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.
130 W. Ryan Rd., Oak Creek
Erv’s Mug has been a staple in the Oak Creek community for nearly 40 years. And there’s good reason for that. It’s an upbeat, service-oriented spot with a menu of scratch made fare and drinks – including a great selection of craft beer – that shouldn’t make anyone complain.
The atmosphere is comfortable and a little bit old school. And it seems every square inch of wall space is covered in beer paraphernalia. Or – as you’ll find during the holiday season – Christmas decorations. On our recent trip, there were baubles and bows and an inverted lighted Christmas tree that spun gaily above the main dining room.
But, maybe the best thing about Erv’s Mug is that they serve a fry that’s distinct from so many "out of the Sysco box" fish fries around town.
The fish fry is available on both Wednesdays and Fridays, all day long. Options include hand-battered cod (two pieces for $12.99 or three for $14.99), baked cod ($14.99) pan seared tilapia ($18.99) or fried lake perch ($18.99). Each comes with soup, cole slaw, rye bread and your choice of potato.
The perch platter featured six full perch (12 small fillets) that had been lightly seasoned and dredged before being fried to a light crispness. They had great flavor and the fish itself was moist and tender.
Meanwhile, the cod featured a full-flavored beer batter with a good amount of beer flavor. The batter had a tendency to separate from the fish when cut, but that’s about the worst I can say about the tender, flavorful fish.
The potato pancakes (4)
The potato pancakes were super crispy thick cakes studded with mild onion and nice texture from the potato. There were none of my beloved little straggles on the exterior, but I’ll give them a pass. After all, these were pretty tasty.
The old fashioned (5)
The first thing I noted about the Erv’s Mug old fashioned was the subtle aroma of cloves and spice, likely evidence of the use of bitters. The flavor of the drink was brandy forward and sweet without being cloying. There wasn’t a garnish; however, there was fruit and evidence of muddling in the drink itself. Overall, it was a well-balanced version of the Wisconsin classic, and one of the best I’ve had so far.
Got suggestions for our next fish fry? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions. Suggested fish fry menus must include lake fish (walleye, perch), potato pancakes and a stellar old fashioned.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.