Caleb Westphal – Milwaukee Record http://milwaukeerecord.com Music, culture, gentle sarcasm. Sat, 22 Sep 2018 00:52:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://milwaukeerecord.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/cropped-mrapp-32x32.jpg Caleb Westphal – Milwaukee Record http://milwaukeerecord.com 32 32 246 consecutive Friday fish frys and counting: St. Paul Fish Company (Milwaukee Public Market) http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/246-friday-fish-frys-st-paul-fish-company-milwaukee-public-market/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/246-friday-fish-frys-st-paul-fish-company-milwaukee-public-market/#respond Fri, 21 Sep 2018 05:25:11 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=56334 Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here. his has probably happened to you more than once. You are driving over the Hoan Bridge, taking in the beauty of the Milwaukee skyline or gazing across Lake Michigan, thinking about the awesome city you live in…and then […]

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Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here.

This has probably happened to you more than once. You are driving over the Hoan Bridge, taking in the beauty of the Milwaukee skyline or gazing across Lake Michigan, thinking about the awesome city you live in…and then the smell of sewage hits you and you almost go full-on Blues Brothers in an attempt to escape it. I wasn’t driving over the bridge this past Friday, but I was hanging out at a place pretty close to it, and the aforementioned smell was constant. I needed to leave the stench of sewage, Milorganite, and rotten fish for something more soothing: the smell of fried fish. So I got in my Bluesmobile 2006 Ford Focus and made my escape.

There were a handful of places with fish nearby, such as Drink Wisconsinbly and O’Lydia’s, both of which I have been to and will probably return to at some point. But I wanted to go to a place that I had somehow never been to and that had been on my list for awhile: St. Paul Fish Company (400 N. Water St. 414-220-8383).

Located in the southeast corner of the Milwaukee Public Market, St. Paul Fish Company has been around since 2005, being one of the original businesses in the market. It is both a full-on restaurant and a fresh seafood center. St. Paul has an inside dining area, an outside bar covered with a thatched roof, an oyster bar, a case with fish and seafood on ice, a case with prepared seafood dishes, and a live lobster tank, to name a few things.

Just about any type of fish or seafood you can think of can be purchased there, either fresh or prepared. Their dine-in menu has grilled fish dinners, seafood sandwiches, a lobster dinner special, mussels, clams, calamari, oysters, and more. Of course, there also is a fish fry. Schlitz battered cod, grouper, walleye, catfish, and perch are all available. On Friday, from 4-8 p.m., the price of the perch fry drops from $14.95 to $12.95.

My companions and I were told it would be about a 35 minute wait to get a table in the dining area; as the Public Market has seating upstairs and outside, we decided that getting our food to-go would be easier. I went with the perch fry, as well as a cup of clam chowder. After ordering, I was told it may be about a 25 minute wait for food, which made me think we could have just put our name in for a table anyway. The wait ended up being a little shorter, though, and we got our food in about 15 to 20 minutes. I walked towards the exit with my bag of food, being surprised by how heavy it was.

It was just about the perfect late-summer weather for eating outside, and we found a spot along the building on St. Paul Avenue. I opened the bag and was pleased to find both a fork and a soup spoon, some napkins, and some ketchup packets. The heavy bag did not disappoint. When I opened the box of food I found four butterfly fillets of perch. There was a hefty mound of fries, but for once they were buried under the fish, as they should be, instead of on top of it. I was also pleasantly surprised to find two containers of tartar. Hooray! Beyond that there was the usual container of coleslaw. Notably absent was rye bread, which St. Paul doesn’t include with their fish frys for some reason.

I switched back and forth between the fish fry and the clam chowder. The chowder had a thinner consistency, almost souplike, and had some large chunks of potatoes. Being that I was at a place that specializes in seafood, I thought there would be something notable about the clam, but it seemed pretty standard to me.

The fish was of high quality and had an inherent mild flavor. The fillets were covered with a heavier, textured breading that appeared as if it would crumble, but it actually held together quite well. This made the fish perfect for hand dipping into the tartar sauce, and the two blended well together. Overall, the fish was markedly above average.

As my meal was winding down, one of the new Milwaukee streetcars drove past. Some people take pictures of streetcars, and some people take pictures of people who take pictures of streetcars. I attempted to take a picture of a piece of perch with a streetcar in the background.

After my meal, as I was walking back to my car, I began reflecting on how the evening pretty much encapsulated Milwaukee. The smell near the Hoan Bridge, a fish fry, a streetcar driving past—for better or for worse, these are the things that shape the city we love. Just about the only thing more “Milwaukee” that could have happened at that moment would have been for the Milverine to walk past. Did it happen? Yes. Yes, it did. I hope he was going to get a fish fry.

Takeaways: there is a bunch of fresh seafood in a case and I want to try all of it; also, you can buy fresh perch and cod and put it in your freezer just in case you ever need to make an emergency fish fry; they have an oyster bar and an outside bar; if you don’t have time to get a table in the dining room, you can sit upstairs or go outside; hefty portion of fish and fries; high quality perch; I got two tartars; you don’t get rye bread; very “Milwaukee”—I escaped that Hoan Bridge smell and saw a streetcar and the Milverine. RECOMMENDED

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245 consecutive Friday fish frys and counting: Crawfish Junction (Milford) http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/245-friday-fish-frys-crawfish-junction-milford/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/245-friday-fish-frys-crawfish-junction-milford/#respond Fri, 14 Sep 2018 05:40:16 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=55989 Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here. may have eaten a fish fry on every Friday for the past 245 weeks, but I have also gone to Wiener & Kraut Day in Waterloo, Wisconsin, on the second Saturday of September for 33 consecutive years. My […]

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Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here.

