Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Town and Country doesn’t do a Lenten Fish Fry. At Assumption, it’s Friday lunch almost every week of the year. (They’re skipping April 14 this year because it’s the Orthodox Holy Friday, for instance.) But there seems always to be a baked fish on the menu, which changes slightly from week to week, and for now, for Lent, there’s a fried fish special, cod and catfish, on hand as well. So this was a fine excuse.
It’s a little tricky to get to, on a service road, officially Des Peres Road, on the west side of I-270 north of Manchester Road. Be patient; it’s worth it. The entrance to the dining room is at the far west side of the property, downhill from the entrance. Wheelchair access is feasible, although slightly snug if there’s a wide turning radius.
This is a big and quite smooth operation, two cafeteria lines set up, and lots of room. Tables are bussed, rather than carrying off one’s own dishes and trash, and it’s real plates, at least for the main courses, and no plastic forks. The cod/catfish special came with sweet potato fries and coleslaw. Both fish were expertly fried, a large filet of catfish and a cod loin. They had different batters, cornmeal for the catfish, which I preferred, nice and crisp, but not overpowering the fish. The cod was well-cooked, but the batter slightly tougher. Fries don’t stand up well to steam tables, unfortunately, but the hush puppies were quite good. The coleslaw was just okay. That will be the last time you see those word used in this review, I promise.
My lunch partner went for the moussaka, the traditional baked dish with ground meat, beef, in this case, with eggplant, mashed potatoes and cheese. The balance of seasoning in the meat and eggplant was great, meaty with that slight note of cinnamon that’s traditional. It’s satisfying and full-flavored enough to carry the mild flavor of the potato, but unintimidating to the beginning gastronaut, as is much of Greek cuisine. (Back in the day, it was my first foray into the unknown.)
We also investigated some of the options we thought were sides. Some of them were; others were generous enough they could easily be a lunch entree. The soup this visit, and appearing on rotation, was lobster bisque. Just a hint of heat, a hint of sweet, as befits the rich shellfish, and several honest-to-goodness chunks of tender lobster meat in it made things tasty. The Greek salad was large, crisp, very fresh. It’s offered both with and without red onion. The dressing is what I always think of as the Real Thing for a Greek salad, olive oil, a good note of oregano and definitely not sweet. Yes, feta cheese, some Greek olives, and a couple of small, sweet tomatoes. It’s a fine example of the classic. But perhaps first among this group were the dolmades, stuffed grape leaves, perhaps an inch across, so not huge. But are they delicious, very much big-flavor, the lemony notes, the meat, the rice, a little dill, all dangerously good.
Of course there are several of the traditional Greek sweets for dessert, plus a nutmeg-laced cheesecake, but little can pull me away from galaktoboureko, the filo dough holding a custard filling that’s thickened with semolina. A generous portion, the filo dough still crisp, all lightly sweetened – and is it my imagination or have Greek desserts over the years become less sweet as the new generations adjust things to modern taste? Traditional or not, this was excellent.
Succumbing to the side dishes and/or gastronomic curiosity will raise the price above a traditional fish fry. But it’s worth it. Not available on this visit but seen on other weeks’ menus are things like Aegean clam chowder, pastitsio, the macaroni casserole, and avgolemono soup in both beef and chicken iterations. Gyros are always offered, ditto spanokopita and tiropita, the spinach and the cheese hand pies.
Those menus are posted by the month and the upcoming month on their website, so you can plan your visit.
Alas, no roditys, the Greek rose wine, but the food makes up for that.
1755 Des Peres Rd., Town and Country
Most Fridays 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Credit cards: Yes