In this series, we’re trying out some of the city’s most popular fish fries. You’ll find commentary, pro tips and ratings of the three staples of a classic Wisconsin fry: namely the fish, the potato pancakes and the classic Wisconsin style brandy old fashioned. View all fish fry reviews here.
Belly Up Bar
N88W18384 Christman Rd., Menomonee Falls
Belly Up is one of those spots where you feel like you’re getting a true look at the local scene. This old school townie bar is located just off of Main Street on the outskirts of town (now surrounded by a subdivision), and it’s the sort of place that I’d imagine has a regular clientele of locals who drop by on a daily basis for a shot and a beer.
It’s a small place. The bulk of the square footage is occupied by a u-shaped bar; but there is a small seating area with about seven tables that accommodate small groups. Seating is a bit tight, but folks are friendly so you won’t find it overly uncomfortable.
So often the fish fries served up in bars fall short; but that’s not the case at Belly Up where you’ll find details like housemade potato pancakes (and German potato salad!), along with solid fish and a nice old fashioned.
On Fridays, fish fry options include a three-piece beer battered or breaded cod ($11), four- to five-piece breaded perch ($15.75), breaded shrimp ($11.75), scallops ($16) or a seafood platter featuring either cod or perch with shrimp and scallops ($15 or $16.25). Options are served with your choice of potato (Becky’s famous German potato salad, potato pancakes or french fries), rye bread and coleslaw.
Pro tips: If our experience rang true, it’s best to arrive early or later, as the bar fills up pretty quickly on Friday nights. Also, Belly Up is a cash-only bar, but there is an ATM on the premises in case you’re caught ill-prepared.
The perch fillets were large and came four to a plate. The breading was ultra crisp and well-seasoned. It was definitely a heavier coating than I’d normally prefer, but in this case, it was a delicious match for the hefty fillets of tender, flaky fish.
Meanwhile, the cod sported a light, airy beer batter that was both crisp and tasty. The flesh of the fish was tender and mild. It was a bit on the greasy side, puddling just a bit onto the platter, but overall a solid choice.
The potato pancakes
Belly Up’s housemade potato pancakes are some of the first I’ve come across that are made with mashed potatoes. And that wasn’t a bad thing. They were thin cakes, but generously sized. The interior was tender, creamy and well-seasoned, while the edges of the cakes were nicely crisped.
In general, I’d pick potato pancakes over most other offerings. But I have to give an honorable mention to their German potato salad, which was served just warm with a sweet and sour dressing just like grandma used to make. If you enjoy a good old fashioned potato salad, Belly Up's is definitely a worthwhile choice. Definitely worthy of its "famous" status. Even better, you can get a half-pound of it for just $3.50.
The old fashioned
It seems everything at Belly Up is solidly executed. And that included the old fashioned. It was a well-balanced cocktail. There was a nice fruit presence, if only a whisper of brandy (but I do like my old fashioneds just a bit stronger). It wasn’t too sweet or soda forward, and there was muddled fruit present in the base of the glass.
Got suggestions for our next fish fry? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Suggested fish fry menus must include lake fish (walleye, perch), potato pancakes and a stellar old fashioned.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.