Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Old Fashioned – Madison, WI

Here's another review from my friend Kaya, of Madison Brunch. The lucky woman got to go to the Old Fashioned for Good Friday Fish Fry. Yum.

The deal: Beer-battered cod, walleye or flour dusted perch with poppy seed coleslaw, a large portion of matchstick fries, lemon caper tartar sauce and toasted rye bread. Prices range from $9.95 for 2 pieces of cod to $12.95 for a large piece of walleye. A classic cocktail will run you around $5-$8 and a craft cheese tray to share is $10.

The food: Until my last visit I had only eaten the macaroni and cheese here, which had yielded mixed results on two visits. The fish fry is where The Old Fashioned shines with a dark, crispy beer batter, golden matchstick fries and the most perfect coleslaw I’ve ever eaten. Usually an afterthought, this coleslaw is fresh with flavorful thin-cut cabbage and carrots and poppy seeds. I opted for the walleye, which seemed extremely fresh and came served as a generous piece. I am generally ambivalent about walleye, but this was the best I’ve had at a fish fry. My husband and our dining partners chose the cod. The consensus was the flavor of the cod was good, but that the slightly overcooked beer batter overpowered the fish. I think this darker color and taste is pretty common with this type of batter, but those expecting a light, golden brown crust may be disappointed. The only real neutral item was the limp, slightly smoky flavored rye toast, but there was so much good food on the plate, I didn't mind.

In addition to the fish fry, we chose a cheese tray to start with gouda, blue and sharp cheddar. The trays come with walnuts, honey and a short stack of water crackers. The tray is presented family style with hunks of cheese, which can be a bit messy. It would have been perfection if the cheese was pre-sliced and a few more crackers were added to the tray. I also tried a bite of the chocolate brownie dessert with crème de menthe ice cream. The brownie was a bit hard for my liking, but the overall flavor was good.

It would be impossible to go The Old Fashioned and not talk about their cocktails. We sampled the Maker’s Mark and Applejack old fashioneds, which are expertly mixed and garnished. Our companions enjoyed the $2 Point Einbock and Razzmatazz. As a former bartender, I highly appreciate the perfect mix, proper garnishing and immaculate bar. I can’t count the times I’ve been served an old fashioned or manhattan with cherries at other establishments and have been on the receiving end of dirty straws and buggy drinks.

The flavor: Upscale Wisconsin-themed tavern and restaurant on the Capitol Square. There’s a large, comfy bar and a cavernous room with a few cushy booths that seat 6-8 and table seating. The owners have an impressive background with Madison favorites such as L’Etoile, Harvest and Lombardino’s under their belts. They don’t take reservations, so if you want to eat at prime time, you may want to show up around 5:30 or 6 and enjoy a few old fashioneds while you wait. Note: the ambient noise level in this place is off the charts, so if you’re hoping for a quiet evening, this is not the place for you.

Second opinions:

Madison Fish Fry
Trip Advisor

Monday, March 17, 2008

Deli Delicious - Westport, WI

My friend Kaya, of Madison Brunch is stepping in to write a review this week. Enjoy!

The deal: Small, family-run deli featuring homestyle cooking and takeout fish fry. The fish fry ranges from $6-$10 depending on how many pieces your order and includes coleslaw, baked bean, tartar sauce and choice of fries or baked potato.

The food: This is definately a no-frills operation, you get your fish in a takeaway container with waxed paper separated various sides and no lemon wedges. The fish has a pleasantly light flavor and a generous and crispy batter, which is a big hit with the husband and me. The fries are crinkle-cut and always crispy, the baked potato is served uncut in foil, with sour cream (hallelujah) and butter on the side. The coleslaw is crisp and fresh, but a little heavy on the mayonnaise. The baked beans are mildly flavored and inoffensive, but definately not anything to write home about. The only real dissappointment are the lackluster white rolls, which are a bit hard and not warmed. Overall, I think this is a great value and allows for portion control since you can order fish by the piece.

The flavor: Friendly service and inexpensive, fast fare. The perfect solution for a couple who wants to enjoy a fish fry at home, without the guilt of owning a deep fryer.

Second opinions:

Eating in Madison A to Z

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lucky's Bar & Grille - Madison, WI

The deal: Lucky's Bar & Grille offers a Friday night fish fry featuring cod, walleye or perch. The specials range from $8.95-$9.95 and include fish, fries, bread, coleslaw and a choice of soup or salad.

The food: I ordered the walleye and upgraded to a side of onion rings with a salad. The salad was okay, but was more croutons than anything else. While croutons taste good, that's not exactly what I want when I order salad knowing I'm going to be stuffing my face with a bunch of deep fried goodness.

Well, maybe deep fried "okay-ness". The walleye was HUGE (see the picture below), but frankly pretty tasteless. I appreciated that the breading was nice and crunchy, but neither it nor the fish itself had any taste. The onion rings, on the other hand, were delightful and actually tasted like onions rather than the deep fryer.

The meal was also served with perhaps the saddest looking bread in the history of the bread basket. Limp white bread. How appetizing. Blech!

The flavor: We experienced Lucky's on a busy night during the boys' state basketball tournament. So, the place was packed and we ended up eating right at the bar in the midst of a bunch of folks who had clearly been drinking since at least noon. The whole experience felt hectic and uncomfortable, which is exactly what I don't want after a hard weeks' work.

Second opinions:

Badger Herald
Fish Fry Madison
Madison Fish Fry