The simple golden crunch of a wisconsin fish fry – eater

This story first appeared in Bill Addison’s newsletter “Notes From a Roving Critic.” Subscribe now to keep up with Eater’s roving critic on the road.

Lent began last week, which means the seasonal tradition of Friday fish fries is in full swing at churches, restaurants, and community centers across the nation. Good places to eat in san diego My grandmother made soft-crisp cakes of reconstituted salt cod and mashed potatoes on Good Friday every year; thinking about how my brother, cousins, and I slowly savored them is one of my happiest childhood memories.

Of course, in many of the states that surround the Great Lakes, Friday fish fries are a beloved year-round happening.

Mexican food in san diego The custom arrived in the 19th and 20th centuries with Catholic immigrants — German, Polish, and Irish arrivals (among others) — and weekly gatherings for imported cod or lake-caught perch and walleye gradually spread to mainstream culture.

Wisconsinites in particular still hold Friday fish-fry gatherings dear. Best seafood restaurants in san diego The once-religious ritual became a secular gathering during Prohibition, when speakeasies would entice patrons with the aromatics of sizzling fish to mask wafts of the illicit booze being poured. Best restaurants in chicago il In beer capitals like Milwaukee, the meal endured in taverns and bars after the alcohol ban was lifted, settling in as standing social events to mark the end of the workweek.

I was in Madison last summer to review the city’s fine-dining jewel L’Etoile and had scheduled one day of the trip to explore Milwaukee, where I’d never been. Mexican food in los angeles When I realized this day happened to be a Friday, I dropped all other notions about dining in the city to focus on a fish-fry crawl. Best dinner restaurants in los angeles I researched dozens of places online, asked for suggestions from local food writers, and mapped out a plan. Best inexpensive restaurants in chicago Between noon and 8 p.m., I made it to seven fish fries.

My first stop was Kegel’s Inn, an institution for German cuisine. Best cheap restaurants in chicago I ordered bluegill, a midsize lake fish — sometimes called bream — that’s a local favorite among connoisseurs. Best affordable restaurants in chicago The plate came with what I soon recognized as the standard Milwaukee fish-fry accompaniments: potatoes in some form (Kegel’s goes all in, offering German potato salad as well as spuds mashed, baked, or in the guise of fries, spaetzle, dumplings, or pancakes), coleslaw, rye bread, and, if you choose potato pancakes (which I did), applesauce.

The food was … not great. Best lunch spots in new orleans Maybe the cooking is more careful at dinnertime, but the schnitzel-like batter encasing the fish was tough, and the potato pancakes tasted as if they’d been sitting too long under a heat lamp. Best food in new orleans I wondered then if this was going to be a long day. Best chinese food in chicago Fish fry at O’Lydia’s Bar and Grill

Things improved at O’Lydia’s Bar & Grill in Walker’s Point, a neighborhood founded in the early 1800s as a fur trading post. Best chinese food in chicago chinatown With ‘80s hits (“Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Love Is a Battlefield,” “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”) playing in the background, I asked for the combo plate. Best seafood in wildwood nj Hunks of flaky cod in peppery batter arrived strewn among smaller, curled filets of perch and firm (but not leathery) pieces of bluegill. Best indian restaurants in chicago One stray fried shrimp found its way into the mix. Best seafood restaurants in new york city Light, oniony potato pancakes lay at the bottom of the pile.

I asked the bartender which fish the customers order most. Best cheap eats in chicago “Cod,” she said instantly. Best fast food places near me “I’ve never even tried the others.” Brandy Old-Fashioned at Swingin’ Door Exchange

I swung by Swingin’ Door Exchange in the stately Mackie building downtown; the restaurant has existed in several iterations since 1933. Best restaurants near times square I was there for a fish fry (a serviceable perch-and-cod combo) but equally for a Brandy Old-Fashioned, Wisconsin’s trademark cocktail. Best seafood in miami beach I was coached to order it “Press,” short for Presbyterian, which originally called for seltzer and no alcohol, but these days means 7-Up and soda water half-and-half.

By then, it was around 4 p.m. Soul food restaurants in new york The Friday afternoon regulars rolled in and took their places at the bar. Soul food restaurants in newark nj I sipped my drink slowly; the glow of the muddled maraschino cherries at the bottom of the glass heralded the sunset I’d see in a few hours during a needed brisk walk.

After Swingin’ Door there were stops at Alioto’s, a Continental-Italian old-liner started in 1923, and St. How to get free food from restaurants Paul Fish Company in the bustling Milwaukee Public Market, which serves fish fries daily (go for the perch). Fast food restaurants delivery At Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall, two couples in their 70s adopted me as their fifth. Fast food restaurants near my current location We shouted conversation over the oom-pah rhythms of the Brewhaus Polka Kings. Seafood restaurants near my location They encouraged me to go eat frozen custard after my hunt concluded. Best seafood restaurants in san francisco Fish fry at the Foxhole Tavern, Northshore American Legion Post #331

But my absolute favorite fish fry stop — the one I relive as I stare off in the distance when I think about this day — came as a recommendation from food writer Kyle Nabilcy, who learned of it through a high school buddy. Best mexican food restaurants In the basement of the Northshore American Legion, Post #331, there’s a restaurant called the Foxhole Tavern. Best soul food restaurants It’s a big, plain room anchored by a three-sided bar. Best seafood restaurants in los angeles I parked on a stool and ordered the walleye, a firm, clean-tasting Great Lakes fish I recall savoring when I lived briefly in Minneapolis two decades ago.

My dish included all the familiars: potato cake, applesauce, coleslaw, rye bread. Best seafood restaurants on long island It was a study of golds and browns arranged on a plastic white oval platter, and everything about it felt right. Seafood restaurants in the area A crisp, sheer coating covered the fish. Fast food jobs hiring near me The potato cakes were akin to hash-brown patties served at diners; their crunch brought comforting satisfaction. Chicago soul food restaurants Friday fish fries have never been about ostentation, and this might have been the simplest plate of food I was served that day. Dallas soul food restaurants But in the precision of the cooking and the basic deliciousness of the dinner, and among the easy fellowship of the other diners, it conveyed everything I’d hoped to glean about Milwaukee fish fries. Seafood restaurants nearby The Foxhole Tavern serves the meal every week of the year. Chinese food restaurants nearby If you’re in the city, I hope you check it out.

Kegel’s Inn: 5901 W. Fast food restaurants in washington dc National Ave., Milwaukee, 414-257-9999, .

O’Lydia’s Bar & Grill : 331 S. Fast food restaurants in australia First St., Milwaukee, 414-271-7546, .

Swingin’ Door Exchange: 219 E. Best seafood restaurants in san antonio Michigan St., Milwaukee, 414-276-8150, .

Alioto’s: 3041 N. Fast food restaurants Mayfair Road, Milwaukee, 414-476-6900, .

St. Food restaurants near me Paul Fish Company: 400 N. Fast food restaurants near me Water St., Milwaukee, 414-220-8383, .

Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall: 1872 N. List of fast food restaurants Commerce St., Milwaukee, 414-372-8800, .

Foxhole Tavern at Northshore American Legion, Post #331: 4121 N. Good food restaurants Wilson Drive, Milwaukee, 414-961-2123, .

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