For a good time on a Lenten Friday night, head on over to St. James Catholic Church on West Broad for live music and good fish eatins’ and all the fixuns’.
The music may be a some time thing, but the delicious, fresh food is not!
The meal comes with fried or baked fish, homemade coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, French fries or baked potato, carrots, rolls, and a choice of vanilla, chocolate or carrot cake (the latter, homemade every week).
Julie Theobald, the founder of the St. James annual celebration and the “kitchen operations coordinator” chatted about the fish fry while she bustled about the kitchen and dining area last Friday, carrying a tray of plastic utensils and wearing a St. James red apron.
The opening hour was 30 minutes away, and already early birds were pouring in which was okay with Theobald who knows how to run a good eatery.
The fish fry, she emphasized, is not a fund-raiser: “It’s a community event gathering, a social event” to foster good relations between churchgoers and others.
“We pay for the food and try not to lose money but our goal is to cover the cost.” Any extra money goes to the Social Outreach Committee which buys groceries which the church gives to 100 to 150 needy families on the first Friday of every month.
Thursday nights start the fish fry food prep when the homemade coleslaw group meets to chop and prepare 100 pounds of cabbage which they mix with purple cabbage (“for color”), carrots, and “we make our dressing from scratch.”
On Fridays someone comes in around 8 a.m. to start baking the potatoes, and the set-up begins.
In an ideal week, 125 volunteers come to bread fish, cut cake, run food from the kitchen to the dining hall or drive-thru assembly (must be fourth grade or older), and help in the kitchen.
Last Friday adults and students wore gloves and big smiles while they worked the assembly lines, cooked (only adults fry), placed food on carry-out plates, and served dine-in customers who waited in line which ran out the door.
Covid-19 started the drive-thru service in 2020 which was so popular, the church has kept it.
Theobald apologizes to nearby residents: “We distribute flyers to neighbors and invite them to eat for free. We try to manage the traffic as best we can.”
This is the 13th year of the fish fry and upwards of 1,300 meals are served weekly.
“People enjoy it and come back. It’s a community thing,” Theobald beamed. “Some people stay and chat; some eat and leave.”
Whatever they do, the eatins’ are delish and coming back is an easy decision. Fish fry hours are 5 – 8 p.m. and will be served March 18, March 25, April 1, and April 8. “Suggested” donations are $7 for adults, $5 for children (ages 6 to 13), free for younger children, and there’s a family pass for $25. “The prices are suggestions only and no one has to pay,” Theobald said. St. James Catholic Church, 905 Park Ave., Falls Church, VA 22046, ph. 703-532-8815, https://stjamescatholic.org