Let me offer a few words in defense of the jack salmon. In many ways, it’s surprising it’s still around for the casual eater. This is a town in which more than once I’ve heard people praising fish that “tastes like chicken”. It’s too much trouble to remove bones from fish – and probably that complaint will soon hit chicken as well, I suppose.
Jack salmon is not salmon, it’s a fish known as whiting. The name is found in much of the Midwest, but to my memory, in the mid-Fifties the Forum Cafeteria was selling it as whiting.
Why do I defend it? First of all, it tastes good. It’s quite flavorful but not deeply fishy like mackerel. Secondly, it’s easy enough to attack with a knife and fork that a 9-year-old can learn how to bone it. (I did, and learned well enough that decades later I de-boned a 5-pound fish in front of a table of six, the others being too intimidated.) The flesh falls away easily from the large central bone, which is easy to lift out and discard. If you need a third reason, it’s among the least expensive of fish, no small claim these days. The frozen food case has it as whiting, and it can be baked if, like me you’re not into deep-frying at home.
Our Lady of Providence in Crestwood is dishing up some first-rate jack salmon at their fish fries. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, they were out of frog legs, although I admit that’s probably a good thing. If they’re that popular, maybe next year’s supply will be larger. The jack salmon is, of course, fried, large, moist, and succulent. Cod fillets, given the same treatment, are nice enough but fade in comparison. There’s also shrimp and catfish nuggets, the former quite popular to judge from what we saw waiting in line. Cheese pizza for the young ones, of course.
Good homemade-seeming coleslaw was probably the best of the sides, followed by green beans with some onion and a nice note of black pepper. Spaghetti with tomato sauce was pretty much standard, very little seasoning, and the macaroni and cheese about the same. These last three were all relatively low-salt, if that’s a concern. No hushpuppies in sight, despite being on the menu, darn it. A grace note I haven’t seen before was the presence on nearly every table of squeeze bottles of seafood sauce.
Many of the desserts do appear to be homemade. Pineapple upside down cake – crushed pineapple, so each bite had some fruit in it – was so tender it made me wonder if it was from a mix, but it certainly tasted good.
A 15-minute line around 6.15 last Friday. In the school cafeteria, with parking behind the school. Prices are on the link.
Second visit: I had to return for the frog legs. Not many chances to eat them around here, especially in the generous four two-legged pieces in these servings. They're more lightly breaded than the jack salmon but just as greaseless, and nicely crisp at the small ends. Frog legs are very mild indeed, and it's no wonder small children think they're drumsticks. The texture, too, is more poultry-like than piscatorial. These were good examples, and aside from the odd-at-first-sight appearance, very unintimidating to the beginning eater. Almost everything here, including the sides, is very lightly salted, so add more as needed.
That advice excludes the hush puppies, which are among the best I've had in recent years. Well-seasoned, clearly using minced onion and green pepper, they were moist inside and, as were the fish and frogs, well-drained and un-greasy.
This is surely the only fish fry around with a guy in a tuxedo helping with clearing tables and arranging seating. Lots of good people-watching if you like children, and several kindergarten-age helpers who boldly approach a table and say, "Is there anything I can do for you?" in case it's time to discard some of your styrofoam to the recycling bins. So cute we made sure to save a task or two for these charmers.
Our Lady of Providence
8874 Pardee Rd., Crestwood.
4-7 p.m. Fridays through April 7