Farm Life

Fish Fry


One of our favorite Friday night activities almost always involves going to a Fish Fry. I had no idea what a big deal they were in Wisconsin until we moved here. When we lived in Las Vegas and Anthony would go fishing in Canada, we would always have a Fish Fry with friends and family once he was back to celebrate all of the delicious fish he had (hopefully) caught. Anthony thought it was hilarious when my Dad would say “I can’t wait to have that deep-fat-fried-fish!” Anthony would complain “Man,why’s he gotta make it sound so wrong?” He didn’t realize my Dad was paying him a compliment, and yes it IS deep, fat and fried. And greasy. And well, delicious.

While you can get to a Fish Fry most any Friday night in Wisconsin (learn more here, here and here) and some Wednesdays too, they really get crazy during Lent. Meaning every VFW Hall, Lions Club, random church, etc. has their own version of a Friday night Fish Fry. Tonight may be the holiest of all Fish Fry nights being that Lent has just about wrapped up.

Nite Cap Inn Palmyra

Wisconsinites are pretty serious about their Fish Fry and which one is THE BEST to go to. We’ve tried a handful of places and have many more to explore. Everyone’s criteria is different, and we are no exception. We’ve tried it on a paper plate and I think we prefer it on an actual dish. We’ve tried it in a large banquet room and while the fish was fantastic, the ambiance was not there. We’ve tried it in a no-nonsense small restaurant and for the nights when we don’t care about having the whole package (fish, price, ambiance & close proximity), that is our go-to place. Our standard is the Duck Inn in Delavan. It’s easy, just down the street and we always know it’s going to be good, with  its fabulous old-fashioned Wisconsin Supper Club ambiance.

Duck Inn Trip Advisor

Here are the basics of any great Fish Fry:

1. Fish (of course). The standard is Cod, but there are many other options, depending on the place. Perch, Walleye, Shrimp, Smelt, Bluegill, and any other white fish. Don’t forget the lemon wedges.

Fish Fry

The fish is battered, breaded or baked. I’m not a very accomplished (read terrible) cook so I didn’t really understand the difference between battered or breaded. I mean, fried is fried right?  NO, it’s not. Breaded fish is dipped in an egg batter and then a dry mixture. It can be bread crumbs, flour, cracker crumbs or Anthony’s favorite – crushed up corn flakes. Battered fish has a much thicker coating and is a thick liquid the fish is dipped into before it is fried. And baked, well, duh. And many times baked is actually the most delicious option.

Fish Fry 2

2. Cole Slaw – I don’t care too much about cole slaw, so I could take it or leave it.

3. Potato Pancakes – another source of controversy. Next to the fish, this is my favorite side dish of the Fish Fry. The best potato pancakes are pretty crispy on the outside. And applesauce on top of these is a must. I hate mixing sweet stuff with savory, but trust me on this one. French fries are sometimes an option. Don’t even talk to me if you get those. They totally do not count.

potato pancakes

4. Rye Bread – I’ve never met a bread I didn’t like and Rye Bread is no exception. Again, the potato pancakes really are the star of the show for me, so it all depends on how crazy I’m going to get that night. I know, we really live life dangerously here in the Midwest.

Rye Bread Smitten Kitchen

5. Tartar Sauce – I loves me some tartar sauce, but in my experience if the fish is really delicious, you don’t need much of this. And if you get the baked fish, you don’t need it at all. Don’t be surprised if you are at a Fish Fry and you get a cereal-sized bowl of tartar sauce. That’s what you do here.

image and fabulous recipe here

I’ve learned that your opinion on what makes the best Fish Fry is based upon a few things –  whether or not the fish is all-you-can-eat, the price, and of course, the quality of the fish reigns supreme.  Most restaurants serve all-you-can-eat, but I have never been able to order more than one plate of fish; I think Anthony has once. I’m not judging here if you are able to put down a few plates of fish, I just don’t know how it’s done. Still a rookie, I suppose. This is just the tip of the Fish Fry iceberg. There are numerous websites, how-to guides and reviews of all things Fish Fry.

Fried Smelt

So what’s your favorite place? Does the smell of hot grease bring back nostalgic pangs of growing up in the Midwest? Are you pissed about my blatant dismissal of cole slaw? In any event, cheers to tonight’s Friday Fish Fry, and to many more “Fry’s” in our future.

12 comments on “Fish Fry”

  1. Michelle
    Keep posting I enjoy reading them. We go to a small place on Friday’s and they have a great Fish Fry also, All you can eat $10.99 and it comes with 3 sides you choose and yes one is coleslaw. Have a great Easter, xoxox Mom

    1. I’m glad you like reading! It’s cool to hear about everyone in different parts of the U.S. and what their fish fry’s are.

  2. Well, of course, Dan and I have been to many, many Fish Fry’s in WI in the past 40 plus years and loved them all. It’s what we look forward to when we visit there with family. Happy Easter kiddos!!

    1. I’m sure you have been to many over the years. Maybe the next time you’re out this way we can all go to one together. Have a great Easter!

  3. Hi-larious!
    I’m not a fish guy myself. If it tastes fishy AT ALL, I’m switching to PB &J. That said, the only time I eat fish (other than the salmon I smoke) is during our Canada trips. There’s just something about eating just caught Pike and Walleye. It’s good! But even so, I still use a lot of lemon juice!

    1. I cannot believe you aren’t a fish guy, Mr. Canada! And either can Anthony. But I agree, there is something about fresh Walleye dusted in cornflakes and fried that is just perfection.

  4. The best Fist fry I have had is the one Anthony makes when he comes home from one of his fishing trips. But I think I could get into them. We have them here at the Catholic Churches all over town during Lent too. Happy Easter to you and Anthony honey!!

  5. I am all about coleslaw…so yes…bring on the coleslaw! I have to say…I make a pretty decent one in case you should want the recipe! LOL! I would be up for a “fry” when I visit in August! Looks like fun to me.

  6. The town in which I teach is predominantly Catholic……….so they are ALL about fish fries here, too and every little church has one every Friday during Lent! Somehow it is some of the best fried fish and fixins’ I have ever experienced, so I completely understand your obsession! For $5, you get what they call a “fish sandwich”, which is two pieces of white bread and enough fried fish to feed four people, plus french fries or coleslaw! It’s amazing! Hope you all have a very Blessed Good Friday and a Happy Easter! Keep posting! : )

    1. $5????? That’s unbelievable! We thought when people here told us if we paid more than $9.99 they were crazy! Happy Easter to you and everyone in KY! We love all of your comments, always.

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