assigns your table and then a child waiter brings your food.  I feel like a millionaire!  And don’t worry about tipping, because kids hate money.  They think it’s a boring grownup thing.

The baked fish sandwich was enormous and eminently nourishing, which, I assume, was an intentional metaphor for God’s redemptive love.  Obviously.  The fried fish sandwich was exactly like the baked–except 3,783,429-times better.  It’s the latent awareness of imminent diabetes that makes it good.


Now for some hasty, itemized reviews which were definitely not lifted from a cookbook I wrote in first grade.

The dough felt soft beneath the cheesy cheese.

It was really good and I liked it.

#yum #delicious #hashtags #onedirection

Where: 325 Emerson Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

When: Fridays of Lent, excluding Good Friday

Times: 5-7:30 p.m.


St. Joan of Arc – Originally published on April 18, 2014.

St. Joan of Arc Church in South Park Township eschews the charming austerity of most church fish fries in favor of something more elegant.  Sure, you’ll have to brave a 35-minute Soviet-style bread line, but, once inside, prepare to be pampered.

 That’s me in the red.

A dapper maître de plays gatekeeper to the dining room, and, yes, it’s a real dining room, and not an elementary school cafe-torium.  There are no rainbow murals, or weathered gym floors, or booger-laden fold-up tables that you can’t fit your knees under (damn dancer’s legs).

Instead it’s like a little fishy palace.  There are flowers on the tables, waiters (adult waiters) dressed like Geoffrey from “The Fresh Prince,” and three large paintings of a very Bradley Cooper-looking Jesus.

“I’ve never seen blues eyes before”
“Well, my Dad isn’t from here”

They also have food.  This week’s MVP was the New England clam chowder, which was hot, and chunky, and oh sweet mercy I just love soup!


I also had the fried fish sandwich, and closed with the macaroni and cheese, which was good, but for the paltry portion.

 Is Lent almost over?

Next week I review treadmills.

Where: 6470 Library Road, South Park Township, PA 15129

When: Fridays of Lent, excluding Good Friday

Times: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Menu: hand-breaded North Atlantic Cod or Baked $7.00, salmon, homemade crab cakes, shrimp, homemade soups, coleslaw, salads, pierogies, macaroni and cheese, cabbage noodles, fish tacos, and much more.


St. Bernard – Originally published March 25, 2015.

This is South Hills traffic.


If you can get there before morning, St. Bernard Parish has beer and a projector screen showing March Madness. You’ll appreciate both when you’re waiting in the line, which — yes, I know, I always say the lines are long — starts at a different fish fry two miles away.

 #Lines #Waiting #WaitersGonnaWaitWaitWaitWaitWait

A nun took my order, and, as I’d never seen a real nun before, defied my preconceptions.


She was young and affable, with a subtle and curious accent (Czech, or Slovak, or upper tip of Baldwin). The extensive menu had homemade gumbo, and specials like crab cakes or pasta fra diavolo. I ordered fish tacos, an odd choice since I don’t like them.

Luckily, the meal was in Instagram. Thus, it felt like eating classy fish tacos from the olden times, when food, groups of girlfriends, and the New York skyline were pleasantly blurry.

Guacamole was not extra, although that grated cheese was actually surprise lettuce.

The tacos were good, with a spicy, toothsome aftertaste resulting from . . . spices. IDK. I’m not one of those food snobs who always knows exactly what I’m eating.

I also had other stuff.

When I was a child, my mother made orange pop by mixing orange juice with seltzer water. I now realize that my mother is a liar.

 This is pizza.

Where: 311 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, PA 15216

When: Fridays of Lent, except Good Friday

Times: 4-7:30 p.m.

Menu: fried and baked fish dinners and sandwiches; fried shrimp dinner, macaroni and cheese dinners, pizza, fish tacos. Weekly special menus includes crab cakes, pasta and shrimp, pasta fra diavolo with shrimp, pasta with sautéed garlic, pine nuts and tomato sauce. Also featuring homemade gumbo and salads. Cost: dinner, $9; sandwiches, $7; weekly specials, $9.


Holy Trinty – Originally published April 3, 2015.

The drive to Holy Trinity is distinctively pastural, although I got pretty lost, so maybe it’s not supposed to be. This Washington County parish is best-suited for rebellious fish-eaters, as Holy Trinity is part of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC), which split from the Vatican in 1897.

Community theater re-enactment of the 1897 schism.

The potato pancakes were crisp, flavorful, and arguably the best thing I’ve had at any fish fry.

If you begin a statement with “arguably,” the rest doesn’t have to be completely true.

I wish they came in a Pringles tube, so I could eat 50 of them while I’m Netflixing “Parenthood.” In the Thanksgiving episode, Julia’s rum raisin pies came out poorly, because she’s an intense, career-oriented attorney, and it wouldn’t be fair to be good at two things. I’d like to review that meal.


I enjoyed Holy Trinity’s New England clam chowder, but, as you know from my OKComrade profile, I’m a chowder guy. Would you like it? Probably. But this is a pretty low-stakes decision, so pull yourself together and order with your heart.

 I ate this.