I may have eaten a fish fry on every Friday for the past 245 weeks, but I have also gone to Wiener & Kraut Day in Waterloo, Wisconsin, on the second Saturday of September for 33 consecutive years. My mother grew up in Waterloo, and even though my grandfather passed away in 2009, I have continued to return to the festival each year for wieners, kraut, and rummage sales.

During my youth, my family and I would arrive at my grandfather’s house the night before, and my dad and I would get up early the next morning to go rummaging. Since my grandfather’s passing, I stopped going to Waterloo the night before—until this year. Walt Hamburger told me the vinyl release show for his new album was taking place Friday at Waterloo’s Mode Theater, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit this city of my youth. I was told I could spend the night at a friend’s place outside of Madison, so the drive back to Waterloo in the morning would be short.

There was just one thing that had to be figured out: fish. My initial thought was to find a place inside of Waterloo’s city limits. It looked like Hartwig’s Waterloo Diner might have a fish fry, but they closed by 7 p.m. There very well could have been other places inside of the city that served fish, but none grabbed my attention. On the outskirts of town, the Pine Knoll Supper Club, which I had gone to as a child, had long since been closed down, so that wasn’t an option.

Thankfully, Jefferson County has a lot of other small communities with great fish fry spots. I’ve been to a few of them this year, such as Palmyra and Fort Atkinson. Another small community, just a 15-minute drive from Waterloo, is the unincorporated village of Milford. Milford is right off of I-94, but you wouldn’t know it, because it doesn’t even have its own exit.

The community wasn’t always so ignored. In the early years of Jefferson County, Milford was on the rise. The Milford mill—which gave the village its name—was built in 1845. Powered by the Crawfish River, it was the largest mill in the county, and had seven millstones. Sadly, the mill burned down in 1883, and many people moved to nearby Lake Mills, leaving Milford to never be known for anything again. Well, except for maybe Crawfish Junction (W6376 Co Rd A, Johnson Creek, 920-648-3550).

Crawfish Junction. Where had I heard that name before? After thinking about it, I realized it was one of the places that was featured in Ron Faiola’s film We’re Here For a Fish Fry! It turns out it is one of the favorite fish fry places of Mike Seidel, a guy who has eaten more fish frys than me, and who appeared in the film while eating at the restaurant. Perfect, I thought. Not only could I get a fish fry close to Waterloo, but it could be at a place that is known for having good fish.

Crawfish Junction is so named because it is located at the junction of Highways A and Q, near where the Crawfish River crosses. I met Walt and his bandmate Jason Lemke (whose new project, Car City, was produced by Walt and Amos Pitsch (DUSK/Tenement), and is being released on Plant Music Record Company), and we put our names in and sat outside on the front patio. After an Old Fashioned and an hour or so of conversation, our table was ready.

Fish options include hand breaded Lake Erie perch (1/2 pound for $16.95), hand breaded bluegill (1/2 pound for $16.95), fried cod (2 piece $9.95; 3 piece $11.45; 5 piece $13.95), baked cod ($13.95), and Canadian walleye ($17.95). The restaurant also offers grilled salmon, as well as other seafood options such as scallops, shrimp, crawfish, and alligator. All of these dinners come with a choice of potato, coleslaw, or rye bread. A number of items—scallops, perch, bluegill, shrimp, cod, and wings—can be paired together to make a combo dinner ($16.95). I ended up getting the perch and bluegill combo—which came with 1/4 pound of each type of fish; I also ordered fries, as potato pancakes were not an option.

There wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy about the fries, coleslaw, and rye bread. They were all fine, but in some sense they seemed to be filler, and were indistinguishable from those of hundreds of other fish frys. But, the centerpiece of the meal was the fish, as it should be, and it didn’t disappoint.

I was given three pieces of bluegill and four pieces of perch. The thin, non-greasy breading allowed the fish to curl a bit. The fish had a limber texture and golden color, showing in part that it had been left in the fryer for the right amount of time. The perch had a salutary flavor, and the bluegill had that usual distinct bluegill flavor, but was not overpowering as the fish can sometimes can be. It was some of the best flavored bluegill I’ve had in recent memory. The fish went well with the tangy, mayo-heavy tartar, which was in a big bottle on the table.

If you find yourself on I-94 somewhere between Milwaukee and Madison on a Friday, it’s worth it to weave through a few small towns on back country roads until you come upon Milford and Crawfish Junction. The restaurant’s website claims Milford is a “booming metropolis.” That may be complete balderdash, but who needs a metropolis when you have perch and bluegill combo fish frys

Takeaways: a decent amount of fish options and you can make it a combo dinner; the hand breaded fish was pretty awesome, but the rest of the meal was pretty standard; fittingly, you can get crawfish—Walt got some and let me take a picture of them but was very stingy in his sharing; after 2 p.m. on Fridays there is a different, pared down menu that focuses on fish, because they know how important fish is; the mailing address of the place is Johnson Creek—poor Milford, it has trouble even making it on an envelope; I had six wieners and kraut at Wiener & Kraut Day the next day.

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244 consecutive Friday fish frys and counting: 5 O’Clock Club (Pewaukee) http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/244-friday-fish-frys-5-oclock-club-pewaukee/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/244-friday-fish-frys-5-oclock-club-pewaukee/#respond Fri, 07 Sep 2018 13:43:12 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=55637 Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here. t 4 o’clock this past Friday, I found myself seated—not at a restaurant waiting for a Friday night fish fry, but outside at the Western Lakes Golf Club in Pewaukee, waiting for a wedding to begin. After the […]

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Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here.

