Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sideroads - Wisconsin Rapids, WI

The Deal: Sideroads' fish fry has staggered pricing between $6.95 and $8.95 depending on whether you want one, two or three pieces of haddock. You can get your haddock deep fried or grilled. For sides, you can choose from a baked potato, fries, onion rings or garlicky rice. Meals are served with a small container of coleslaw (which, of course, I didn't touch) and a thick-cut, heavily buttered slice of bread.

There's no salad option, although the menu does have cheap cheese curds that your table can share. By the way, you can tell I'm from Wisconsin because I've somehow just managed to equate cheese curds with salad. Heh.

The Food: My deep fried haddock was perfectly cooked, tender and flaky. However, the breading was tasteless and added nothing more to the flavor. I opted for the garlicky rice, which was served on my plate in an unappetizing scooped shape. Blech. All I can say about it was that, yep, it was garlicky. My friends were nice enough to share their fries, which were dark, crispy & delicious.

I also sampled the grilled haddock and I thought it had a nice, spicy flavor. It's served with butter for dipping, but I'd skip the butter and savor that flavor.

True to our Wisconsin form, our table shared some cheese curds which were, of course, a delicious Badger treat. Yum!

The flavor: Sideroads is described as a "rustic bar and grill serving seafood, sandwiches, subs, pizza, and a full alcoholic bar." That about covers it. Although, for a rustic place, it has a lot of flair, like Paul Bunyonesque saws on the wall and more beer tchotchkes than you can imagine. The whole place kind of reminded me of a dive bar version of Madison's Ella's Deli. The kids sure loved it.

Second opinions:


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fox and Hounds Restaurant - Hubertus, WI

The Deal: Fox and Hounds Restaurant in Milwaukee's western suburbs offers a variety of Friday fish fry options, including $9.99 all-you-can-eat cod or all-you-can-eat shrimp and cod, $14.99 for perch and $17.99 for pan fried walleye. Dinners include fries (you can opt for a baked potato for a dollar more), a slice of marble rye and coleslaw and tartar sauce. The fish is served with lemon and, in a nice touch, instead of asking if you want more of your all-you-can-eat option, the waitstaff just brings a small plateful about midway through the meal. You could also add a cup of soup to your meal, but if you wanted anything green, you'd have to spend $3.99 for the cheapest garden salad. The beer list was good, but not great. There were several different Sprechers on tap, but nothing else that was too exciting.

The food: Most of my table went for the perch and we got 5-6 pieces of flaky fish. The fish was good, but not great, mostly due to the lack of beer flavor in the batter and the fact that all of us had at least one bone in our fish, but, it was crispy without a hint of mushiness. The cod was actually a little bit more flavorful, while the shrimp was crispy, but tasteless. I'm a big fan of marble rye, but I'd always prefer hot, crusty bread instead. To me, the highlight of the meal were the fries, which were a tad soft, but had an awesome, creamy, sweet-potato like texture on the inside. Delicious.

The flavor: Fox and Hounds is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and we only found it after a few wrong turns. But, that's our fault as the road to the restaurant is clearly marked with several large signs. The restaurant itself is like an enormous hunting cabin and was packed to the gills with everyone from families to bikers. It's a hopping place. Unfortunately, the food didn't quite live up to the promise of the premise and our waitress was something of a crusty old dame, and not in a good way - she provided what I like to call "service with a sneer."

Second opinions


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wild Horse Saloon - Kellner, WI

The deal: The Wild Horse Saloon, just past the outskirts of Wisconsin Rapids, offers a two or three-piece cod fish fry for around $7 or fancier fish like grilled rainbow trout for about $12. All entrees include rolls, a choice of fries, red potatoes or hash browns and coleslaw. For an extra $2, add a trip to the salad bar or soup.

The food: Everyone in our group was disappointed in the "home fries". Expecting thick cut or cross cut fries, instead they received what just looked like normal, somewhat greasy fries. Ho hum. The hash browns, on the other hand, had a nice and crispy crust and were buttery without being greasy.

The cod was also crispy, but the batter lacked flavor. Some in our party had flaky fish. I didn't. While my fish didn't taste bad, it was almost more chunky than crispy. The rainbow trout had decent flavor, but the filet was too thin and therefore it was overcooked.

The rolls were obviously store bought and were not served warm, which is a big no-no in my book. The salad bar was good - a wide variety of vegetables, a few prepared salads and a nice addition of crustinis with various cheese spreads. What a good idea!

