Would You Like Dolmas With That?

Put some variety in your Lenten diet

You've seen the signs on parish lawns and thought, "What's up with those Catholics and their Friday fish fries? I'm not Catholic, religious or even spiritual, but I do occasionally enjoy a little fish. Would they welcome me at their banquet, or will levitating nuns immediately recognize my heathen aura and vaporize me on the spot with laser beams from their eyes?"

Fear not, child. It is Lent, a season of deep reflection and sacrifice for Catholics, and the Vatican does instruct the faithful to abstain from eating land-roving animals on certain days. But you don't have to be Catholic to enjoy an inexpensive fish dinner and family-oriented conviviality at any local church. Subscription to Greek Orthodox Christianity is also not required of those wishing to scarf down a sumptuous midday meal at St. Nicholas' Greek Orthodox Church (4967 Forest Park Parkway, 314-361-6924). Theirs is a fish fry with Mediterranean flair occurring every Friday of the year from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and it's not limited to fish. Costing far less than a papal indulgence, an à la carte lunch at the church includes your selections from a menu of generously portioned fried cod or gyro sandwiches, classic Greek salads, gyro salads, steak fries, coleslaw and spanakopita. After you've cleaned your plate, how will you resist the temptation of St. Nick's baklava, lovingly made by wee Greek church ladies, or a sundae of Ted Drewes frozen custard topped with said pastry? Arrive early, unless you intend to wile away the wait in line with deep prayer. -- John Goddard

Sins of the Fathers
Abstruse but rockin'

WED 3/17

The Desert Fathers have something up their collective sleeves, but just what that something is would require many hours of quiet contemplation with potent potables and a copy of the Old Testament before it could be discerned. Their concept album The Spirituality touches on evolution, the Age of Reason and recurring images of dogs (spell it backwards, maybe?). In between the homilies about learned professors trying to reason with sniffing pups, winged pitbulls and the Gregorian chants, the Desert Fathers break into indie-rocking space jams and some haunting, dream-sequence-like ambient soundscapes. And then they get back to rocking in their trebly, "we went to art school" style. They'll either confuse you or convince you to shave your head and follow them in their mission, whatever it may be. The Desert Fathers testify at 8:30 p.m. at the Rocket Bar (2001 Locust Street, call 314-588-5055). -- Paul Friswold

After the Fire
Remembering the Wabash Café

THUR 3/18

The Delmar Loop was a different beast in the early '90s. The Duck Room was Cicero's Basement Bar, the Tivoli was a run-down theater still screening The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday at midnight, knots of punks (real punks, with homemade tattoos and forties of malt liquor in hand) hung out in the unlit parking lot that's now a well-lit parking garage, and there was an ever-present sense that anything could happen if you just waited around long enough. On the east side of Skinker, the Wabash Triangle Café shone like a beacon for all the freaks and weirdos (you know, the artists) who couldn't wait for something to happen, so they made it happen. Then the Wabash mysteriously burned down in the early morning of March 18, 1994. The brief life of this countercultural center is celebrated in word and song by John "Sick Puppy" Newmark (and others who survived) from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Halo Bar (6161 Delmar Boulevard, 314-726-6161; no cover), which now stands in the Wabash's footprints. -- Paul Friswold

Pop Goes the Movie

THUR 3/18

Japanophile alert! Whether you're interested in modern Japanese society or just entranced by its flashy, disposable pop culture, you'll love The Rice Ladle. A 1982 documentary that contrasts a typical would-be pop starlet (her hit commercial jingle is called "Pop-Up Love Feelings") with older working-class women including sushi servers and department-store greeters, the film still holds up as an accurate picture of novelty-crazed J-pop music. Ladle screens with Memories of Monet, The Portable Phonograph and The Sorcerer's Apprentice as part of the Ciné 16 series of vintage 16mm films. The program begins at 8 p.m. at the Mad Art Gallery (2727 South 12th Street). Admission is free; for more information, call 314-771-8230. -- Niles Baranowski

Sweet Talk

SUN 3/21

You just love late-night talk shows. But when was the last time Leno weighed in on the St. Louis public school system? To borrow a line from Ice Cube, either they (Letterman, Conan, et al.) don't know, don't show or don't care about what's going on in your 'hood. Well, the Commonspace cares. For spirited St. Louis discussion with distinguished locals, stop by the Commonspace (615 North Grand Boulevard, 314-531-1707) at 7 p.m. for Free Candy, a live talk show hosted by Amanda Doyle and Julia Smiley. In addition to the complimentary Sugar Daddy candies, you'll also enjoy a little ear candy from house band the Sugar Daddies. For more info, check out www.thecommonspace.org. -- R.L. Nave