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.
8900 S. 27th St., Oak Creek
The parking lot was packed at Jim Dandy’s when we arrived on a recent Friday evening. We took that as a very good sign.
Once inside, it took little more than a glance around the bar when we entered to tell us that this was a popular Friday night dining spot. The old-school bar was filled with folks, some dining at booths, others chatting it up with the bartenders. Meanwhile, the dining room – which had more of a banquet hall feel – was hopping with families gathered to celebrate a Wisconsin tradition (almost everyone was eating fish).
Options for their fish fry include fried or beer-battered cod ($9.95 with an early bird special of $9 if you arrive before 4:30 p.m.), baked cod ($10.50), parmesan-crusted cod or shrimp ($14.50/$15.50), fried or baked walleye ($14), hand-breaded lake perch ($14.95) or hand-breaded shrimp ($15.50). Each comes with a choice of potato (french fries, baked potato, pasta, garlic mashed potatoes or a potato pancake for $1 extra), thick cut marble rye bread and coleslaw.
The perch platter was generous, featuring four large fillets of fish that came out piping hot and crisp. The breading was moderately seasoned and mid-range when it came to heft. I appreciated that the breading wasn’t so thick that it overpowered the delicate flavor of the fish.
Meanwhile, three hefty fillets of cod sported a beer batter that was much lighter and more crisp than many. The beer flavor was extremely subtle; in fact, I had a difficult time pulling the flavor from the coating. Its greatest asset, perhaps, was that it clung well to the fish, resisting separation even when cut. My dining companion compared its texture to funnel cake batter, which I thought was interesting (and not completely off-base).
The potato pancakes
Jim Dandy’s potato pancakes were appreciably handmade. They were thin and slightly dense with good potato flavor. On the downside, they weren’t particularly crisp, even around the edges, and their seasoning was healthy (maybe slightly too much so). They also cooled down quickly, so they were best eaten immediately. As they sat and cooled, the texture went a bit rubbery.
The old fashioned
The old fashioned was a mixed bag. It erred heavily on the sweet side (a bit too sweet for my taste). There was plenty of brandy flavor, but it was hard to pull out the usual flavors of fruit and bitters. The drink was nicely garnished, but there was no evidence of muddling.
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 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.