Fish Fry Frenzy, Week 2: St. Pius Catholic Church on South Grand

Updated 3/8/10 by Robin Wheeler: Robin Wheeler is not Catholic and has questionable knowledge of the saints (at best). The namesake of the South Grand church, St. Pius V, was a 16th-century pontiff. He instilled the Feast of the Rosary and battled the Turks, which was probably pretty exhausting. The piece below refers to St. Pius X.

St. Pius, a Venetian who served as pope for 11 years in the early 20th century, was a big fan of the Eucharist. He encouraged the faithful to receive Holy Communion often.

It's only fitting, then, that the Tower Grove East church that bears his name would have a Friday fish fry line stretching through the building, out the door and halfway down the block at 6 p.m.

Not for wine and wafers, but for fried cod and beer.

Perhaps word spread from last year, when St. Pius was a stop on Steven Smith's STL Fish Fry Crew. Or the recent surge in fish-fry media coverage. Or perhaps word's finally traveled about St. Pius' spicy jalapeño tartar sauce, availability of Schlafly bottles and live Irish music.

Whatever happened, the church couldn't have predicted the swarm of people -- church members and interlopers alike -- who would cram into the snaking basement hallway and spill onto the street despite the blustery wind.

At 6:20 the message came from a church volunteer. They were out of cod.

Many greeted the news with disbelief as it traveled down the line. Others, confusion that there was no cod, but catfish and shrimp remained.

There was a little anger. "Catfish?" Allison Rabbitt said in a disgusted tone. Her husband Matt added, "Ugh...just shrimp? Aw, HELL no!"

A few questioned their faith. Before leaving for fish and chips at Llewellyn's, the Rabbitts overheard this exchange:

"What in the -- ? How does a Catholic church run out of fish at 6 pm?"

"Maybe God hates us."

No, God didn't hate them. The church just had a record-breaking crowd and hadn't properly gauged their popularity.

And so it continued down the line, while others whipped out their phones to find out what the hell to do next because St. Piusisoutofcodeveryonepanic! Orders were sent to other churches. Some used smart phones to locate other fish fries, then hurried to the parking lot to get there before the rest of the crowd figured it out.

Enough people departed to allow those in the outside line to squeeze into the basement's small entryway. "Close the door and don't let anyone in!" the volunteer commanded as she dashed into the melee.

Seconds later a couple came in. They were skeptics, refusing to believe anyone in the line who told them about the cod shortage. It wasn't until the volunteer returned with a makeshift "Out of Cod" sign that they accepted the gravity of the situation.

"Well...I guess we'll just go for sushi."

St. Pius reportedly died of exhaustion in 1914. His volunteers empathize.

RATINGS: [1 fish = meh; 5 fish = fry me to the moon!]

Fish - N/A. We left for fear of overtaxing an already exhausted system.

Sides - N/A

Desserts - N/A

Beverages -

(They tried to pass out free cans of Bud to the people in line as best they could.)

Entertainment -

(Nothing's more entertaining than watching well-fed people go apeshit because a church has run out of cod.)

Overall -

(For the tenacity of the volunteers.)

St. Pius Catholic Church 3310 South Grand Boulevard 314-772-1525 Fish fry every Friday through Easter weekend, 4-7:30 p.m.

Arrive early.

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