It had been a few years since I stopped in at Kegel’s Inn – and my partner, who is not from these parts, had never been there – so we decided to stop in for the famous fish fry. On the way in I told him, and later posted this on Facebook, "If you don’t order the potato pancakes, we’re over."
Potato pancakes can range from thin and greasy to thick and dry, but Kegel’s version is none of that. They are medium in thickness, crispy and slightly salty.
Before we sat down to dinner, we sat at the bar, ordered an Old Fashioned, and chatted with bartender Julian Kegel. The Kegel family has owned the bar and restaurant – located at 5901 W. National Ave. – since 1924, when it opened as a "soft drink parlor." Hence the windows were frosted to cover up the fact whiskey and beer were sold – for 20 and 15 cents respectively – and came with a free meal.
Today, the bar is owned by Ron and Jim Kegel, and it still looks and feels like an Old World German pub featuring dark wood, leaded and stained glass, an impressive beer stein collection and painted slogans and pictures on the walls, many of which include monkeys drinking beer or playing cards.
Fish fry options include a four or six-piece cod dinner ($11.50 or $12.95); lake perch, ($15.50); walleye ($13.50); blue gill ($13.50); baked cod loin ($13.50); jumbo shrimp ($13.50) or a seafood platter ($15.50). All come with choice of potato (as if there’s a choice!), cole slaw and rye bread.
We went in for the lake perch and the baked cod loin. Ordering a baked instead of fried fish plate can often be a dry, tasteless buzzkill, but this was the best baked fish we’d ever had with moist yet flaky pieces of fish lightly coated with a tangy seasoning. The lake perch was also very good and well breaded – not soggy or too fishy.
If you haven’t been to Kegel’s, or haven’t been there in a while, go. And not just for the potato pancakes.
To further tempt you, here are seven reasons a Kegel's trip should be in your future:
1. The attentive staff comprised of Kegels and non-Kegels
2. The potato pancakes!!!
3. The naughty monkey murals
4. The lively scene
5. The baked fish (if that's your thing)
6. The Old Fashioned – sour or sweet
7. The chance to say hi to Julian Kegel. (Hi, Julian!)
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.