St. Clair Shores resident prepares for his ninth season of popular fish fry reviews — a delicious hobby he's thrilled to share
ST. CLAIR SHORES — Fish fry reviewer Mitch Koleczko still insists he’s not a food critic.
The St. Clair Shores resident’s posts are less about how the fish was cooked, and more of a shoutout to the cooks, staff and volunteers who make Lenten fish fries work.
His modest Facebook and Instagram pages have grown to almost 1,150 followers since he first started reviewing fish fries around his home in 2015 — and commenters even drop suggestions of parish fish fries he hasn’t yet visited.
But still, niche following all, don’t call Mitch a food critic.
“Maybe 'review' isn’t the right word to use; I’m reviewing the whole experience and process of how the particular organization runs it,” Koleczko told Detroit Catholic on the eve of another fish fry season. “My videos and posts are for fun, entertainment, and publicity to help these organizations out.”
Since 2015, Mitch's Friday Fish Fry Review has reviewed 50 different fish fries, with Koleczko writing short posts on his visit of the week, the menu and prices, and taking shots of the parish hall and church whenever possible.
“I just post about the entire experience, the location, the hours, what door you walk in and how are you ordering, how are you paying, the whole process,” Koleczko said. “Do you have to go into a window to pick it up? Do you sit down, and they bring it to you? I try to take a picture of the menu items, talk about the desserts and beverages, and who’s working it. If I get a chance to talk to the person who is running it, I ask about how many meals are they serving, where the help comes from, and the process of how it all works.”
Related: The fish fry dishes you have to try this Lent | Unleash the Gospel
Three seasons ago, Koleczko started posting videos on Thursdays to serve as a preview of his planned Friday visits, opening with his jovial tagline: "Mitch's Friday Fish Fry Reviews ... I'm Mitch!"
“I only do videos on Thursdays, my 'Thursday Fish Fry Rundown,'” Koleczko said. “I talk about where I went the previous week, say, ‘Hey, don’t forget these fish fries,’ and tell them where I’m going to be. So, if you watch my Thursday videos, I’ll let you know where I’m going on Friday.”
Koleczko kicked off the 2023 review season with his first video Feb. 10, previewing the Paczki Run in Hamtramck on Feb. 18 and giving shout-outs to various fish fries he hopes to try this Lent. His first “official” video will be Thursday, Feb. 23, when he will announce where his first review will be.
This year, Koleczko plans to partner with Detroit Catholic, posting weekly reviews for Detroit Catholic readers and promoting the Archdiocese of Detroit’s FishFryFinder.org.
Koleczko said he's excited for this year's review season, and while he wouldn't tip his hand as to his first visit, his goal is to try as many new experiences as possible.
“Now that the pandemic is over and things are getting back to normal, I’m trying to find new fish fries, especially those that are dine-in," Koleczko said. "During COVID, a lot of fish fries went to takeout only, and that was hard to review on the experience when you’re doing a drive-thru because it turns into being a food critic, which I’m not doing.”
Koleczko started his reviews in the St. Clair Shores area, but has ventured as far as Brighton, White Lake and the Downriver area.
“People have been messaging me saying, ‘Hey Mitch, we’re having this fish fry that I’d love to have you come out,'” Koleczko said. “If someone sends me a request, and I’ve never been there, I try to put it on my calendar to get out there.”
Armed with a notepad and cellphone, Koleczko documents every part of the fish fry experience. He even wears a "Mitch’s Friday Fish Fry Review" t-shirt when visiting parishes and is starting to get noticed.
“I wore a t-shirt to generate more followers on social media,” Koleczko said. “People see the t-shirt and ask about it, which gets me talking about Mitch’s Friday Fish Fry Review. I have wonderful neighbors who have a Cricut machine that’s able to make t-shirts. I have a brand new one for this year. So if people follow my page and recognize me, come up and say hi — I like meeting people.”
But don’t expect a Mitch’s Friday Fish Fry Review merchandise store anytime soon.
“That’s probably not going to happen,” Koleczko laughed. “Unless this really blows up and all of a sudden, I get 10,000 followers, I'll think about that. Doing this is hard enough as it is. I've got a real job (as a teacher at Fitzgerald Public Schools in Warren) and a family (wife, Nicole; and their two children, Sofia, 11, and Russell, 3) to look after. That’s why I only do it during Lent.”
With 50 fish fry reviews under his belt, Koleczko has a good perspective on what makes for a successful fish fry — besides good fish, of course.
More and more parishes are using technology when it comes to their menus, ordering and organization, Koleczko noted, as well as accepting debit and credit as payment. “But cash is still king,” Koleczko added.
Regardless of the menu, organizational setup, payment options or beverages available — Koleczko gives high marks for beer and wine options — it's the fish fry community that has him coming back.
“Fish fries are about community; that's the reason people go,” Koleczko said. “Just as you go to Mass on the weekend, that is what the fish fry is: it’s a community gathering, a social setting, where people come to break bread, have a meal and spend time with family.
“You don’t see people on their phones at a fish fry," Koleczko continued. "People are actually sitting down together. Family and friends show up, students from the school are working the tables. People are getting together, having a meal, hanging out on a Friday evening, just being with each other.”
So if you happen to visit your local fish fry this Friday, keep an eye out for Mitch.
“I’m looking forward to going to different fish fries, to meet and talk to people and the organizers,” Koleczko said. “It’s the community that makes these awesome.”
Find a Fish Fry
To find a fish fry near you in the Archdiocese of Detroit, visit FishFryFinder.org. To read more local reviews, check out this article from Unleash the Gospel.
To follow Mitch's Friday Fish Fry Reviews, like Mitch's page on Facebook or Instagram, or check back every Thursday on Detroit Catholic for Koleczko's weekly reviews.