Kitchener-Waterloo

Plenty of fish dish options in Waterloo region: Andrew Coppolino

Fish on Good Friday is a tradition for many, but it doesn't have to be of the deep fried variety. Food columnist Andrew Coppolino looks at where you can get all different kinds of fish, but be warned: you may want to pre-order.

Fish is a traditional Good Friday dish, but it doesn't have to be of the deep fried variety

Good Friday is traditionally a day when some Christians eat fish. Food columnist Andrew Coppolino says while fish and chips tend to reign supreme, there are other more health conscious options available in and around Waterloo region. (Grandin Fish 'N' Chips/Facebook)

It's perhaps safe to say that most restaurants have fish and chips on the menu, from fast food chains to the fanciest dining spots in the region.

And likely, the number one day for the classic plate of hot, crisp French fries with battered cod, halibut or haddock served with a lemon slice and tartar sauce, is Good Friday.

The day is important for Christians, and some abstain from eating meat on Fridays, although fish is allowed.

For many restaurants, Good Friday is a big business day. Specialty shops will make multiple times more sales than on a regular Friday.

They add and train extra staff, purchase hundreds of pounds of extra fish and fries, take advance orders a week ahead, rehearse their operations and generally hunker down as the hungry throngs line up out the doors.

There's a wide range of fish and chips available in and around Waterloo region, from Barnacle Bill's and Stoyle's in Cambridge (Galt) to the Manitou Takeout food stall in Kitchener.

Take-away joints and small dine-in venues like the local chain Holy Guacamole (who cooks fish tacos only once a year), King Fish and Chips and Fish Hut get swamped from stem to stern.

Joey's Only Seafood on Highland Road in Kitchener is the 44-outlet national chain's busiest franchise at Easter when it easily quadruples its business.

Restaurants like Kitchener's Belmont Bistro will serve battered fish and chips with mushy peas, in classic British style, for both lunch and dinner. Beertown Waterloo and its Cambridge location are serving beer-battered or potato-breaded east coast cod and chips.

Some restaurants in the region are serving up fish in different ways, including a seared salmon with rice and vegetables. (CBC)

Fish without the fry

Beertown is also offering raw yellowfin tuna both in tacos and in a noodle bowl as well as seared salmon with rice, vegetables, pickled ginger and wasabi.

You could also try Waterloo's The Poke Box for a poke dish of ahi tuna with tamari glaze and pea shoots. There are gluten-free and keto options, too.

In addition, if you have concerns about our oceans' and lakes' ecological health and protecting aquatic species, there's a way to have fish and be environmentally conscious, too, when you visit a pair of Wellington County food operations.

Brodie Sorbara operates Savoy Culinary in Fergus, Ont. He will have a pop-up fish fry tent at the St. Andrews Street Mall that balances local ingredients with sustainability.

"Our pickerel and chips are one of our top sellers, and we've added fish cakes and fish tacos. The batter is Wellington County Brewery Helles Lager," Sorbara said. "Our containers are biodegradable, and our fish is sustainably sourced."

A few minutes away, Ben Sachse and Sonia Cheng own and operate the gastropub at Elora Brewing Company on Geddes Street.

The restaurant will feature Lake Erie white bass beer-battered fish and chips during the day.

"It will fly out the door. It's bigger than your usual plate of fish and chips," Sachse says. "It's basically an entire side of fish."

A pan-seared wild-caught halibut that the restaurant will prepare will be served both Friday and Saturday nights.

Sachse and Cheng are serious about sustainable seafood — so much so that they visited the Vancouver fishmongers, Organic Ocean, that is their supplier to see the operation first hand.

"I believe that we have to change how we eat seafood and more importantly how it's caught. It's something that as a chef I can educate people about and get a better product at the same time," Sachse says. "I firmly believe that this is what we should be doing. I don't think there needs to be any other reason."

I think it's good to be mindful on this weekend, but regardless of what your approach is to fish "fryday" this Good Friday, remember that the restaurants could be very busy at the time you want to go, so plan accordingly.

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