At 4 o’clock this past Friday, I found myself seated—not at a restaurant waiting for a Friday night fish fry, but outside at the Western Lakes Golf Club in Pewaukee, waiting for a wedding to begin. After the ceremony, I went inside and grabbed a glass of wine. There was quite a bit of time before the wedding dinner would be starting, as it wasn’t until 6:45, but I knew I wouldn’t be attending it, as I had checked ahead and fish was not one of the food choices. Two people were celebrating the most important day of their lives, and there I was, getting ready to abandon their special moment and go find a fish fry. I didn’t want to head out right away, out of fear that I would return in the middle of a teary-eyed wedding speech, so I slowly drank my wine, and left around 5:45.

There are plenty of places to get fish along the shores of Pewaukee Lake, but I had one place in mind. A few years ago I substitute taught a few times at the middle school and high school in Pewaukee, and each time I had done so I had driven past a sign on Highway G that had an arrow that pointed down a side road and said “The 5 O’Clock Club.” It seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally visit the place the arrow pointed towards. Plus, the 5 O’Clock Club (N28 W26658 Peterson Dr., 262-691-9960) is a supper club, and it also happened to be August 31, a very important date in Wisconsin: Supper Club Day.

The 5 O’Clock Club originally was just a house, or a “farmette retreat,” built in 1865 and first occupied by the Voechting family. In 1918, the Peterson family purchased it—explaining why the road it sits on is now called Peterson Drive. Frank and Mary Kizivat bought the house in 1929 and soon opened it for business. At a time when Prohibition was still the law of the land, those who stayed in summer cottages around Pewaukee Lake began frequenting the establishment.

The restaurant has been in the same family ever since. Frank and Mary’s daughter Mitzie worked there, as did her husband, Earl Knutson. It was first known for Mary’s fried chicken, but fish frys soon began being served and becoming popular. In 1973, Mary could still be found serving up food at the age of 80, when meals of perch, fries, and coleslaw could be purchased for $2.75. After Mary passed away in 1980, her grandson Richard Knudsen and his wife Jeanine took over. They still run it today, and their son Jason is now the head chef. Richard has brothers who are part owners of the establishment as well.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the 5 O’Clock Club was the sheer amount of people that were there. Cars lined the road as I approached the restaurant, and they were all angled towards me, indicating people had driven into the parking lot, circled it and found no place to park, and came back out. The multiple dining rooms and bar area bulged with people, and more people spilled out onto the patio and even off of it, next to the building. The original building never would have been able to take this many people, but thankfully, multiple additions have been built over the years.

As expected, I was told it would be a long wait for a table. The lady who took down my name responded with a tone that seemed to say, “Do you really want to do this?” “How long is it going to be,” I asked, “an hour…hour and a half?” She told me it would be at least that long. But that was fine by me—I had plenty of time to kill before the wedding dinner would be over.

I grabbed an Old Fashioned and began ambling about, looking at all the artifacts that had been collected on the walls over the years. Eventually I was able to find a solitary chair next to some stacked booster seats and a coat rack. And then I waited. 7 o’clock rolled by. When you sit this long you begin to reflect on life, death, and your whole existence. Everything flashed past me. I looked at the coat rack and thought of all the coat racks and coat rooms that I had stood by as a child while waiting for fish frys. I thought of all the kiddie cocktails I had drank down, and all the memories that had now partially faded, and all the people who were now gone. By 7:20 the hunger was really taking over, but five minutes later the hostess walked past and told me I would be up shortly. At 7:40 it happened; “Westphal, party of one” was called overhead.

Rye bread, tartar sauce, and coleslaw were already on the table when I took a seat. Had they just assumed I would be ordering a fish fry? How did they know I wasn’t going to order a sandwich? This display of fish fry confidence seemed odd, but also warmed my heart. I wish more places would do it.

There are many fish options at the 5 O’Clock Club: lake perch (MKT), small perch ($12.50), cod ($12), small cod ($9.50), perch and cod combo ($16.50), walleye ($16.50), and bluegill ($16.50). There is also a seafood combination ($22) consisting of perch, cod, shrimp, and scallops, as well as other non-fish seafood options. All fish frys are served with french fries, as well as rye bread and coleslaw. I ordered the perch and cod combo, as well as a bowl of seafood chowder ($5). It seemed to make sense to get a bowl, as it was only 50 cents more than a cup.

The homemade chowder not only had clam, but shrimp, scallops, and crab as well. Slices of fresh green onion were evident, and pepper seemed to give it a little bit of a kick. A smaller bowl of croutons was brought to go with it. The three pieces of rye bread were soft and plain, just like the band with the same name (I apologize, this is the second time I have ripped on Bread in this column). The homemade coleslaw was vinegar based and crunchy, and like the chowder, it too was a little peppery.

When the plate of fish and french fries arrived, I pushed over the fries so I could get a view of all the fish at once. Some of the fries fell off the plate, but they weren’t the reason I had waited so long, so I really didn’t care. I was given two pieces of cod and four pieces of perch. The fish was well above average. The juicy and flavorful morsels of cod were particularly of high quality, and would have been good even without breading or tartar sauce. But, both the texture and flavor of the breading was of high quality. It adhered well to the fish, and from what I could tell, the same breading was used on the cod and the perch. The large cup of homemade tartar I was given enhanced the whole experience.

I could barely finish the fish, but eventually managed to do so. The fries were a different story: I took most of them home for later. But first I had a wedding to stop back at. The timing had worked out perfectly, and I arrived after the wedding dinner was finished. People were really starting to light up the dance floor, but I could barely move, and spent most of my time in a chair. I guess fish frys are just a little more satisfying than wedding dinners. Some may question the rectitude of leaving a wedding to get a fish fry, but my almost five years of faithful Friday night fish fry eating has outlasted about 20% of marriages, and there is no end in sight. Until death (or extreme illness or really shitty occurrence, I guess) do us part.

