Saturday, January 26, 2008

Angelos - Monona, WI

The deal: Fish fry is the Friday night special at Angelos, which is better known for its Italian food. They do, however, have plenty of fish choices, including good 'ole beer battered cod, walleye, bluegill, perch and even tilapia and ale battered shrimp. Meals start at $9.99 and include a choice of potato, coleslaw and dinner rolls. What's up with restaurants not offering soup or salad anymore?

The food: I opted for the beer battered cod with cheesy hash browns. I got three pieces of thinly battered fish. It was good, but was a little too perfectly formed so I suspect it's delivered frozen to the restaurant. The cheesy hash browns were great, because how can you not like the classic combo of cheese and hash browns. That said, they were overwrought - too much cheese, too much crust, etc.

One of my dining companions had the bluegill and it was markedly better than the cod. Each piece was a tiny, tasty delight. I definitely recommend it over the cod.

The flavor: Our large group was seated around the horseshoe bar in Angelo's basement, so it was hard to get a real good feel for the rest of the place. It's definitely a supper club, but not in a typical Wisconsin sense - I suspect it's more like a traditional Italian family restaurant.

The servers were all friendly and familiar and definitely added to the atmosphere. I hope that restaurant owners realize how much good (or bad) staff personalities can bring to an otherwise undistinguished place.

Second opinions:

Eating in Madison A to Z
Madison Fish Fry

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mariner's Inn - Waunakee, WI

The deal: As a seafood restaurant on the north shore of Lake Mendota, the Mariner's Inn has a good selection of Friday night fish specials. The traditional fish fry is simply cod with french fries, but you can also opt for lake perch or broiled walleye. These options are a little pricier, but include soup or salad, dinner rolls and a choice of potato. If you opt for the regular fish fry, you can upgrade to to better sides and add a salad for a small charge.

The food: Our server gave the walleye a rave review, and as a Central Wisconsin girl, I had to try it (let's hear it for Nekoosa's Walleye Days!). It was simply the best fish I've had since starting this site. The fish was flaky and yet a little crispy around the edges with a slightly spicy lemon pepper flavor. I had a part of my companion's beer battered cod and it too was absolutely delicious. It was crispy without being greasy. I have no idea how the kitchen accomplished this miracle, but I'd like to thank them for it!

If you go to the Mariner's Inn, I must insist that you get their hash browns with your meal. They're served family style and are so good that a formerly loving family will fight like hell for the last spoonful. They're creamy and crispy and every other good adjective that starts with "cr".

The salads were okay, nothing bad, but nothing special while the rolls were sweet and dark and (gasp!) served warm. The fish here was so good that to be honest, I didn't even care about the salad, slaw and rolls. The Mariner's Inn wasn't exactly grasping for bonus points, you know?

The flavor: Although the restaurant is huge, we had to wait for a table for a long time. Unlike many fish fry joints, the Mariner's Inn's bar is a little more classy and quiet than it is fun. Oh don't get me wrong, the staff is nice, but the bar is just a little dull.

The crowd leans a little on the old side, as do some of the waitstaff. I felt like maybe we could all trade stories about the Ice Bowl. Well, maybe we could have if I was enjoying one of the Early Bird Specials ;-)

Second opinions:

Madison Fish Fry
Yahoo! Local

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Big Ten Pub - Madison, WI

The deal: The first thing to do when you step inside the Jordan's Big Ten Pub is check out the chalkboard behind the bar. That's where you'll see the huge variety of available fish as well as the catch of the day. On my visit, the options included lemon pepper grilled walleye, lightly breaded bluegill or perch, a variety of fish sandwiches as well as good old-fashioned beer battered cod. The catch of the day was intriguing: jerk swordfish over pineapple rice. The cod was $9.95, while most of the other choices were $11.50 or so. All of that includes soup or a salad, roll and choice of potato. What's exciting about the Big Ten Pub is that it's to my knowledge the only place in Madison that offers potato pancakes with applesauce. Why hasn't that caught on around here?

The food: Although I was curious about the swordfish, for authenticity's sake, I went with the cod. I got two big pieces of fish. They were a little of the greasy side, but they were still pretty crispy. The flavor was good, but not great. My dining companions had the bluegill and perch. Both plates were full of lightly breaded fish. I thought the bluegill was a little flavorless. The perch was more successful and a little crispier, but not as good as the cod. What was incredibly good were the potato pancakes. These were no flimsy sides! The pancakes were dense and complex with a crust fried to dark golden brown perfection. Add a little applesauce and you've got a meal.

No one at my table opted for soup, but we all agreed that the salads were better than you'd expect in a bar - not a piece of iceberg lettuce in the bunch (although, to be honest, I really like iceberg lettuce).

If you dine after 8, you can also take advantage of some good drink specials, like 2 for 1 Long Island Ice Teas. Oh sure, it's not an Old Fashioned, but it'll sure do the trick.

The flavor: During football season, the Big Ten hosts one of Madison's liveliest beer garden scenes. Let's be honest, the fish fry isn't that exciting. No one's gonna take her top off (although those pancakes are damn good...). But, it's still a sports bar and on many a winter Friday night the place is packed with fans getting in some fish and a beer before a Badger hockey game. It's loud and crowded, but the staff is fast and friendly enough to make it an enjoyable experience.

Second opinions

Badger Herald
Fish Fry Madison
Eating in Madison A to Z
Beer Advocate
Madison Fish Fry

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Glass Nickel Pizza - Madison, WI

The deal: Sometimes you don't feel like leaving home and braving crowds to get your fish fry on. On nights like that, Glass Nickel Pizza is a good option. For just $7.90 you can get four pieces of beer battered cod and fries delivered hot and tasty to your door. In addition, Glass Nickel has a number of appetizer options and really excellent salads - you can even build your own for a reasonable price ($3.50 for an individual size salad and $6.50 for family size).

The food: Just by virtue of the fact that it's delivery, Glass Nickel fish isn't going to be as crispy as a restaurant's cod. However, the fish is tasty, never overly fishy and the batter has a decent beer flavor. The Nickel's fries are just so-so, but some of the other appetizers, like the toasted ravioli and fried mac 'n cheese (yes, it's true - Wisconsinites now fry mac 'n cheese) are superb. The salads are all excellent, bigger than you'd expect and aren't 90% lettuce. The dressings are prepackaged, but they still taste good and there's over a dozen choices.

The flavor: I guess this depends on what your house is like, doesn't it? ;-) But seriously, Friday night fish fries aren't just about the fish, they're about socializing and enjoying a meal together with your family and friends. It's nice that with Glass Nickel you can do that without the hassle of leaving home. It really is a great option for snowy nights, families with little kids, and if you want to get your drink on without spending a lot of money in a bar.

Second opinions
Eating in Madison A to Z
Madison Fish Fry