It's Lent. And that anticipated ice storm drove me from a planned leisurely dinner with friends in the far reaches of the County to a fast run for a fish fry before the precipitation began. Unfortunate, but as my pal put it, there are always more eating adventures in the future.
In the meantime, I made my first visit to an American Legion hall since I was a kid. Rollo Calcaterra Post #15 is on The Hill, near the corner of Bischoff and Edwards - you've probably seen the picnic pavillion on the corner that belongs to them. The actual building is a snug little cottage, and the fish fry line is down some outside steps, past a sign that reminds you to wipe your feet, and into what some St. Louisans still call a rathskeller. (There's more room for dining upstairs on the first floor.)
The menu is a simple one, cod or shrimp. The sides are pasta, of course, and slaw. Two big pieces of fish, total pre-cooking close to a half pound, in a crunchy cornmeal batter, well-seasoned, make this a bargain at $8. (Shrimp is $9.) The pasta, rigatoni in a chunky tomato sauce, isn't overcooked - at least early in the hours of operation - and is surprisingly satisfying. Included are a couple of pieces of St. Louis-style Italian bread, courtesy of Vitale's Bakery, and a piece of cake from Missouri Baking. Buy your drinks at the bar.
I chose the chocolate cake, a square of a sheet cake, and was pretty pleased - there's a little enhancement to it, maybe a faint hint of mint or cinnamon, light enough that it's hard to identify but sufficient to make the cake a step above a Betty Crocker type of thing.
My early arrival turned out to mean that I was probably the first female diner of the day. The room was populated almost completely by guys in caps, mostly older, seemingly members, as they were quietly chewing the fat at the bar and the serving line. The background music fit right in to the feeling of an old Saturday Evening Post cover - Paul Anka singing "Diana" and "Sleepwalk" by Santo and Johnny. And I have to say that as a woman visiting alone, I felt extremely comfortable. No stares, a couple of guys moving a little to give me room at the bar to order, but absolutely nothing to make me feel like anything other than just someone getting their fish. Very nice.
5307 Bischoff Ave. at Edwards
Fridays during Lent
4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Dine in or carry out