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.
2235 N. Farwell Ave.
There’s a brand new fish fry in town; but it’s being served at a classic East Side venue.
Von Trier, the longtime German beer hall, reopened its kitchen just before the Thanksgiving holiday after a fairly extensive expansion. Among the new offerings is both a Sunday brunch and a Friday night fish fry.
These haven’t taken long to catch on. In fact, last week when we visited, the dining room was filled with people from varying age groups and backgrounds. Some were enjoying pre-dinner drinks. Others were enjoying a meal. But all, it seemed, were engaged in convivial conversation. It was an element that made the dining area a bit loud, but also vibrant. I couldn’t help but think: this is exactly what an old German beer hall should be.
On the Friday night menu, folks will find Haufbrau Haus Friesing Jagerbier battered cod with coleslaw, rye bread, tartar sauce, lemon and a choice of potato pancakes, fries or house chips (two pieces for $12 or three for $15). There's also paprika baked cod available with all the fixins for $15.
Other options include a bluegill sandwich served on brioche with tartar sauce, lettuce and tomato. It's served with coleslaw and guest's choice of sides ($12) and clam chowder ($3 per cup or $6 per bowl).
The beer battered cod was excellent. The three-piece was a hefty portion, thanks to large pieces of flaky tender fish enveloped by light crisp batter that tasted appropriately of beer and possessed a beautifully brown color.
The bluegill on the sandwich was prepared equally well, showcasing fresh fish fried with a light coating of seasoned flour. The tartar sauce and slaw had a nice zip that complemented the flavor of the fish.
The potato pancakes didn’t fare quite as well. The hefty cakes were beautifully browned and full of shredded potato (these didn't seem to include the addition of onion, as some do), but their texture was quite dense and (like most pancakes which are made ahead in small kitchens and either held or reheated to order) they didn’t possess the crispness that would have made them shine.
Despite my slight disappointment, I grant points when a venue takes the time to make its own potato pancakes. After eating countless fish fries accompanied by glorified prefabricated hash brown patties, a house-made version is always a refreshing sight.
The old fashioned
Von Trier might be the spot to order a German brew, but it also happens to make one of the best old fashioneds I’ve had in some time. I’d attribute that to both the skill of the bartender and the fact that Von Trier uses the traditional old fashioned build (muddled cherry, orange, bitters, sugar and a choice of brandy, rum or bourbon) instead of a mix.
My brandy old fashioned sweet was an absolute pleasure. It was beautifully balanced with a deep red color, a good amount of brandy and a beautiful Luxardo cherry garnish. If every Wisconsin-style brandy old fashioned was this good, I’d drink them far more often. I loved it so much, I even took a picture.
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.