Looking for new spots to try? Lori Fredrich has dished out her top five picks in 20 different dining categories, from brunch to BBQ and everything in between.
As the fall winds blow in, the idea of a Friday night fish fry sounds better than ever. But what makes up a great fish fry? It starts with high quality fish that’s been hand breaded or battered on premise; but it also extends to the accompaniments, including fresh crisp cole slaw.
It’s growing harder and harder to find them; but my ideal fish fry also includes housemade potato pancakes (frozen potato patties don’t cut it) made with nicely seasoned shredded potatoes that are crisped to perfection. A close second might be a good house-made potato salad (there are two on this list), a crispy-skinned baked potato or (in a pinch) a good batch of thin, crispy fries. I’m also delighted when I can find a hand-muddled old fashioned to enjoy alongside. It's a shame how few truly good ones there are out there.
And now, after all that, here are five spots that are well worth a try!
1. Spitfires on State
This local watering hole might be best known for their wings, but they also serve up one of the best bar fish fries I’ve tried. Options include beer battered or breaded cod, baked cod, or the "Catch of the Day" (it was walleye the last time I visited).
Their hand-cut cod sports a crisp, flavorful beer batter that clings well to the tender, flaky fish. The housemade potato pancakes, made with a combination of both mashed and shredded potatoes, are ultra crisp on the exterior and very creamy in the center. They are also well seasoned: flavorful but not too salty.
2. Belly Up Bar
N88W18384 Christman Rd., Menomonee Falls, (262) 255-2653
This townie bar in Menomonee Falls serves up a good beer-battered cod (in portions of two or three pieces) with a light, airy beer batter that allows the mild, flakey fish to shine. They do offer potato pancakes (housemade); but I'd steer you over to Becky’s “famous” German potato salad, which was served just warm with a sweet and sour dressing just like grandma used to make. They also serve up a well-balanced brandy old fashioned.
Note: it’s best to arrive early or later, as the bar fills up pretty quickly on Friday nights. Also, Belly Up is a cash-only bar, but there is an ATM on the premises in case you’re caught ill-prepared.
3. The Explorium Brewpub
Well sourced fish is the name of the game at The Explorium Brewpub, which serves up fish and chips (with crispy beer battered Atlantic cod) every day of the week at both of their locations.
But on Fridays at their Third Ward location, you can also opt for a delicious lightly breaded perch fry – sourced from sustainable Great Lakes fisheries –served with house-made tartar sauce, creamy coleslaw, rye bread, and your choice of fries or potato pancakes. They also make a lovely potato pancake with well-seasoned shredded potatoes that are evenly cooked and nicely crisped, even around the scraggly edges. They’ll even throw in a $5 Old Fashioned with your fry.
4. Von Trier
If you are looking for a local fish fry that delivers, complete with a charming old world atmosphere, head to Von Trier. Their Haufbrau Haus Friesing Jagerbier battered cod is excellent. The three-piece portion includes large pieces of flaky tender fish enveloped by light crisp batter that tasted appropriately of beer and possessed a beautifully browned exterior. And if you treasure a well-made, hand-muddled old fashioned, this is among the best places in town to order one.
5. Landmark Inn
10634 W Freistadt Rd., Mequon, (262) 242-9907
Landmark Inn has been serving their popular fish fry for more than three decades. And it shows. You can’t go wrong with their beer battered haddock or perch (on my last visit they were serving yellow perch), both of which are nicely executed both in breaded or beer-batttered form.
The potato pancakes are slightly thicker than I’d prefer, but they are flavorful and flawlessly crisp. If you’d prefer, they make an excellent German potato salad with warm tangy dressing, a hint of black pepper and bits of bacon and boiled egg. You might also want to save room for dessert, which includes any number of old fashioned house-made cakes, pies and tortes.
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.