Takeaways: I had to leave a wedding because they weren’t serving a fish fry; the 5 O’Clock Club has been owned and operated by the same family for close to 90 years; there were like 7 billion people at the restaurant; they don’t take reservations on Fridays; I waited for about 1 hour and 40 minutes to be seated, enough time to listen to Mel Waiters’ “Friday Night Fish Fry” approximately 21 times; tartar, slaw, and bread were on the table when I sat down—before they even knew I was ordering fish; lots of fish options; high quality cod morsels; the breading was swell; here is their coleslaw recipe; speaking of weddings and fish frys, remember, Pat’s Oak Manor serves fish frys and has a wedding chapel.

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243 consecutive Friday fish frys and counting: Landmark Inn (Mequon) http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/243-friday-fish-frys-landmark-inn-mequon/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/243-friday-fish-frys-landmark-inn-mequon/#respond Fri, 31 Aug 2018 15:24:13 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=55252 Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here. ou’ve probably had similar thoughts. You’ve driven past a place that looked intriguing, and bookmarked it in your mind to check out at a later time. One weekend earlier this year, I took a circuitous route back to […]

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Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here.

You’ve probably had similar thoughts. You’ve driven past a place that looked intriguing, and bookmarked it in your mind to check out at a later time. One weekend earlier this year, I took a circuitous route back to my hometown of Fond du Lac, stopping at Stardust Records in Thiensville on the way. My drive after the record shop took me past a corner bar on a country road, which looked like a hidden fish fry gem. This past Friday I decided to replicate the first part of the route, and stopped at that corner bar, the Landmark Inn (10634 W. Freistadt Rd., 262-242-9907).

On my way, I stopped at Stardust and dug for 45s until my stomach started grumbling. I continued toward my destination, turning west on Freistadt Road, right by Chuck’s Place. After driving past barns and corn fields, a smile came upon my face as I saw cars lining the road ahead. I knew I had arrived.

Located on the north side of Freistadt Road, where it intersects with Granville Road, the building that is the Landmark Inn has stood for well over a century. The intersection is at the heart of Freistadt, a community in the western part of Mequon that was formed in October of 1839, when about 20 families emigrated there from Pomerania, after fleeing religious pressure from the King of Prussia. They fittingly called their new home Freistadt, which translates to “free city,” or “free town,” as they were now free to practice their religion as they chose. They built the first Lutheran church in Wisconsin the following year, and the congregation still resides on the same land, just south of the Landmark Inn.

One hundred and fifty years after Freistadt was founded, Jerry and Chris Block purchased the Landmark Inn. Jerry passed away in 2009, and his children have since continued to run the restaurant and tavern. Being that the business has no website or Facebook page, it may seem that the only way to find the place is to stumble upon it. But for those who live nearby, it appears the Landmark Inn is a very popular place.

When I arrived, the dining area to the right was completely full, as was the bar, where some people were eating, while others were waiting for tables. I ordered an Old Fashioned, and told the bartender that I would be eating, but that I would just wait for a spot to open up at the bar. She told me to keep my eye out for a seat. As I was flying solo, and being that it was so packed, I figured it made more sense to eat at the bar—it would be quicker, and I wouldn’t take up extra space for larger parties that wanted a table.

The place is small, but cozy. A shingled roof accents the inside perimeter of the barroom along the ceiling and above the dark wood walls, while carpeting covers the floors. Red lamps hang over the bar. The room was dimly lit, and many people were casually standing around holding drinks, waiting for their table to be called. No one seemed to be in any type of hurry. The clientele trended older, mainly being folks around retirement age, although this was not exclusively the case. The familial nature of the business seemed to extend to those who were dining. Many of the waitstaff and customers knew each other’s names; customers were in conversation with other customers they had never met.

I awkwardly shuffled around sipping my Old Fashioned, listening in on conversations, and making a little bit of small talk. I heard some people talking about how it was the best fish fry in the area. Someone responded by saying they had never had a bad fish fry there. Someone was told it was going to be a little bit of a wait, and they said they weren’t in any rush. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that one of the bartenders had been keeping an eye out for a spot to open up for me as well, after she alerted me that she thought a seat was about to be available. Sure enough, a seat soon opened up.

The fish options at the Landmark Inn include beer battered haddock ($10.50) and beer battered or breaded perch ($13.50). Potato options include homemade potato pancakes, homemade German potato salad, or french fries. I ordered the breaded perch and pancakes, as well as a cup of clam chowder ($3.25).

The clam chowder came out piping hot in a coffee mug, and was topped with gourmet croutons. The chowder had a lighter texture and a suitable taste. The potato pancakes were reasonably thick, with a soft inside where pieces of diced onion were evident, although the onion did not overpower their mild flavor. The coleslaw and buttered marble rye were a solid reflection of their type, but nothing beyond the ordinary.

I was given four pieces of decent tasting perch. It had perfect breading, the texture of which all breaded perch should have. The tartar was a little too tangy for my liking, and I didn’t particularly think it paired that well with the perch, although it’s possible it would have went better with the haddock. The fish was good enough, though, that I almost thought it was better without the tartar than with it.

The meal ended with a bonus treat: a piece of pineapple had been hiding under the rye bread. “Is this dessert?” I asked the guy sitting next to me. This was some good pineapple, too—not chewy, tough, or stringy. Who says a Friday night fish fry can’t be healthy?

Takeaways: familial atmosphere and friendly staff; you are probably going to have to wait awhile, so grab a cocktail and make some some talk; reasonably priced; the clam chowder comes in a coffee mug and is topped with croutons; homemade pancakes and German potato salad; excellent breading on perch; you get a piece of pineapple for dessert; it’s really close to another inn; don’t confuse it with the Landmark 1850 Inn.

