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.
4016 S. Packard Ave, St Francis
Last year, we launched a new series at OnMilwaukee that highlights original and extraordinary local businesses that should be on every Milwaukeeans list of places to patronize. In December, we wrote about Polonez, Milwaukee’s nearly 30-year-old Polish staple. It prompted me to pay a visit, since I haven't been there in quite some time. I also realized that, on past visits, I've always opted for dishes like cabbage rolls and pierogi, but I’ve never tried their fish fry. So now seemed as good a time as any to give it a whirl.
On the menu you’ll find deep-fried hand-breaded cod ($12.50), deep-fried hand-breaded perch ($15.75), each served with remoulade, coleslaw and your choice of potato (paprika fries, French fries or potato pancakes). There’s also baked cod in veggie-tomato or cream dill sauce ($13.50), poached salmon served over kale with capers, beet and cream horseradish ($16.25) or fish & chips featuring fried cod with paprika fries and cold cabbage salad ($12.75). Each option comes with a side of soup or salad.
Pro tip: Sure, you could opt for clam chowder at this fish fry, but why would you? You're at a Polish restaurant! If you've never had it, definitely go for the dill pickle soup. The borscht is a close second.
The perch plate comes with four generous pieces of super-crispy perch. The flesh of the fish was tasty and mild, and the breadcrumb coating was tight, with a hint of sweetness.
They say that food memories are amazingly powerful, and these fillets brought me back to childhood. The texture conjured up memories of the ultra-crisp fish sticks my mother would make for us as a special treat in the early 80s. That’s not an insult. In fact, if they resembled fish sticks, they were the best fish sticks I’ve ever had.
The cod, which was cut into perfectly symmetric rectangular strips, sported the same crisp coating… and I couldn’t help but think to myself: "Now this ... this is the sort of fried fish that restaurants would have made before beer batter became all the rage."
The potato pancakes
The potato pancakes were delicious. Made from exceedingly finely grated potato, they were very thin and delicate with an almost creamy texture and thin, crispy almost lacy edges. Their flavor was well balanced with a pleasant amount of seasoning and nice bit of onion to round things out. You can opt for a side of applesauce, but I loved these even more topped with the accompanying sour cream.
The old fashioned
When it came to the old fashioned, I decided I really ought to try the Koscuiszko Park, Polonez’s version of the old fashioned made with blackberry brandy. I ordered it sweet, as I usually do (you also have the options of sour or press), and sweet it was. It was fruity and boozy and vaguely reminiscent of raspberry Koolaid with a pleasant brandy-like kick. That’s more description than judgment. It definitely wasn’t unpleasant to drink, but it didn’t have the balance of citrus or bitterness to offset its very prominent berry sweetness.
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 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.