By John Matonich
I enjoy the ride into my shop in the morning. It is about a 40-minute drive, but I get a chance to have a cup of coffee and listen to the local news on the radio. Of course, there are a bunch of ads that go along with the news, but I guess it is one way to stay abreast of any local specials. A number of the ads are for restaurants and their specials always sound very good.
A number of the ads are for Friday night fish fries. I think these fish fries are something quite common in the mid-west, but especially here in the U.P. and northern Wisconsin. Going to a local bar or restaurant with the family in tow for Friday fish fry is something that has been going on for as long as I can remember and I don’t see it slowing down one bit.
In hearing some of the ads for the “all you can eat” versions made me think of the time when I was in high school when two friends and I ventured near Lake Superior to try out a little place that was serving fish. I need to mention that my two buddies were known as “Porky” and “Hunka.” Obviously, they had those handles for a reason and I wasn’t any slouch either when it came to eating. I think this restaurant was advertising all you can eat fish for about $7.
When we arrived at the restaurant we sat down and told the waitress we were all going to have the fish. She smiled and headed into the kitchen. She came back a few minutes later with our drinks and a platter of fish. I guess the platter was for the whole table, but she was a little shocked when Porky emptied the platter onto his plate (and part of the table). He simply handed her the platter back and muttered, “More!” She shook her head and headed back for more fish.
Seven and a half platters later, the owner came over to our table. We were busy enjoying fish and thought he was simply going to ask how we liked everything…so far. Instead, he leaned over the table, looked all of us in the eye and said, “Boys, I don’t care what the sign says, you are all done eating fish.” I guess he was referring to the sign hanging behind the bar advertising their “all you can eat” special. We simply nodded our heads and proceeded to finish the fish we had left.
We paid our tab and left a tip. I had enough cash to double the cost of the fish for the tip and thought it wouldn’t hurt to try to make up for the boatload of fish we ate. We received a feeble wave goodbye from the owner and out the door we went.
On the way home, Hunka commented that he was still hungry and was there another place we could stop. I simply looked at him and told him we probably shouldn’t push our luck and call it a night. He shrugged his shoulders and said he was sure his mom had some leftovers in his fridge so that would be OK.
We never went back to that place together, but I did go back a few years later with some other folks. The price was a little higher and the sign that used to be behind the bar was gone. I am not sure that had anything to do with our trip there, but it may have. While the fish fry tradition continues each Friday, I wouldn’t be surprised that the word was out and to lock the door of anyone saw these three musketeers heading their way.
And that’s the situation as I survey it.
After a 35-year career downstate livin’ amongst da trolls, during which he built a successful engineering and surveying business, John Matonich is back home in da U.P. His column will appear here occasionally, don’tcha know. His book “Surveyin’ Da Situation” is available on Amazon.com.