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242 consecutive Friday fish frys and counting: Jim Dandy’s (Oak Creek) http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/242-friday-fish-frys-jim-dandys-oak-creek/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/242-friday-fish-frys-jim-dandys-oak-creek/#respond Fri, 24 Aug 2018 05:15:30 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=54968 Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here. illa Vista, Embassy, Skyway, Oakwood Lodge—the motels zipped past me as I headed south on 27th Street. Jim Dandy’s (8900 S. 27th St., Oak Creek, 414-761-7611) appeared on the left, its unassuming facade evoking a truck stop of […]

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Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here.

Villa Vista, Embassy, Skyway, Oakwood Lodge—the motels zipped past me as I headed south on 27th Street. Jim Dandy’s (8900 S. 27th St., Oak Creek, 414-761-7611) appeared on the left, its unassuming facade evoking a truck stop of yesteryear. A few signs were fully intact, calling visitors inside. Another was partially faded. Another was just a skeleton of its former self, with a neon “open” sign perched on its top.

If the exterior of Jim Dandy’s is reminiscent of a truck stop, the interior is an amalgam of styles, allowing visitors to easily drift to different worlds. The bar is part sports bar and part corner bar. Glasses hanging above it and red-hued string lights around it aim to give it a more sophisticated feel. A popcorn machine and pool table sit adjacent. Booths line the wall immediately across from the bar, giving that area the feel of a diner. Beyond, the back dining room vacillates somewhere between family restaurant and supper club.

Karen and Jim Iwinski have owned the establishment for over 40 years. In the 1970s and ’80s it was a country music bar fittingly called Country Castle. Frequented by truck drivers and local country music fans, it hosted a number of local acts, as well as nationally known artists such as Moe Bandy, Lois Johnson, and Gene Watson. In the 1990s, the Iwinskis transformed it into Jim Dandy’s.

Perhaps it was the contrasts of the styles inside, or maybe it was that I was met at the door by two ladies asking if I wanted a sample of some sort of mini tequila sunrise shot, but it took me a moment to find where to put my name in. Eventually I found I was to do so in the area right before the back dining room, and I was then promptly seated in a booth that had just opened up.

Although it was getting close to 7 p.m., the tables were still pretty full of people eating. My waitress was rushing from table to table, and was having a hard time keeping up. After ordering a Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet, it took awhile to get the rest of my order in, but it wasn’t really my waitress’ fault. It mainly just seemed like she could have used some help. The Old Fashioned did arrive quickly, though. It was heavy on mix and wasn’t muddled, but it had a decent amount of brandy, basically being a boozy version of a kiddie cocktail.

Fish fry options at Jim Dandy’s include fried or beer battered cod ($10.50, or $9.50 before 4:30), baked cod ($11), parmesan crusted cod ($14.50), hand breaded lake perch ($14.95), and fried or baked walleye ($15). Side options include french fries, baked potato, pasta, garlic mashed potatoes, or a potato pancake (for an extra dollar). I went with the fried cod and potato pancake, and also ordered a cup of clam chowder.

A plate with three pieces of cod arrived soon afterwards, and it also included two cups of tartar and two lemon slices. I thought it was a little odd that I had received two tartars but no coleslaw, and that my fish had been brought before my chowder. It turned out that my chowder had been forgotten, and that I had accidentally been given two tartars instead of a tartar and a coleslaw.

I enjoy any chowder, but there wasn’t anything particularly exciting about what I received. The consistency was a little too gravy-like and the flavor was mediocre. The potato pancake was thin, but had a large circumference. It had a mild flavor and was uniform in texture, having a softer chew to it. The coleslaw was pretty standard, with a light cream and a sweeter flavor.

What made this fish fry notable was the fish itself—it was outstanding! It was high quality fish that flaked nicely, and was covered with a light, uniform breading. It paired extremely well with the homemade, pickle-heavy tartar sauce. The only drawback was that I only got three pieces and there wasn’t an all-you-can-eat option.

Is a trip to Jim Dandy’s worth it if you don’t live in the immediate area? The high quality of the fish may make it so, but it’s hard to tell. When I got home I realized that not only had my chowder and coleslaw been forgotten, but I had never received any rye bread at all, even though it was listed on the menu! Was this all just a fluke occurrence or was it the norm? Maybe they just needed an extra set of hands and everything would have gone smoother. If you are looking to try out this fish fry, my advice would be to arrive before 4:30 p.m., to save a dollar with the early bird special, and to ensure you beat the rush.

Takeaways: reasonably priced fish fry, but no AYCE option; come before 4:30 for a dollar off; coupons are not accepted on Fridays; the fried cod and tartar sauce were both exceptional, and paired well together; it’s hard to pinpoint the ambiance of the place—it’s like a bar, diner, family restaurant, supper club, and truck stop all wrapped into one; I made it all the way home without realizing that I wasn’t given any rye bread.

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241 consecutive Friday fish frys and counting: Millie’s Supper Club (Chicago) http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/241-friday-fish-frys-millies-supper-club-chicago/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/241-friday-fish-frys-millies-supper-club-chicago/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 15:05:22 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=54593 Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here. he destination was California—a trip to explore Los Angeles, and to visit San Ysidro along the Mexican border, in order to do some research for a project. At first I thought of having part of the trip fall […]

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Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here.

