Season's eatings! The weather may be getting colder, but Dining Month on OnMilwaukee is just cooking up, dishing out your winning picks in this year's Best of Dining poll. Dining Month is brought to you by Fein Brothers, your premier food service equipment and supply dealer in Wisconsin since 1929. Congratulations to all of the winners, and happy eating for all those who voted! See all the winners for the month so far here.
In this series, we're trying out some of the Milwaukee area's most popular fish fries. In each article, you'll find commentary, fun facts, pro tips and ratings of the three foundational elements of a classic Wisconsin fry: the fish, the potato pancakes and the classic Wisconsin-style brandy old fashioned. While we're enjoying our fish fries, weekly Burger Trail articles will post on Mondays (follow along here). View all fish fry reviews here.
Wegner’s St. Martins Inn
11318 W St Martins Rd, Franklin
Wegner’s St. Martins Inn has been serving steak, sandwiches, Italian dishes and Old World German specialties like schnitzel, sauerbraten and beef rouladen since 1997. It’s atmosphere is classic Wisconsin, featuring a large bar and cozy dining room sporting automobile and racing memorabilia on its walls. At the helm is owner and chef Dennis J. Wegner, an MATC graduate whose experience includes work at The Anchorage and Mader’s; he was also part of the opening team at Grenadier’s under Chef Knut Apitz.
But, Wegner’s may be best known for its fish fry, which attracts hundreds of hungry patrons each week with offerings like Icelandic haddock or hand-breaded yellow lake perch served up with coleslaw, a choice of potato, marble rye bread and tartar sauce. Pricing is $9.95 for three pieces of haddock or $11.95 for four; perch is $14.75. Or you can get a combination of haddock and perch for $13.75. Other seafood options include fried jumbo shrimp, pan-seared orange roughy, cajun-style salmon, steamed haddock or the ultimate sampler platter featuring beer battered and steamed Icelandic haddock, shrimp, scallops, and fresh lake perch.
Pro tip: Don’t hesitate to order the clam chowder. It’s creamy and loaded with chunks of skin-on red potatoes, along with visible bits of clam, celery and red pepper. A cup will put you back by $2.95.
In terms of lake fish, Wegner’s offers one option: hand-breaded perch, which we tried along with beer-battered Icelandic haddock.
The perch comes in whole filets, with a light crispy breading. The fish itself is moist and delicate with a mild flavor and great texture. The beer-battered haddock was a bit on the greasy side in comparison, as the oil gathered in the nooks and crannies of the crisp batter; but the exterior was nice and crisp and the fish was full-flavored.
Both fish came generously portioned along with the prerequisite sides.
The potato pancakes
Visibly, Wegner’s potato pancakes look like they could go either way. They have a conspicuously molded shape (that means no delicious crispy, straggly edges) and they came out of the kitchen glistening with residual grease from frying. That said, they had a really nice flavor. They were well seasoned and crisp, with a visible presence of onion and spices in the mix. I’d definitely choose them again over French fries.
The old fashioned
Wegner’s is a good bet on a lot of fronts, but I’d be likely to skip the Old Fashioned next time. It was heavy on the soda and light on the brandy with a faint hint of bitters, and no evidence of muddling. In my opinion, it tasted quite a bit more like a jazzed up Shirley Temple than an Old Fashioned.
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.
Wegner's St. Martins Inn is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11:3o a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. and Saturday from 4:30 to 9 p.m.
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.