WNY and Buffalo's best fish fry
John T. Edge, the director of the Sounthern Foodways Alliance (a fascinating organization), traces the fish fry back to the working class, a time when people were enslaved. "Fish fries are working people's food," Edge told the Washington Post in 2007, "If you were an enslaved person, and had Sundays off, you had a fish fry.”
"It was something the working class could take control of even though they didn't own their own farm or have access to their own livestock. They could take their cane pole and catch their dinner."
Over time, fish frys became a popular offering at riverside shacks, located close to rivers and therefore close to mills that were powered by water. Juke joints embraced the easy-to-prepare food, offering it on Friday and Saturday night when the working class had downtime.
Then, during the time of Prohibition the fish fry became the gimmick of choice as bar owners sought to draw crowds to empty, booze-free taverns.
Fish frys began as a way to sustain people during Lent, not just because they offered a meat-free dining option, but also because eating at the church provided fellowship and a sense of community.
The traditional fish fry, often referred to as a ”shore dinner” in certain regions, is particularly popular around the Great Lakes and in areas with strong Catholic populations. Each state—and sometimes each city—has its own unique interpretation of the standard fry, which is most evident in ethnically influenced side dishes and accompaniments. In Wisconsin the typical fish fry is served with German potato salad, in the South it is accompanied by hush puppies.
Whether you prefer haddock or cod, breaded or battered, lemon or tartar, Buffalo is bound to have a restaurant or two that caters to your taste preferences, but when WKBW’s Eyewitness News asked me to take its morning viewers to my favorite fish fry joint, I had no trouble selecting Joe’s Deli, where everything is made from scratch (you can view my debut as an amateur news host here) and you can dine-in or do takeout..
From the tartar sauce to the beer batter itself, Joe’s has perfected the fresh, from-scratch fish fry. Offered on Fridays, year round, it has become one of my family’s favorite guilty pleasures.
So how do you like your fish fry, and where do you go to enjoy it? Are you the type of person who enjoys fish fry all year, or just during Lent? Here at Spree.com, we want to know what you think about WNY’s fish fry habit.