The destination was California—a trip to explore Los Angeles, and to visit San Ysidro along the Mexican border, in order to do some research for a project. At first I thought of having part of the trip fall on a Friday, but then decided I would fly out Saturday morning and return on Thursday evening. The plan was to fly out of Milwaukee and to get a fish fry the night before. But, as flights out of Chicago were much cheaper, I ended up getting a ticket to depart from there instead. My flight was scheduled for 6 a.m. on Saturday, and as I wasn’t bringing a car, I needed to find a way to get down to Chicago on Friday night. I could either get a fish fry in Milwaukee before leaving, or find a place to get one in Chicago. I decided on the latter.

I took the 5:45 p.m. Amtrak out of Milwaukee, arriving in Chicago shortly after 7:15 p.m. After scrambling to get an L train ticket, I missed a Kimball Brown Line train, and had to wait for the next one. I shimmied back and forth on the platform watching the minutes count down to its arrival.

There are a handful of Chicago establishments that I’ve had a Friday night fish fry at before: Duke Of Perth, Will’s Northwoods Inn, and Millie’s Supper Club (2438 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-857-2000). I was once again headed to Millie’s, and as I knew they had only been open since 5 p.m., I figured they would be serving fish quite late. Still, I was a little on edge as I arrived, after 8:15 p.m.

Situated in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, across from what was once the Biograph Theater, where John Dillinger was shot in 1934, Millie’s Supper Club is modeled after the supper clubs of Wisconsin. Owner Brian Reynolds named it after his grandmother, who had brought him to many of these supper clubs during the summer months when he was young. It was his goal to authentically capture the feel and taste of these restaurants, and to also pay tribute to his grandmother. At Millie’s, beer signs and Wisconsin-related photos hang on the walls, along with a cheesehead donning deer head, a moose head, and a television that plays old Hamm’s beer advertisements on loop.

A few moments after taking my seat in one of their large red booths, I saw someone with a Cactus Club shirt walk past. By the time it registered with me that perhaps I should flag them down for some Milwaukee camaraderie, they were already out the door. Although I had seen many people wearing Cubs gear all over the streets of Chicago, no blue and red could be seen inside Millie’s. It made me wonder if the place was filled with Wisconsinites. As much as I wanted to stand up and yell, “Who’s all from Wisconsin!?!” I decided to look over the menu instead.

Millie’s has six types of Old Fashioneds to choose from. Their standard—which is highlighted apart from the other five—is the Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet. It is priced at $11, while their other Old Fashioneds range from $12 to $14. I ordered one of the brandy sweet ones, and after nonchalantly turning down an offer for the prime rib, I ordered the fish fry. Fish frys are available every day of the week for $17.99, but on Fridays they are all-you-can-eat.

Many supper clubs provide a relish tray, but some do not offer them on Fridays with fish frys. This is not the case at Millie’s, as a small relish tray consisting of carrots, celery, radish, olives, and pickles was provided. A basket of crackers and warm rolls was brought to the table as well.

The fish fry consisted of two large pieces of beer battered fish. The batter was made with Pabst Blue Ribbon, and had a sweet and salty flavor to it. The fish itself was of an average quality, and there was nothing too remarkable about the tartar. Still, it was enjoyable enough to warrant a third piece. The long, straight cut fries were satisfactory. The coleslaw consisted of large, fresh cuts of red and green cabbage tossed in a mild cream. The two pieces of marble rye bread were excellent, in part because of their soft texture. Instead of a lemon slice, I was given a half lemon.

When I finished my meal, I was asked if I wanted an ice cream drink. And, as is almost always the case when I’m at a supper club, I was too full to even consider it. This was my third time at Millie’s, a restaurant that largely does justice to the Wisconsin supper club and fish fry traditions. Is the food beyond compare? No, but it is quite good. Does Millie’s have a completely authentic supper club feel? Not quite, but it gets pretty close—probably as close as you are going to get in Chicago. If you find yourself in Chicago on a Friday night, you have no excuse not to get a fish fry. Millie’s has you covered.

Takeaways: it’s a supper club in Chicago; six Old Fashioned options; relish tray and warm rolls; excellent rye bread; AYCE Pabst battered fish; many other Wisconsin favorites available on the menu—cheese curds, a Lazy Susan with assorted snacks and dips (including Usinger’s Braunschweiger), beer cheese soup, deviled eggs, Genuine Broaster Chicken, and prime rib; all their beers have a connection to Wisconsin; vintage Hamm’s advertisements on a television over the bar, and a large Hamm’s sign over one of the urinals in the men’s restroom.

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240 consecutive Friday fish frys and counting: Wisconsin State Fair (Slim’s Lakefront Brew Pub & Eatery, Door County Fish Boil) http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/240-friday-fish-frys-wisconsin-state-fair-slims-lakefront-brew-pub-eatery-door-county-fish-boil/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/240-friday-fish-frys-wisconsin-state-fair-slims-lakefront-brew-pub-eatery-door-county-fish-boil/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 05:40:39 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=54295 Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here. he first time I saw Alice Cooper was at the Fond du Lac County Fair in 2006. I had plans to see him again, in 2010, at Waterfest in Oshkosh, but that show got cancelled because of a […]

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Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here.

The first time I saw Alice Cooper was at the Fond du Lac County Fair in 2006. I had plans to see him again, in 2010, at Waterfest in Oshkosh, but that show got cancelled because of a torrential storm, and I instead got stuck inside Oblio’s for six hours drinking brandy. When I saw he was coming to the Wisconsin State Fair this year, and that it was on a Friday, I decided it would be a good idea to finally see him again, and to see what the State Fair had to offer for fish.

