It's time for Dining Month, presented by Deer District and its spooky Halloween-themed alter ego, Fear District. Throughout the month of October, we'll be serving up fun and fascinating content about all things food. The signature dish, however, is our 2019 Best of Dining poll, who's winners we will dish out all month long. Get hungry, Milwaukee!
In this series, we’re on the hunt for some of the area's best 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.
5539 W. State St., (414) 453-2410
A staple on the West Side since 1976, Saz’s Statehouse began as a simple bar that served simple pub food, along with a Friday fish fry. Over the years, as owner Steve Sazama sought to make his bar stand out, he added barbecue to the menu, which slowly but surely became the venue’s hallmark.
Today, Saz’s still serves those famous ribs, along with other cult favorites like eggroll wrapped mozzarella sticks and their "festival famous" sour cream and chive fries. In 2017, to celebrate its 40th anniversary, the State House underwent numerous upgrades including an expansion of the dining room, a new bar and the addition of an impressive patio.
It's also upgraded its pub menu to include more housemade chef-inspired items and a stellar plated brunch (a definite upgrade from the previous brunch buffet). If you haven’t been there in a while, you might just be pleasantly surprised.
I can’t be sure what the fish fry was like in 1976 (if you do, feel free to email me to tell me all about it!). But I can tell you that the fish fry of 2019 is definitely worth checking out.
On Friday nights, guests can choose from Atlantic cod battered in a Miller High Life beer batter ($14.50), hand-breaded lake perch ($17.50), broiled cod ($16.50) or buttermilk fried shrimp ($18.50). Fish fries are served with with salted cocktail rye bread and butter, house slaw, tartar sauce, lemon wedge and choice of homemade German-style potato pancakes or sour cream and chive fries.
Note: I don’t typically remark on the coleslaw at area fish fries, since it’s often an afterthought. But Saz’s slaw is mentionable. It’s fresh and flavorful and (dare I say) healthful, complete with broccoli and Brussels sprouts. More importantly, it’s really tasty.
Less is often more when you’re breading lake perch and Saz’s does it right. The six pieces of lake perch on my dinner plate were nicely seasoned with a light, crisp breading. The fish beneath was tender and flaky without so much as a hint of dryness.
The cod dinner, which featured three generous portions of cod loin featured a tasty batter with a hint of beer flavor. It was light and crisp, with the exception of the bottom of each piece, which had gone wet and soggy. Fortunately, the tender fish was moist and delicious.
The potato pancakes
The German-style pancakes were served up fresh and hot. They were moderately thick (but not too dense) with a good texture and great flavor. In fact, they were ever-so-slightly tangy and flecked with chives, reminding me ever-so-slightly of Saz’s famous sour cream and chive fries.
The old fashioned
This rendition of the Wisconsin classic erred on the sweet side, even for an Old Fashioned sweet. The flavor was slightly fruity, with a moderate amount of brandy. There was no sign of the traditional muddling; but it was nicely garnished with fresh orange and maraschino cherry.
Saz’s Statehouse is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Got suggestions for our next fish fry? Email email@example.com with your suggestions. Suggested fish fry menus should (ideally) include at least one lake fish option (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.