It doesn’t get much more Buffalo than a Friday fish fry. And there aren't many places more old-school about it than Wiechec’s Lounge.
The Clinton Street bar and restaurant fills up before quitting time on Lenten Fridays. Get there early if that’s your plan, and be prepared.
We had a few brews at the bar during our hour-long wait. Most of the barroom knows what they’ve gotten themselves into and are good-natured about squeezing together. There’s a sign-up sheet tacked to the wall near the kitchen, and don’t ask the hostess when your turn is coming – she’ll shout for you. This no-frills place is all business and cash-only, but once you do get a seat, you’ll understand why people post up for an hour.
Anywhere else, “going for a fish” would be an ambiguous statement. In Buffalo, it’s just Friday. (Wiechec's does serve the fish fry daily.) At Wiechec’s, whether you take your fish beer-battered, Cajun-style, breaded or on bread, you won’t be disappointed.
The “famous fish fry” comes beer-battered with macaroni salad, potato salad, coleslaw, fries and a buttered slice of rye. Among the wide array of fish fry choices in the area, this one’s canonical. It’s a bit outside the Cheap Eats parameters at $12.95 but here’s the “fish fry hack:” a half portion is $10.95. And at Wiechec’s, half is everyone else’s whole.
That fish depicted Buffalove on a plate: shatteringly crunchy exterior, flaky mild interior and mayo-based sides representing classic perfection. Those fries crisp up enough to sop up the coleslaw without dissolving into mush and the salads taste just like mom used to make.
Speaking of home, don’t leave Wiechec’s without an order of pierogi, ($2.50 each or $11.25 for a dinner with macaroni salad, potato salad, coleslaw and fries). Choose between farmer’s cheese, sauerkraut or potato and ask for fried onions and sour cream for no extra charge.
The large, boiled and then browned pierogi taste homemade and make the perfect appetizer. My Polish grandmother would be proud of both the pierogi and our server’s proper pronunciation.
Wiechec’s seafood gumbo with sausage ($3.95 for a cup or $4.75 for a bowl) tastes like the bayou, Buffalo dive-bar style. This gumbo arrives chock full of sausage, fish strips, fingernail-sized scallops, veggies and rice in a rich, umami brown broth. It comes with crackers, but next time, we’ll ask for a side of rye for dipping. The roux is that good, and bread would have been more dignified than scraping the bowl with our fingers.
On Fridays, a fried fish sandwich ($10.95), shrimp in a basket with fries ($9.95) and clam strips ($10.95 with coleslaw and fries, $7.25 to skip the sides) round out the fish options. Cajun blackened, broiled and breaded fish provide solid choices for anyone looking to stay away from the fryer. All of the fish come in comparable sizes to the beer-battered, so prepare to leave stuffed, with a clamshell or both.
For non-seafood eaters, an extensive list of grilled sandwiches, subs and a handful of salads round out the menu. Wiechec’s has made a name for its traditional beef on weck ($8.25), with a hard roll option as well. Turn the tender marinated beef into a french dip for $10.75. That swaps out the kimmelweck for french bread and adds fried onions and cheese with a side of fries, a good alternative if you’re all wecked out.
While Wiechec’s does not serve wings on Fridays due to the volume of fish, they’re worth a stop back. Sauced in hot, medium, mild, barbecue, hot barbecue, honey barbecue, Cajun, honey Cajun, garlic and parm, ($8.50 for a single order), they draw fans from throughout the region. Don’t take our word for it.
A specials board changes daily, and the restaurant usually posts it to Facebook for social media users to reference before heading out. Specials vary widely but homemade soups remain consistent must-orders.
It’s nothing fancy, but Wiechec’s Lounge feels just right for a Lenten Friday. Sometimes, a bartender with a ready smile, a big ol’ plate of food and a cold beer hit the perfect buttons on a long work week. At Wiechec’s, we know you’ll find all three.
1748 Clinton St. (823-2828)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily; closed Sundays.
Gluten-free options: Yes, but no special provisions.
Vegetarian options: Yes
Must order: Is it Friday? Get a fish fry.