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'You buy, we fry' in metro Detroit: 6 spots for fish specials during Lent

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 2/27/2021 Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press

To say fish is popular during this time of year is a huge understatement. During the Lenten season, fish is king,  church fish fries are hopping and plenty of restaurants are offering a sea of specials during the weeks leading up to Easter. 

a man standing in front of a store: Howard Halpern holds the door for customer Anita Sanders at the Original Redford Fish and Seafood Market that now fries up your fish on request for an extra $2 per pound. © Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press Howard Halpern holds the door for customer Anita Sanders at the Original Redford Fish and Seafood Market that now fries up your fish on request for an extra $2 per pound.

Around metro Detroit, there are plenty of places where you can choose your fish and have it fried for you fresh on the spot.

At these places, "you buy, we fry" is the name of the game. You can order by the piece, in dinner combinations  or huge amounts. And, most times, prices are reasonable.

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Fish selections range from cod and catfish to ocean perch and whiting. And there's typically plenty of shrimp, too. 

a person standing in front of a store: Bryan Young, 37, of Redford, carries out some fried tilapia from the Original Redford Fish and Seafood Market on Feb. 24, 2021. The market now fries up your fish on request for an extra $2 per pound. © Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press Bryan Young, 37, of Redford, carries out some fried tilapia from the Original Redford Fish and Seafood Market on Feb. 24, 2021. The market now fries up your fish on request for an extra $2 per pound.

The "you buy, we fry" route offers  freshly fried fish without the hassle of  home frying. And don't forget that sometimes that fried odor can hang around for days.

At the Redford Fish Market, owner Howard Halpern comes from a background in the wholesale fish business. He's third-generation following his father and grandfather in the wholesale fish business.

Halpern and his wife, Elyssa, run the Redford Fish and Seafood Market on Joy Road just off of Telegraph in Redford. Originally called Anna's Seafood Market, Halpern bought it when it became available 13 years ago.

a sign above a store: Anita Sanders of Detroit picks up her order at Original Redford Fish and Seafood Market on Feb. 24, 2021. The market now fries up your fish on request for an extra $2 per pound. © Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press Anita Sanders of Detroit picks up her order at Original Redford Fish and Seafood Market on Feb. 24, 2021. The market now fries up your fish on request for an extra $2 per pound.

Halpern's fresh fish counter includes cod, catfish, ocean perch, swai and tilapia. Its catfish, Elyssa Halpern said, is American and comes from a company in Mississippi. You can also buy frozen fish, snow, or king crab legs and shrimp.

During Lent, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, the Halperns said to expect a good wait, especially around dinnertime. 

"We cook all our fish to order and everything is hand-dipped," Halpern said. "Friday starts around 2 p.m. and goes nonstop until closing."

 The restaurant uses a traditional batter with the flour and seasoning base by Russell mix, based in Livonia.  It also uses a cornmeal-based coating. Both are "doctored" up with other seasonings, including a product called "Fish Crack."   The Halperns also make their own coleslaw and tartar sauce.

All fish ordered cooked costs $2 per pound more. 

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On a recent weekday, Anita Sanders of Detroit and her sister, Shon, came in for the $21.99 special, which included 10 jumbo shrimp, 10 fresh wings, and 1 pound of fresh tilapia, catfish or whiting.

Anita Sanders, 45,  said she remembers the place way back when it was Anna's. It was Shon Sanders' first time.

"Everything was excellent, even the hush puppies. The food is excellent, and I would go back again," Anita Sanders said.

Shon Sanders said the catfish nuggets were good, but she was amazed by the shrimp.

“This is so good it will make you want to slap mama,” Sanders said.

In metro Detroit, many places that offer "you buy, we fry" were once able to accept EBT or Bridge cards, many owners said. Bridge cards are part of the federal government's Supplemental Nutritional Assistant Program (SNAP) benefits, commonly known as food stamps. The change, according to several fish store owners, took place about four years ago. Using Bridge Cards for  "you buy, we fry" could be seen getting around the no-prepared food rule.