Where: 605 Hewitt Avenue, Canton Township, PA 15301

When: Fridays of Lent, except Good Friday

Times: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Menu: fish sandwiches; pierogies; cabbage and noodles; clam chowder; cole slaw; french fries; macaroni and cheese; potato pancakes; drinks; dessert (cake, cookies, pies); coffee/hot tea (free refills).


Immaculate Heart of Mary – Originally published April 4, 2017.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Church is a grand, imposing edifice, strategically built up high on Polish Hill, where God can keep an eye on things.

The reaction that joke deserved.

IHM is unique for its eclectic drink menu, including free coffee and tea, and, for one U.S. dollar, water and assorted pops [sic]. I chose Faygo ginger ale, which tells the world, I’m seven-years-old, my tummy hurts, and my grandparents love me lots and lots! This particular can was from an excellent vintage: good body–ripe, round, and supple–with just a hint of nutmeg.


The fish sandwich comes in three fried rods, which look like chicken fingers, but they’re not, so don’t get excited.

 You’re not supposed to eat the styrofoam, but don’t beat yourself up if it happens.

I ate this.

Everything was delicious!

After dinner, I walked through the empty, opulent sanctuary, which made me feel like Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum. Speaking of Ben Stiller, my mother doesn’t like Meet the Parents, because Robert De Niro is so mean to Greg.

I drew this on a napkin. It took three minutes.

Where: 3058 Brereton Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

When: Fridays of Lent, except Good Friday

Times: 3 p.m. until the fishes are gone

Menu: fish sandwiches; haluski; pierogies; potato soup; coleslaw; french fries; macaroni and cheese; water; pop; coffee/hot tea.



St. Ferdinand – Originally published April 8, 2017.

St. Ferdinand Church in Cranberry Township, Butler County, is like an exotic fish fry resort, where they lavish you with gifts and bus your table when you’re done. Accordingly, every single one of its 10,000 parishioners was in line.

Give or take.

One reason for the hysteria is stickers. Every customer gets fish fry-themed stickers to stick to their lapel, or their Trapper Keeper ™, or all over an important report that their mother or father wrote for work. Low on sticker money? God will provide. The stickers you seek are free.

 Fake news alert: St. Ferdinand’s doesn’t have grilled cheese.

The best bread I’ve had at any fish fry, St. Ferdinand’s uses fresh sub rolls from Nappies in North Fayette Township for their fish sandwiches. As side dishes, I had applesauce and macaroni and cheese.

This photo is blurry because I’m not perfect.

Let’s learn a little something while we eat. This church is named for Fernando III of Castile, an extremely pious king who founded hospitals and churches, but also led bloody crusades.

His parents were cousins.

Then I had the seafood chowder, and they offer a different soup each week.

I’d like to eat that cartoon fish who lied about grilled cheese.

Thirsty? They’ve got lemonade, fruit punch, and water. But put away that sticker-covered dollar bill, because drinks are free.

Drinks are a dollar everywhere, but here they’re free!

Dessert is a delicious brownie à la mode, with ice cream from the nearby Ice Box Creamery. This can’t also be free, can it?


No. But also yes. I mean, it comes with the purchase of a meal. So yes.

Where: 2535 Rochester Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066

When: Fridays of Lent

Times: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. (except Good Friday, when it’s 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.)

Menu: fish sandwiches; cheese pizza; haluski; coleslaw; french fries; macaroni and cheese; applesauce; green beans; soup of the week; water; lemonade; fruit punch; brownie à la mode.



St. Raphael – Originally published on April 8, 2014.

St. Raphael Parish is nestled in Pittsburgh’s Morningside neighborhood, and, unlike Immaculate Conception, the business goes down in the adjacent elementary school.  Being in a school has pros and cons.

Pro: This rainbow.

A real image from St. Raphael School.

Con: Bullies.

Not a real image from St. Raphael School.

St. Ray’s was swarming with sinners, and I had to wait over 15 minutes to order.

Don’t let the line dissuade you, though, as the food was worth it, and you can pass the time quickly by texting your boyfriend.  What’s that?!  You don’t have a boyfriend?  :: brushes hair behind your ears; grips the gaze of your warm blue eyes in mine ::

Macaroni and cheese was the day’s showstopper.  Absolutely get the macaroni and cheese.  Why?  Alright, small confession: I find it very difficult to describe food in a graphic or critical manner.  But it was good.  “Texture”?  Let’s go with that.

I also had the fried fish sandwich.  So big.  Too much food.  Maybe you could share it with that nice girl from the line?  Just sayin [sic].  I heard she’s single.

Then I had pierogies.

Oh sweet mercy, I’m so bloated and sleepy.  Next week I review apple slices.

Where: 1154 Chislett Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

When: Fridays of Lent, including Good Friday

Times: 4:30-7:30 p.m.

Menu: fried fish, baked fish and shrimp dinners, with choice of two sides.  Also, baked and fried fish sandwiches, haluski, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, french fries, pierogies, mixed vegetables and more.

Jake Oresick is an attorney and public policy analyst. He is the author of The Schenley Experiment: A Social History of Pittsburgh’s First Public High School.