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South Washington County's weekly fish fry dinners have diners hooked

Ashley Wagenman of Cottage Grove serves platefuls of fried and baked cod at the Friday fish fry at River Oaks Golf Course. 1 / 2
Server Jonnie Bloemers greets Kathy and Michael Julson of Cottage Grove at the Friday fish fry at River Oaks Golf Course. “We see them every week,” Bloemers said. (Bulletin photos by William Loeffler)2 / 2

Along with daffodils, daylight saving time and opening day at Target Field, the return of the Friday night fish fry is a sure sign that spring will not be denied.

Fish, of course, is the traditional Lenten repast for Catholics, who must abstain from eating meat on Fridays. But the fish fry has evolved beyond dietary doctrine to hook diners of all creeds.

Perhaps the longest-running fish fry in the area is at Tinucci’s in Newport, where the “all you care to eat” buffet includes coconut shrimp and baked chicken along with fish. Takeout fish dinners are also available.

“We feed about 300 people every Friday during Lent,” Mark Tinucci, Jr. said.

On the other side of Highway 61, the North Pole restaurant is also angling for more Lenten business. While they don’t feature the all-you-can eat option, they’ve added more fish entrees to their menu.

“We’re expanding our non-meat options during Lent,” owner Mary North said.

Kathy and Michael Julson are regulars at the popular Friday night fish fry at River Oaks Golf Course, which runs 4-8 p.m. As Lutherans, the Cottage Grove couple doesn’t have to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. They’ve been coming to the all-you-can eat dinner for four years because they like the food.

“It’s just the menu choices, basically,” Kathy Julson said. “It’s not the cheapest fish fry but it’s the best.”

By 4:30 p.m. one dining room had begun to fill up as servers Jonnie Bloemers, Ashley Wagenman and Kristen Leko hustled back and forth from the kitchen, bearing plates of fried or baked cod and side orders of potatoes and salad. Host Dennis Jones said they expected to serve about 225 dinners that evening.

Joe Duffy, manager of American Legion Post 98 in St. Paul Park, said they served 267 fish dinners Feb. 27. Customers have their choice of fried or baked fish, along with a vegetable, baked or au gratin potatoes, dinner rolls and pudding.

“The food’s excellent. It’s supporting the Legion. Our profits go back to the community.”

Try a fish fry:

Hungry for a Friday night fish fry? Try these south Washington County options:

-- American Legion Post 98, 328 Broadway Ave., St. Paul Park — 5:30-8 p.m. Fridays through April 3; cost is $10 for adults, $6 for children 12 and under; 651-459-8016

-- American Motorsports Bar and Grill, 7240 East Point Douglas Rd., Cottage Grove —

4-10 p.m. Fridays through April 3; cost is $13.99 for all-you-can- eat, includes homemade coleslaw and french fries; 651-768-0303

-- Cloverleaf Bar and Grill, 2146 Hastings Ave., Newport — Features fish on its menu Fridays and Saturdays yearround; 651-768-9921

-- North Pole Restaurant, 1644 Hastings Ave., Newport — Sit-down dinner features extra fish dishes on the menu Fridays through April 3 from 6 a.m.-7 p.m.; 651-459-9553 or www.northpolerestaurant.com

-- River Oaks Golf Course, 11099 Highway 61, Cottage Grove — All-you-can-eat fried or baked cod 4-8 p.m. Fridays, through April 3; cost is $15.95 for adults, $9.95 for children ages 4-12; 651-438-3627 ext. 4 for more information

-- Tinucci’s Restaurant, 396 21st St., Newport — All-you-care-to-eat fish dinner 5-8:30 p.m. Fridays through April 2;

cost is $19.95 per person, $14.95 with coupon that can be printed out on website at www.tinuccis.com;

651-459-3211

-- VFW Red Barn Post, 8752

9260 East Point Douglas Road, Cottage Grove — 5-7:30 p.m. Feb-April 3; cost is $11 for adults, $10 for seniors, $6 for children 7-12, and $3 for children 6 and younger;

651-459-9940

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