Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wilson's Bar & Grill - Madison, WI

The Deal: Wilson's Bar & Grill, on Madison's Near East side, offers a basic fish fry of Icelandic cod,fries, dinner roll, tartar sauce & coleslaw. Three pieces of fish will set you back $7.50, five for slightly more.

The Food: My fish was served piping hot, and until it cooled a bit, it had an unpleasant rubbery texture. After a few moments, the good flakiness came through. I think the exact flavor is best described as "50 years of fish in the deep fryer". This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The fries were good, but nothing special. The dinner roll was surprisingly tasty. Wilson's earned extra points from me by serving the roll with warm packets of butter. Too many restaurants give you rolls with ice cold butter that's impossible to spread. It's the little things, you know?

The Flavor: Get within about 30 feet of Wilson's on a Friday night and you're suddenly hit with an overwhelming and unmistakable fish fry smell. People talk about Wisconsin's "dairy air", but to me the iconic scents of Wisconsin are fish in the deep fryer, brats parboiling in beer & onions and paper mills (sorry, but that's the Central Wisconsin in me talking). Once inside, you quickly realize that Wilson's is sports bar heaven, particularly on a night with both a Packers & a Brewers game. TV screens line the bar and some tables even have individual TVs. As an added bonus, Wilson's features the most eclectic karaoke this side of Minneapolis' Vegas Lounge. Nice!

There was only one waiter handling the room when I was there and he worked his ass off. On the plus side, I think he at least had an easy time taking orders since the only thing coming out of the kitchen all night was fish fry after fish fry. Clearly, Wilson's has a reputation. I've had better dive bar fish frys, but Wilson's is fast and in the neighborhood and you can get your fish fry on without slacking in your support of The Crew!

Second Opinions:

Cool Dadio
Madison Fish Fry

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Green Owl Cafe - Madison, WI

The Deal: The Green Owl Cafe on Madison's Near East side may be a vegetarian restaurant, but it's a vegetarian restaurant in Wisconsin, so therefore, like any good Wisconsin joint, they offer a Friday night fish fry. The mere idea of a faux fish fry caused some controversy on our Facebook page, but I'm glad the vegetarians and vegans among us have this option. Just because you don't eat meat, doesn't mean you're not a Sconnie.

So anyway, the Green Owl's fish fry is $12.95 and includes two faux fish fillets, rosemary potatoes, coleslaw and tartar sauce and a choice of soup or salad.

The Food: My salad, while small, was light & delicious with a good balsamic dressing. My dining companion enjoyed a coconut corn chowder. The coconut was basically for texture, so the corn flavor was able to shine through.

Now for the moment of truth. I actually thought the "fish" was great. It was some soy product, so, no, you're not going to get a nice, flaky fish texture. Instead, I'd say the texture was more like a Chicken McNugget. The key was that the breading pretty much perfectly replicated the flavor of a traditional fish fry. The potatoes were excellent, with a nice rosemary flavor, they were soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Neither me nor my dining companion opted for the coleslaw or tartar sauce. Our waitress explained that both are made with a "vegannaise". That's cool, but my problem with mayo isn't that there might be animals products in it, it's that it tastes disgusting. Sorry mayo lovers, that's just how I roll.

The Flavor: I think the Green Owl must have been a house in some distant past. It's a bright and quirky little building with funky tables and veggie art. The waitstaff was friendly and efficient and, beyond the fish fry, the menu looked interesting. I'm not a vegetarian, but I'm willing to have the occasional meat-free meals. The stuffed red pepper entree sounds great and the haloumi cheese appetizer I had was delicious (although really, since haloumi cheese is pretty much the greatest thing on earth, you really can't screw it up).

The beer list was small, but interesting, as was the choice of cocktails, including a lavender/gin concoction and a nice summertime mango & passion fruit vodka drink. Refreshing!

Second Opinions:
77 Square
Eating in Madison A to Z
Happy Cow
Madison Fish Fry