The flavor: Since Wisconsin isn't yet completely smoke free, you have to navigate your way through a smoky bar to the back dining room at the Wild Horse Saloon. It's a no frills kind of place. That's not a bad thing at all, you just can't go in expecting anything fancy. What you're going to get is decent food, decent drinks (as a beer snob, I have to say that I almost cried at the terrible tap beer list - lots of Miller & Bud products) and salty, but helpful, service.

Second opinions:


Monday, July 27, 2009

Cafe Twenty Eight - Minneapolis, MN

The deal: Cafe Twenty Eight, in Minneapolis' Linden Hills neighborhood, offers beer battered walleye for its Friday night fish fry. For $14 you get 4-6 pieces of fish, french fries, coleslaw, tartar sauce and bread. Again with the no salad thing. Seriously restaurant owners, just because we like fried fish doesn't mean we hate greens!

The fish: In the words of our friendly waiter, the walleye at Cafe Twenty Eight is breaded with "Pabst Blue Ribbon, hopes and dreams". If that's the case, then hopes & dreams taste taste kinda crusty with an almost pretzel-like texture. While I love that kind of texture, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of beer flavor. Cafe Twenty Eight has a great beer list, so maybe they could experiment with a meatier beer sometime. As for the fish itself, it was on the firm, rather than flaky, side. And while most of my pieces were great, I do have to say that my last piece was just a bit too fishy. However, no one else at my table had any complaints.

The fries were good, but not exceptional, while the coleslaw looked interesting, but was too mayo for my taste. What was exceptional was the bread - hot, crusty sourdough. Mmmmm.

The flavor: Cafe Twenty Eight's co-owner is the brewer at Surly Brewing, so the beer list, while short, is absolutely top notch and filled, predictably, with Surly and a smattering of good looking Belgians. I had a couple of Coffee Benders, which is the perfect combination of two of my great loves, coffee & beer. In fact, the wait staff even wears Surly workshirts. It's a nice contrast with the restaurant itself, which is located in an old fire house, but is sleek rather than workman-like.

The staff was fun & friendly and apparently filled with Flight of the Conchords fan. I think the fish could have been a tad bit better, but overall it was a really good meal in a great place.

Second Opinions:
Beer Advocate
We Got Served
Busy Nothings
Edible Twin Cities
Twin Cities Beer Geek

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quivey's Grove Paddock - Madison, WI

The deal: In addition to a lovely setting in the great outdoors, Quivey's Grove's Paddock Fish Fry offers diners a choice of fish (beer battered cod, pretzel crusted perch or baked cod), potato (either parmesan potatoes or fries), cole slaw & tartar sauce. Again, I must lament the lack of salad. The cod is $11.95 while perch is $13.50. One nice option at Quivey's is that you can turn your fish into all-you-can-eat for an extra $1.50 and you don't have to decide until after you're into your plate. No more eyes bigger than the stomach!

The food: I opted for the perch and parmesan potatoes. My fish didn't have a ton of flavor, but I did enjoy the crispy crust. The potatoes were creamy and delicious. All in all, I would have labeled it a great meal. But then, I tasted my friend's beer battered cod. Oh, the cod. It was simply perfect: light, beery batter and flavorful, but not fishy. The fries were also just excellent. At that point, I forgot all about the perch and could only lament that I didn't order the cod. Oh regret, the saddest of all emotions.

Quivey's has a magnificent beer list inside, but you only have one or two options outside. Happily, it's decent beer like Spotted Cow.

The flavor: The paddock fish fry is served up in a tent on Quivey's vast lawn. There are plenty of yard games for the kids and, unfortunately, plenty of mosquitos for the entire family. That said, it's still a picturesque and enjoyable evening full of good friends, good beer and great fish.

Second opinions:
Madison Dining Online
Madison Fish Fry
Beer Advocate
77 Square

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Madison Mallards - Madison, WI

The Deal: Like any savvy Wisconsin business, on Friday nights the Madison Mallards baseball team offers a fish fry. For $7 you get some unidentified fish, fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce. You'll find the fish fry in the concession stand right behind home plate. The stand is run by Chef David Boyer of Stoddard's Country Grove Market and Catering in Cottage Grove. As an aside, although I love Bravo's "Top Chef", I'm troubled by the use the "Chef" as an honorary title like "Judge", "Doctor" or "Professor". Have chefs really hit that status?

