The Coast News Group
The crunchy good fried cod dinner at Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church. Photo by David Boylan
The crunchy good fried cod dinner at Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church. Photo by David Boylan
CitiesColumnsCommunityEncinitasFood & WineLick the Plate

Encinitas church serves up heavenly Lenten fish fry

Growing up Catholic in Michigan, Lenten fish fries were (and still are) prevalent, extending beyond the Catholic community.

In fact, one of the metropolitan Detroit area’s standout fish fries is held in my hometown at the First United Methodist Church in Royal Oak. They offer various fish options, including local walleye and perch, drawing hundreds of attendees to their Friday gatherings.

Additionally, among Polish Catholics in metro Detroit, particularly in Hamtramck, the day before Lent is celebrated with Pazcki Day (pronounced punch-key), akin to Fat Tuesday but featuring jelly doughnuts.

As a child, fish fries weren’t high on my list of preferred events. However, having been away from home for some time, I’ve come to appreciate the simple joys of gathering in a church hall and enjoying crispy fried fish, fries, coleslaw, and other fixings with parishioners of all ages.

Thus, I set out to find a similar experience in North County, preferably close to home.

Through online research and assistance from longtime Encinitas resident Tiffany Weis, I discovered that during Lent (Feb. 16 to March 22), the Knights of Columbus hosts an elaborate Lenten fish fry every Friday at Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church on Encinitas Boulevard.

The dinner offers an extensive menu in a spacious venue capable of accommodating a large crowd.

Saint John parishioners Denise Kelly, Katie Thompson and Lorraine Butler. Photo by David Boylan
Saint John the Evangelist parishioners Denise Kelly, Katie Thompson and Lorraine Butler at a weekly Lenten fish fry. Photo by David Boylan

Arriving at Saint John, I found the parking lot already full by 6 p.m. Notably, nearly every available rooftop space was adorned with solar panels, reflecting the organization’s commitment to sustainable practices. Inside, the bustling atmosphere was filled with energy from children, teenagers, young parents, and older attendees — exactly what I had hoped for and reminiscent of home.

The food line stretched along the stage, where eager parishioners awaited their Lenten plates. While waiting, I chatted with a couple of Saint John dads, who updated me on parish news and the menu offerings, which included baked fish, fish tacos, crunchy cod, fried shrimp, mac and cheese, and desserts, all reasonably priced. I opted for the classic deep-fried cod, adhering to the traditional Midwest fish fry experience.

I placed my order for the fried fish dinner, which came with French fries and coleslaw, while navigating the busy kitchen. I grabbed a Coke from the teenager-staffed beverage table, but there was also beer and wine available.

When I took a seat at a busy table, other attendees welcomed me with open arms and expressed appreciation for my interest in their fish fry event and my story.

It was a delight to eat the tartar-dipped, crispy cod with perfectly cooked French fries and delectable coleslaw. Trish Conners, a parishioner, made a delicious coleslaw that I particularly enjoyed.

The wholesome, family-oriented atmosphere of the event was heartening, reminding me of the importance of community gatherings.

Before leaving, I chatted with organizers Denise Kelly, Katie Thompson, and Lorraine Butler, who provided additional background on the event, emphasizing that it is open to the general public, not just Saint John parishioners.

I should mention that other Friday fish fries are also available in the area, including at the Encinitas American Legion, which offers live music alongside its food.

Regardless of the venue, I highly recommend participating in this February and March tradition—it’s a wonderful experience. The fish fries run every Friday through March 22, with more information available at

Leave a Comment