I counted five places listed online that serve some sort of fish at the Fair: Slim’s Lakefront Brew Pub & EateryDoor County Fish Boil, Catfish Johnny’s, Joey’s Seafood & Grill, and Saz’s Taste of Wisconsin. Since I really had no plan as to which place or places I wanted to try, and because the setting of the State Fair is a little more frenetic and unpredictable than your average fish fry location, I decided I would document the evening in the same vein as some of Milwaukee Record‘s great “minute-by-minute recap” pieces. And while there is no way in hell this will be as brilliant as the piece on 50 Cent at the Oak Creek Woodman’s or the one on the new IKEA, I hope you get something from this, maybe.

5:56 p.m. – Hey, I’m at the State Fair.

5:57 p.m. – But where the hell am I at the State Fair? Oh, I’m stuck between the Swine & Goat Barn and the Poultry & Rabbit Palace. How do I get through here and find fish…to eat?

6:03 p.m. – Oh look, there is the Water Street Brewery. That’s the place that has those deep-fried Old Fashioneds. I guess I usually get an Old Fashioned before fish…

6:11 p.m. – That was heavy. I can barely walk now and I don’t even think there was booze in that thing. My hands are sticky, I’m really thirsty, and I could go for a beer. But where’s the fish?

6:12 p.m. – Hey, it’s Pitch’s. They didn’t bring any fish to Summerfest, and now they didn’t bring any fish to the State Fair. And they have good fish, too. Should I yell, “Get some fish!” at them? No, that would be rude.

6:20 p.m. – After first walking right past it, I have arrived at Slim’s Lakefront Brew Pub & Eatery.

6:24 p.m. – They have a beer battered walleye fish fry ($13.00) and beer battered walleye sandwiches. They also have flights of Lakefront beer ($8.00). I order a fish fry and a flight.

6:26 p.m. – Sweet, a flight of beer! Hey, why wasn’t my ID given back to me?

6:27 p.m. – “You get your ID back when you return the flight ‘paddle’.” Oh, my bad.

6:28 p.m. – A guy from Lakefront Brewery asks me if I am from Milwaukee and gives me a Lakefront bottle opener.

6:33 p.m. – The fish arrives. I ask about the relationship between Lakefront and Slim’s. Is this connected to Slim McGinn’s in Brookfield? (I later find out it is.) “That I could not tell you,” a worker named Jack tells me. As he walks away, I wonder why he doesn’t know anything about the place he works at. I also wonder why he never asks for my money.

6:33 p.m. – …moments later… “Jack! You forgot my money.” Jack takes the money for my meal and beer flight, which I have had out since 6:24 p.m.

6:35 p.m. – Oh no, this tartar sauce is in a packet! It’s called Chef’s Quality.What quality of chef are we talking here?

6:37 p.m. – I ask what kind of beer is used to make the fish and a worker says it’s PBR.

6:38 p.m. – Hmmm…the sign says “Lakefront Beer-Battered Walleye.” Doesn’t that imply that it is made with Lakefront beer? By the time I notice this seeming contradiction, no one is nearby for a follow-up question. I am also still too exhausted from eating the deep-fried Old Fashioned to properly articulate my thoughts, so I fail to investigate this any further.

6:40 p.m. – Hey, that guy down the bar looks familiar. I saw him drink a pitcher of beer by himself at Gee Willickers once.

6:41 p.m. – This fish fry is much better than the ones I had this year at Summerfest. I mean, remember the french fries at the Venice Club? These fries are soooo much better. The coleslaw is extremely creamy—almost too creamy—but still pretty decent. The walleye has a nice light, crisp batter, and the walleye flavor really comes through, which is a good thing.

6:57 p.m. – There’s one more beer left on the flight. I think it’s an hour until Alice Cooper starts. I should probably check to make sure on the time, though.

7:01 p.m. – Elvis Presley is here and is arranging his water bottles on a table for tonight’s show. Actually, it’s John Van Thiel: The Voice of Elvis. There’s a bit of a difference, I guess. I remember that I saw “Fat Elvis on a Stick” on the menu. Is John Van Thiel aware of this? Should I tell him? I start getting a little nervous and decide to leave.

7:07 p.m. – Almost every damn kid has a plastic trumpet that is making an unbearable racket. I see one kid has broken their trumpet. Thank you, Jesus.

7:16 p.m. – Holy shit, look at these guys! I wonder who they are. Oh, it’s The Glam Band, warming up the crowd that is gathering outside of the Main Stage before the Alice Cooper show.

7:19 p.m. – One of the guys is now in the crowd playing the cowbell. This is all too much. I need to leave and start looking for more fish. I walk away as they are playing “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” because I can’t take it anymore.

7:29 p.m. – I am in front of a stand that has real stuffed animals for sale. One is a lion. I start thinking about the Milwaukee Lion. It is $1,589. I don’t buy it.

7:47 p.m. – I’m sitting on a red bench outside of Door County Fish Boil. Inside, a cover band can be heard playing Bon Jovi’s “Runaway.” I know I have to go in there. They have “Fish and Chips On-a-Stick.”

7:58 p.m. – I’ve finally made it in. I look at the paper menu and don’t see Fish and Chips On-a-Stick listed. I show them their online menu, and ask if they have what I want, and they say they don’t. I loudly yell “Smelt boat!” a few times, trying to get my order projected over the cover band. My ears are trying not to bleed.

8 p.m. – I start running toward the Main Stage with my smelt boat. I try a piece of smelt and it’s a little stale. I keep running.

8:05 p.m. – I get to the Main Stage and try to find seat. A guy stops me after seeing my Ramones shirt. He says he saw them in Milwaukee years ago. I ask him where, and we both yell “The Palms!” at the same time. I have trouble finding my seat. Life isn’t always easy.

8:12 p.m. – I have found my seat. I open the lemon juice packet for my smelt boat.

8:16 p.m. – Here’s Alice! The smelt starts tasting a lot better. I can’t tell if it is Alice or the lemon juice.

