The Suburban Masonic Lodge in south Louisville was established in 1902 but didn’t start frying fish for cash in the neighborhood til October 1st 1927.
1920s-era Louisville was in the full grip of Prohibition but we imagine the Masons occasionally took a nip or two out of a flask secreted in a broadcloth suit jacket or tucked discreetly under a seat in an old Packard sedan.
My grandfather Big Jim Sullivan was a Mason who suffered through the hard times of Prohibition, but that didn’t stop him from buying bootleg whiskey and taking his old mule Pete out for a gallop through the rural Kentucky countryside.
Kentucky Masons are double tough and don’t like being told what to do.
On a recent visit to Louisville I was determined to visit the Mason’s Suburban Social Club to find out if their Green River-style fried fish is as good as everyone has been saying for the last 80 plus years.
Walking into the bee hive of a lodge on a Saturday afternoon I’m immediately struck with the saline smell of fresh fish bubbling away in clear, hot fat.
I join the queue and within 15 or so minutes I’m looking at a monstrous plate of expertly fried cod fish that appears to have been wrenched from the icy depths of the North Atlantic earlier that same morning.
I’m not sure what Green River-style means but the fish has been dredged in cornmeal that has a tiny bit of pepper and a little salt, nothing else.
There are commercial grade tartars and cocktail sauces available but this fish stands on its own. No sauce is needed.
I inquire to another patron as to what he reckons the secret to this fish’s wildly delicious flavor is and he allows as how it’s due to the fry cooks using lard in their fryolators. Ahhh, this makes plenty sense as lard is one of the great frying mediums.
A plate at Suburban Social Club comes four planks to an order, a side of treacly cole slaw, commercial french fries and rye bread rides shotgun. All in all you’d be best off just getting that world beating fish and ignoring the accoutrements.
Walking out the front door I take note of a dessert lady who’s posted up at the entrance. She’s hurting for business and no wonder; the savory part of the operation is serving trencherman-level portions and there’s precious little gullet room left after you’ve waded through one of the Mason’s big fish plates.
Suburban Masonic Lodge #740 Free and Accepted Masons
3901 S 3rd St
Hours of operation