"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee is brought to you by Miller Brewing Company, calling Milwaukee home since 1855. For the entire month of March, we're serving up fun articles on bars, clubs and beverages – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
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.
Steny’s Tavern & Grill
800 S. 2nd St.
Longtime Milwaukeeans might remember a time when this Walker’s Point location was a polka bar (one of a number in the city) called Cordovox. But things change. And now polka has been swapped out for sports at Steny’s, a venue which started out as small corner tap and has evolved into one of Walker’s Point’s most iconic spots.
If you’re looking for a quiet spot to enjoy a conversational dinner with friends, Steny’s is probably not your spot. But if you like a lively environment with a fun, friendly vibe, step right up. Even if you arrive relatively early on a Friday evening, you’ll likely find that the bar and dining room are bustling with folks, many of whom are likely to be chowing down on the Steny’s fish fry.
Steny’s offerings include beer battered cod ($11.95), baked cod (seasoned with cajun, lemon pepper, Jamaican jerk or "original" seasoning, $11.95), pan-fried or beer battered lake perch, or an 8-ounce Canadian walleye fillet, pan fried or beer battered for $12.95. Each dinner is served with coleslaw, a rye roll and your choice of side (including potato pancakes).
Pro tip: As you might expect, Steny’s is a casual joint. You won’t need to wait for a hostess to seat you; just take a seat anywhere you’d like.
I’m of the mind that perch shines the brightest when it’s lightly tossed with seasoned flour and pan-fried. The preparation makes it tough to mask the freshness (or lack thereof) of the fish, and an ultra-light breading allows the fish’s flavor to really shine. Steny’s pan-fried perch is exactly that. The seasoned flour had great flavor, and the fish was fully cooked, but still very moist and tender. Since the breading is so thin, I found it best to gobble up the fillets while they were still hot and before their crispness faded.
Meanwhile, the beer-battered cod is generously portioned with a light crisp batter and moist, tender flesh. If there’s any fault to be found, it’s that the beer flavor in the batter was masked by the level of salt.
The potato pancakes
The potato pancakes are hefty buggers with a crisp exterior and a creamy interior that harbors a delicious balance of shredded potato and green onion flavor. If you’re looking for a thin cake with a light texture, these aren’t your pancakes. But, if you don’t mind a thicker cake with a nice potato presence, these are quite good. As my dining companion remarked: "Man, Steny’s puts the potato in potato pancake!"
The old fashioned
Bars are just the sort of place I expect to find solid old fashioneds, and Steny’s is no exception. Their cocktail skews sweeter than some, but is nicely balanced in terms of flavor. It has a fair citrus punch from the visibly muddled fruit and a pleasantly subtle bitterness.
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.