A wildlife club serves Ann Arbor’s best fish roast with 1,000 dinners a week.
MLive readers named the Livingston County Wildlife and Conservation Club as their pick for the Ann Arbor area’s best fry. A private club open to the public for its popular fry has gone from indoor dining to an incredibly popular outdoor drive-through dining experience over the past year.
“It could be an hour,” said Mike Gambino, manager of the Livingston County Wildlife and Conservation Club, of the coveted fish roast. “But they love it.” Gambino said the line winds about a quarter of a mile down the road for the fish hatching winds.
“The Conservation Club was founded in 1952 by some local residents who had banded together and decided to do something to protect Michigan’s hunting, fishing, boating and outdoor sports,” said Mike Cobb, the current president of the Livingston County Wildlife and Conservation Club and unofficial LCWCC historian. Cobb has been a member of the club since 1993. “And from then on it just went on,” he said.
The club offers all kinds of programs from hunter safety classes to rivers and highways cleanups, archery leagues and even a classic car show.
“The club currently has 400 families,” said Cobb as a member. You accept a new member once a year. The club is located on 23 acres along the Huron River. “It’s a very nice piece of property,” said Cobb. There’s a shooting range, trap shooting, archery range, a pond accessed by a chain of lakes, and of course Ann Arbor’s finest roast fish.
The property turns into a parking lot during the fish hatching season, and volunteers have spread mulch to reduce the damage. Club member Bill Bishop is responsible for the mulch distribution. “We have very few paid positions at the club,” said Cobb. “Everything is done by volunteers.”
Typically, the club offers an indoor dining experience that is open to the public. When the pandemic turned them off, they quickly turned into a take-away and drive-through experience. The fish roasts support all other club activities. “That supported us in the months we were closed,” said Cobb. “And it just kept growing and growing, and here we are today with over a thousand people a week.”
In typical times, the club held annual fundraising events on the last Friday of the month, as well as an indoor fish roast. “We’d normally have around 300, 400 meals a month when we were inside,” said Gambino. Back then there was cod, baked pollack, melted cream, Cajun canapés, French fries, clam soup, mac and cheese, coleslaw. “We probably had more than 12, 13 articles before Covid,” Gambino said. The club now has 19 outdoor cooking stations that fry fish and fries with devotion.
The menu has shrunk significantly this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less tasty. The fish is dipped in a damp batter made from a combination of Drake’s roast mix and a very light beer. “It’s a very, very light batter,” said Gambino.
Gambino is a “guy with big numbers, they are very important to me”. So he gave us some. In 2020, the club drove through fish roast 18 times from March 20, 2020. “We made 275 dinners,” he said. “We weren’t sure what to expect.” Over the next 17 fish roasts, the club served over 12,000 dinners. The biggest fish roast in 2020 was 881 dinners served within three hours. On Friday, March 5, 2021, the club served 1,019 dinners in a single night.
“It’s a smaller community,” said Gambino. “The thanks and gratitude we receive from the community are incredible. You will stand in line for 45 minutes and then thank us for it. That’s the biggest thing about it. They are so proud that we did this for them last year that they thank us. “
“It was a lot of work,” said Cobb of the roast fish drive. “But it has supported us and kept us going, and given us the money to keep our building and help the community, which we try to do in every possible way.”
When you go:
Livingston County Wildlife and Conservation Club
6060 E Michigan 36
Whitmore Lake, MI 48139
More information: https://www.lcwcc.org/
Fish roast on Fridays from 4.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Due to Covid restrictions – drive-thru for non-members, dinner for club members
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