Jukebox Skipping

Friday, April 15, 2011

Croatian Cultural Society, Bellevue, NE -- FISH FRY

Must be the right door
8711 South 36th Street
Bellevue, NE 68147-2222
(402) 733-1018

Yeah, I know, this technically isn't a "dive bar". But, they do have fried food (on Friday during lent) and cheap drinks. And, where else can you go (within my price range) and get to use the words “cultural” (or “society” for that matter?)? Since this isn’t a bar, I can’t really give it a DIVE-O-METER number…but this is a great place to come for a good old “hunky” good time.

First Impressions: The “Society” is as non-decrepit as you can get. It's an old building with the sign that says "Entrance" above one of the doors. I’m pretty sure there are no windows anywhere, but open the door at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon during Lent, and the smell of fried fish will let you know you are indeed in the right place.

Ready to bust your chops
The Bar: Well, the area where you can buy your drinks is at the back of the room. It is a bar, (I guess) but there are no stools to grab a seat…no big deal. The room is set up like one big indoor picnic, so just grab a seat anywhere. Looking for a beer? Boxed wine? Mixed drink perhaps…any (or all) of those will set you back $2. Bring your cash, and be ready to have the old guys behind the bar tease you about something.  Just for the record…all bartenders in their 70’s should be required to bust your balls at least once per drink order. And, these guys all meet their quota for that criteria.

The Crowd: Everything from young families with babies, to old (as we would say in Pittsburgh) “Studdabubbas” who will knock your ass over if you dare get in their way as they go to fill their try up with fish and macaroni and cheese. Nice people, friendly people, but make no doubt; they are here to eat some fried fish, so keep the small-talk to a minimum.

Do not get in their way
Service: Grab a try (after you buy your tickets from the front door) and let them sling your dinner right onto your plastic plate. As you move down the line you are asked several questions 1.) Baked or fried fish? Or both? 2.) What kind of potatoes do you want? (there are three types to choose from). 3). Do you want macaroni and cheese? Once you’re done eating, someone even comes by and takes your plate for you…no tip needed either!

Prices: Like I said earlier, all drinks are $2…works for me. Dinner will set you back $7 (I think) and other than that, the only thing you really need to spend money on are strip tickets (aka “pickles”) and the always great “Meat Wheel”…more on that in a bit.

Food: As close to homemade as you can get. It’s fried fish, either you like a good fish fry (in that case this place is for you)….or you don’t.

The Meat Wheel!
Entertainment: Around 5:00 pm they start walking around selling four chances on the Meat Wheel for a dollar. In the front of the room is a red wheel, no it’s not made of meat. Every five minutes or so they spin the wheel, if your number is the winner, you just won yourself five pounds of meat! There are easily 15 or so spins of the meat wheel, so there are plenty of chances to win. Just for the record, my six year old won TWICE when we were there. So, that was five pounds of pork loin, and five pounds of Polish sausage. That of course, is in addition to the five pounds of salami he won there two years ago. I’ll say this much about the Meat Wheel, if you think yelling “Bingo!” is fun, wait to you hit on the Meat Wheel and get to yell “Salami!!” in a crowded room.

Restrooms: Fine enough. What you would expect from a building with no windows that has a fish fry. More or less like the restroom you would find in an elementary school that was build in 1953.

Looks fine to me
Bartender Chat: Nothing out of the ordinary. These are just a bunch of cool old guys who volunteer their time to crack open some drinks. Like I said, be prepared, someone behind the bar will have an old guy wisecrack for you. No need to be offended, old guys behind bars like this have been busting balls for decades.

How Far Did My $20 Go: For less that twenty bucks, you can buy yourself a huge dinner (complete with dessert) and six beers...with a dollar left over for four chances on the meat wheel, that’s what I call a great deal.

Final Impressions: A Friday fish fry seems to be a dying art these days…especially in a cool old setting like this. Even if you’re not a huge fan of fish, why not give it a try? What’s the worst that can happen, you have a few cheap drinks and you walk out with 10 pounds of meat from the Meat Wheel. And ladies I ask you, where else you can go to have a drink or two and meet a guy who literally is walking around with a five pound salami?


Friday night fish fry!!


  1. The bar looks good and the fish fry looks delicious, I want to try this one. This is great for the society.

  2. I will be there Friday night. You can never go wrong at this fish fry!

  3. Still frying and baking up the best fish in town every Lenten Friday at the Croatian Hall five years later!