"You were allowed to use EBT cards but because of the law we stopped accepting them," Halpern said. 

Those who receive SNAP benefits cannot use them to buy prepared foods, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). That stipulation refers to hot or cold foods that are not to be cooked at home. Heated foods, according to a 2017 USDA memo, are foods "cooked or heated by the retailer before or  after purchase."

Under SNAP rules, both are ineligible for purchasing using a Bridge Card.  In September 2017 memo from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service "you buy, we fry" business is specifically mentioned under a clarification of heated foods or foods cooked or heated on-site by the retailer before or after, whether the "cooking/heating" is free or at a cost. 

Bigger fish chains in metro Detroit include Captain Jay's Fish and Chicken, which began in Detroit and now has more than 30 locations according to its website. There's also Nu Wave Fish and Chicken, with seven metro Detroit locations. Some of these two chains have seating inside, but most are mainly carry-out, according to their websites. Phone calls and emails to both chains for this story were not returned. 

Here's a sampling of several metro area places that offer "you buy, we fry" options.

Dearborn Fish Market

4355 Schaefer Road, Dearborn

What: Run by father and son Phil and Sonny Calandra. They've been in business 36 years on Schaefer, about a block off Michigan Avenue. Fried fish dinners have been offered since they opened.

Sonny Calandra said they will fry up nearly any fish you want, from fillets to whole fish to clams, oysters, and shrimp. The market has  fried dinner specials or you can choose your fish to fry for an extra cost per pound. 

For example, the market's Nova Scotia cod is $10.50 per pound and costs $1.75 extra to have it battered and fried. Separately, a cod dinner is $9.49 and comes with fries, coleslaw and bread. 

For info: 313-581-6630

Detroit Fresh Fish and Seafood

19001 Telegraph Road, Detroit

What: Offers  a variety of fish from catfish to tilapia to perch and whiting. All fish is sold by the pound; prices vary by  variety of fish. They will fry whole fish.  Add $1.50 per pound if you want the store to fry the fish for you. 

For info: 313- 255-1900

Fresh Fish House

Multiple locations

What: More than a dozen varieties of fish sold fresh and frozen. Buy fresh fish to go or have it fried for an extra cost per pound. Prices vary per pound. Also has a variety of fish sandwiches and dinners. 

For info: 10033 W. Eight Mile, Detroit, 313-861-3474; 23231 Greenfield, Southfield, 248-569-1400; and 9015 Telegraph Road, Redford Township, 313-387-7667.

Metro Detroit Fish and Seafood

18440 Grand River Ave., Detroit

What: For more than 10 years, Metro Detroit Fish and Seafood has offered up fresh water and ocean fish, including whole fish and filets. There's cod, catfish, ocean perch, crab, and shrimp.  "You buy, we fry" fish is sold by the weight, and it's $1 per pound extra to fry. The menu also includes combo meals, sandwiches and chicken wings. 

For info: 313-273-8010

Fish Station

2640 S. Fort St., Detroit

This small place is big on fish. The fish counter is chock full of fish fillets from catfish to cod and tilapia packed on beds of ice. Buy fresh or choose what you want and they'll prepare it for an extra cost per pound. Most of the fish, the owner said, is via Canadian sources. They feature plenty of shrimp and other shellfish. 

For info: 313-928-3668

Redford Fish and Seafood Market

 24050 Joy Road, Redford Township

Howard and Elyssa Halpren have owned the fish place for 13 years. Customers walk in and eye the day's selection of fish. Offerings include cod, catfish fillets and nuggets, tilapia, whiting and shrimp. Available frozen is snow crab, King crab, and langostino (little lobster). Fresh fish is sold by the pound. If you want it fried, add $2 per pound. The Halperns also make their own tartar sauce and coleslaw for dinners. 

For info: 313-533-3474 or redfordfish.com

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 'You buy, we fry' in metro Detroit: 6 spots for fish specials during Lent

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