Lent 2015: Plenty of great fish available during this season

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By: Marshall V. King
mking@flavor574.com

Marshall V. King/Flavor574

It’s Lent, which means some give up eating red meat on Fridays.

You don’t need a hook and line to find good fish, even in cold and snowy northern Indiana.

I’m not Catholic. My faith does not ask me to give up anything, though the notion of fasting isn’t a bad one for a food writer to consider.

I’ve come to look forward to Lent, not just because of the time for reflection, but because fish moves to the center of the plate.

Without really planning to, I started a Lenten tour. Where does one find the best fish?

Don’t consider this a formal quest, a search for the best fish in Elkhart County or beyond. That could happen someday, but my goal is simply to try to eat as much fish as possible in the coming weeks.

I figure in doing so, in talking about this and inviting readers to suggest their favorites, we end up with a good list of favorite fish dishes.

My list starts with some old favorites and plans to target others.

The bar fish at Heinnie’s has appeared in past Lenten fish columns, but it’s just so good.

It’s what fried fish should be. The breading is crisp and a bit salty. The chunks of haddock are tender and moist.

I get mine with cocktail sauce and have the garlic bread toasted. The folks in the kitchen at 1743 W. Lusher Ave., Elkhart, probably mutter at me, but it’s the way I like it. ($9.99 and available at lunch or dinner.)

The smelt at Cappy’s Northside is delightful.

Years ago, the Italian American Relief Association, which became better known as the IARA or Italian Club, had smelt fries. Members would clean the smelt and then serve pounds and pounds of the fried whole fish at 401 Harrison St., Elkhart.

Those days are gone. I know a few places have smelt on the menu, but Cappy’s at 1000 N. Michigan St., Elkhart, has a good version.

The breading is light and crisp. It’s available at lunch or dinner except Friday nights because the kitchen has only one fryer, said owner Linda Anderson. ($8.95 for fish and bread or $10.95 with two sides.)

Salmon at Antonio’s. I look forward to a salmon dish on the Italian restaurant’s Lenten menu every year.

This year, it’s salmon agrodolce with sauteed shallots, grape tomatoes, crispy pancetta, fresh greens, herbs and citrus.

Chef Mike Cross created the dish in the kitchen at 1105 Goshen Ave., Elkhart, and included his balsamic syrup that he used to make at The Bluegill in Goshen years ago. It’s a nice dish. ($16 with salad and bread.)

Our list last week of Lenten fish fries didn’t initially include perhaps the most important spot in Elkhart. The Knights of Columbus, 112 E. Lexington Ave., will serve fried Alaskan pollock from 5 to 8 p.m. every Friday until Easter.

The construction project near the hall has hurt some of the monthly events, but the religious club is still working hard to raise money and feed people who treasure the event and what it serves. I look forward to trying the fish again this year.

If you’re looking beyond fried fish, I realized last week that Asian and Indian restaurants often offer a curried fish this time of year. The dish on the menu at Maple Indian Buffet serves chunks of fish in a sauce that’s spiced to your liking. It’s a nice dish, and you could find similar dishes on Chinese New Year menus.

Sushi options in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties continue to improve. I really want to try Woochi in downtown South Bend.

I know some people disdain sushi or the notion of eating raw fish this far from an ocean, but I’m still game. I just have to accept it won’t be nearly as good as that in Japan, but at least I have the memories.

I’ll try to get to Chubby Trout, 2730 Cassopolis St., Elkhart, where there’s a stuffed trout that bears the name of the restaurant (or perhaps it’s the other way around). A range of other fish is available there, too.

If you want to go high-end, the fish coming out of the kitchen at Artisan, 505 S. Main St., Elkhart, is sublime. Any of it. A few doors down, 523 Tap & Grill has some lovely seafood dishes.

The last place I’ll mention that I want to try is Wyatt’s Beef & Brew. I’ve heard good things about the historic little spot just west of the Elkhart County line along S.R. 331 and I’m curious.

Curiosity won’t likely kill me or give me indigestion. It’ll just mean trying new things, tasting new flavors.

If you want to share your favorite fish dishes, or your favorite places to eat fish this time of year, you can share them in the comments, via social media or by sending me a note. If you take to social media, please use the hashtag #lentINfish.

I’m hungry. Let’s eat.

Marshall V. King is community editor for The Elkhart Truth and food columnist for Flavor 574. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, mking@flavor574.com, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Subscribe to the Dining A La King newsletter for email updates.
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