The Food: So here's the shocker - this is a fantastic fish fry. The fish was perfectly flaky, the batter was crispy and my whole plate had a nice hint of beer. The fries were nothing to write home about, but they weren't bad. All in all, for $7 this felt like a steal. And, to top it all off, it was served with a spork. Frankly, the only thing better than food with a spork is food on a stick. Is that the next evolution in fish fries? Only time will tell, my friends.

The Flavor: In addition to a delicious fish fry, my night at the Duck Pond featured cute ginger children, excellent Great Dane beer, old and new friends, a couple of young (and attractive) Catholic priests out for a night on the town, Johnny Cash's old band, the Tennessee Three, and a Ron Dayne sighting. You can't beat that.

Second Opinions:


Monday, May 18, 2009

Azzalino's Speakeasy - Madison, WI

The Deal: Azzalino's Speakeasy replaced the beloved Bennett's Smut & Eggs on Park Street, just south of the UW-Madison campus. Billed as a Prohibition era Speakeasy, Azzalino's is filled with cute touches like tables with built in Lazy Susans and a table reserved for Bonnie & Clyde. Although the menu claims that you can get walleye on Friday nights, the real fish fry options are on the board behind the bar. Basically, you've got your cod, your perch your catfish and fries. That's it. Yet another fish fry without a salad included. I hate that trend.

The Food: You know it's a bad sign when you're the only people in the bar eating. After waiting for what seemed like hours (and ominously hearing the deep fryer stop), we got our food. Predictably, by this time, the fish was lukewarm and not a bit crispy. Both the fish and the batter were completely tasteless. Because it was served in smaller pieces, the perch was slightly better than the cod, but not by much. The highlight of the meal (the only highlight) was the sweet potato fries, which were smooth, creamy and really tasty. Where did they come from?

The Flavor: I hate giving this place such a bad review because the staff was so nice. The atmosphere is chill and the jukebox plays David Allen Coe. And did I mention the built in Lazy Susans? I would definitely go back to Azzalino's for drinks, but I can't recommend the fish. Sorry.

Second Opinions:
Eating in Madison A to Z

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Culver's - Black River Falls, WI

The Deal: Black River Falls is nicely located halfway between Minneapolis and Madison. As such, the Black River Falls Culver's makes for a nice Interstate-side fish fry. Culver's offers a few options for weary travelers, including cod, walleye and crispy shrimp. These "dinner" options include two sides, tartar sauce and a drink for between $7 and $9. You can always upgrade you drink to a shake for a slightly higher price.

The Food: Culver's is usually a notch above regular fast food. So, not surprisingly, the fish was actually nice and crispy on the outside, and flaky on the inside - just like I like it. I got fries, which were just plain fries and absolutely nothing special. Tragically, however, I chose green beans as my other side. Ugh. They were a mushy, mealy, inedible mess. Culver's should have been embarrassed to serve them to their customers. I added a pineapple shake to my meal and it was easily the best thing at the table. That's not meant as a knock on the fish either, the shakes are that good!

The Flavor: Culver's is Culver's. It's filled with a variety of retirees, screaming children, surly teenagers and harried parents. And, in Black River Falls, you also get folks just off of the Interstate. So really, what you get is some great people watching. It's not a cool supper club, but it does have its charms.

Second Opinions


Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Liffey - St. Paul, MN

The Deal: While not actually a fish fry, The Liffey does offer Fish & Chips for $11.99. For this Wisconsin girl, that's close enough. Unlike a real fish fry, there's no soup, salad or bread, but there's also malt vinegar, if you swing that way.

The Food: The Liffey serves up three pieces of unidentified fried fish and french fries. I think it was perch, but I couldn't be sure. Overall, the fish had decent flavor after I squirted some lemon juice on it, but wasn't as crispy as I would have liked. The fries were good, but nothing special. Compared to other fish & chips I've reviewed, I'd have to say The Liffey was below average.

The Flavor: What The Liffey lacks in food, it makes up in atmosphere. Like most Americanized Irish pubs, it's full of full little nooks & crannies. It's a little cheesy, but again, I'm a Wisconsin girl, so I like cheese ;-). The beer list was good, filled with the usual suspects like Guinness and Harps as well as some delightful surprises like Ireland's own Magners cider.

Second Opinions

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Judy's Book
Beer Advocate
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