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.
Mibb's & Viv’s
7300 N. Lannon Rd., Lannon
If you’re looking for a place with a good old-school fish fry and a lot of history, look no further than Mibb’s & Viv’s, a small mom and pop style tavern located in the heart of Lannon. Originally the Davis Hotel, Mibb’s & Viv’s resides in a building that dates back to 1895. After the hotel closed, it was home to numerous businesses, most notably Meade’s Tavern, a watering hole run by the Monacelli family in the 1950s. The name was changed over the years, but the classic bar and grill has remained a family business, even generations later.
Personally, I loved the old school vibe I found at Mibb's & Viv's. Folks are small-town friendly and there's a casual air about the place that I quite appreciated. The venue still sports an old fashioned feel with Tiffany-style lighting, barn red paneling and wainscoting on the walls and a classic oblong bar at which about 20 can be seated comfortably. It’s a popular spot for locals and you’re likely to find a number of regulars sipping their pints of Spotted Cow or old fashioneds and chatting with Doug the bartender while waiting for their tables.
And – like an old school supper club – Mibb & Viv’s has a procedure for its Friday night fish fry. When you arrive, waitstaff will take your order for dinner (you can request a menu or simply order from the menu board on the wall). While your order is being prepared, you’re invited to enjoy a drink and the bar. As soon as your food is ready, a friendly server will find you and take you to your table.
Among the fish fry options you’ll find breaded perch ($14.95), breaded haddock and both beer-battered cod ($10.95) and baked cod. Each comes with coleslaw, a choice of potato including fries, German potato salad, waffle fries and potato pancakes (waffle fries and potato pancakes both come with a $1 upcharge), marble rye bread and tartar sauce.
Pro tips: Get there early; the crowd gets thick after 6 p.m. Mibb & Viv’s accepts cash only; however, there is an ATM in the corner behind the bar if you need it. And, last but not least, if you can’t make it on a Friday, folks rave about the classic broasted chicken served on Wednesday and Saturday nights.
The fish (4)
The perch platter featured four butterflied fillets with a bread-crumb style coating. The exterior was flawlessly crisp, well-seasoned and not at all greasy. Meanwhile, the fish fillets were flaky and tender with a nice mild flavor.
The beer battered cod was tasty, but didn’t fare quiet as well as the perch. The plate featured four hefty pieces of crisp cod with a yeasty batter that was fairly heavy on the salt. The fish was tender and tasty; however, unlike the breading on the perch, the batter did hang onto quite a bit of grease, making it a bit less pleasant for the eating.
The potato pancakes
The fish at Mibb’s & Viv’s is definitely solid, but I was surprised (and subsequently disappointed) to find that they’re serving a standard out-of-the-box potato pancakes (something you can readily identify when you eat a fish fry at a different spot every week). The uniform scallop-edged patties had a hashbrown-like texture, with decent potato flavor and a definite onion presence. They were very crisp, but also very greasy. Not a favorite ... especially for a pancake with an upcharge. Sad to say it, but I'd probably opt for fries (or the German potato salad?).
The old fashioned
The old fashioned was fair to middlin’. It was boozy, but balanced in its flavor, which exhibited a hint of bitters and a predominant clove flavor. It was made with a mix, so there was no muddled fruit. Also – if you'd like your old fashioned garnished with cherries, olives or mushrooms – it turns out you just have to ask.
Got suggestions for our next fish fry? Email email@example.com 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.