Sometime later – As I finished off my smelt, Alice went into “Woman Of Mass Distraction,” which includes the lyric: “She hooked me, she cooked me, she practically filleted me.” I was thankful to finish my smelt during this song, instead of during the following one, which was “Poison.”

9:45 p.m. – That was pretty awesome. I could go for some more fish, though, but I’ll wait until next week.

Takeaways: The deep-fried Old Fashioned almost killed me; I think there are five places at the State Fair that serve fried fish; Lakefront Beer-Battered Walleye is apparently battered with PBR, but is still pretty good; I’m not too fond of most ’80s cover bands, and I should just lighten up; Alice Cooper is 70, is still really good live, and still gets his head chopped off by a guillotine—he also improves the taste of smelt, I think.

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239 consecutive Friday fish frys and counting: Fritz’s Pub http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/239-friday-fish-frys-fritzs-pub/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/239-friday-fish-frys-fritzs-pub/#respond Fri, 03 Aug 2018 13:44:48 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=53884 Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here. “Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower We come on the ship that sailed the moon We come in the age’s most uncertain hour And sing an American tune” -Paul Simon “American Tune” nd they […]

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Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here.

“Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune”

-Paul Simon
“American Tune”

And they kept coming, more from England, and then from Germany and Ireland too, fleeing political unrest and famine, and seeking better lives for themselves and their children. And they brought their talents, music, and food, and it all became part of the “American Tune.” Some came from China and helped build the Transcontinental Railroad, while others sailed from Southern and Eastern Europe, past a lady holding a torch, and helped build The City That Never Sleeps. And there were some who were already here, and some who were forced to come, and they both refused to let their culture be snuffed out, and they added it to the “American Tune.” And they still come, from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, fleeing violence and poverty, and thinking of their young. And no matter where they’ve came from or when, they’ve all had dreams and stories, and they’ve all had names. One of them was named Dragoslav Djuric.

In 1955, Dragoslav Djuric, who was born in Germany, came to America with his family: his wife Katherine—a native of Yugoslavia—and their three children, Maria, Stephen, and Joseph. All they had with them were some trunks filled with clothes and some old photographs. They moved to Milwaukee, where Dragoslav—who was known as “Fritz”— got a job as a welder. But, in 1978, he did what so many who have came to this country have done: he started his own business.

Fritz’s Pub (3086 S. 20th St., 414-643-6995) opened on September 28, 1978, and for the first few years it was just a bar. The Djurics remodeled and expanded it in 1981, and began serving food. It has since been known for its Serbian offerings, such as the “Fritzburger,” as well as for its Friday night fish fry. Maria, Stephen, and Joseph have worked at Fritz’s since it opened, and after their father passed away in 1994, they kept it going. Fritz’s will serve its last fish fry on Friday, September 28, 2018—40 years to the day after it opened—and then Fritz’s will close.

I’ve had a fish fry at Fritz’s a few times before, and have been planning to get back for one more before it closed. When I arrived last Friday around 6 p.m., there was barely a seat to be found at the large U-shaped bar. I eventually found an open red leather barstool, put my name in, and ordered an Old Fashioned.

As I caught up with a friend, I periodically looked into the kitchen, where Joseph and Stephen could be seen dipping fish in batter and preparing meals. The orders kept coming—both to-go and for dining in—and the brothers never seemed to pause from their work. Maria was stationed at the far side of the bar, and was keeping tables moving by taking down names of those who wanted to dine, and by going into the dining room and making sure everything was running smoothly there as well. About six or so other employees were also working, putting in their full effort to keep customers satisfied. It was over an hour before we were seated, and by then the crowd was starting to thin out a little bit, but not completely. Sure, I could have just eaten at the bar and gotten my food a lot sooner, but this was going to be my last time here for fish, and I wanted to do it right.

The fish choices are simple: small, medium, or large—meaning two, three, or four pieces of fish in a meal, priced at $10.95, $11.95, and $12.95, respectively. Everything about Fritz’s fish fry is distinct, and if you’ve been there before, you know what I’m talking about. Each time you go in, you already know what the taste and texture of everything will be, and those are the same things that have kept you coming back time and time again. You could be blindfolded and given a bite of fish or tartar or coleslaw, and you’d know exactly where you were. This is probably in part because the food is homemade.

Fritz’s has some of the best beer battered cod you will find anywhere within the city limits of Milwaukee. The fish is cut before deep frying, so when it is served to you it resembles a butterfly fillet, even though that is not the case. The quality, well-coated fish wasn’t overly greasy, but you could still tell there was no way you were eating something that was healthy. This isn’t the kind of fish you cut with a fork, this is the kind that you pick up and rip apart with your hands before dipping in tartar. The tartar is handmade by Joseph. It was thick and sweet with lots of pickle, and almost seemed to have notes of honey mustard in it.

Maria makes the coleslaw by hand. It was creamy, with the smallest cuts of cabbage and carrot imaginable. The cream seemed to completely encapsulate every morsel, but the slaw somehow still had a crunch to it, probably because it had been recently made. It exuded a sweetness, and yet it is possible it had a hint of onion in it, too. Tyler Maas of the Milwaukee Record once told me it was maybe the best coleslaw he ever had, and I’d say it is pretty excellent as well.

Maria also bakes the rye bread, which was better than the bread I’ve had at most fish frys. I was also given a heaping helping of seasoned potato wedges. They too were great, but because everything else at Fritz’s is so superb, they seem to get relegated to the background. I cleared my plate of everything except for a few of them, which I put in a box to take home, but then forgot to take.

Dragoslav “Fritz” Djuric came to America and raised his children with his wife Katherine while working as a welder. He eventually opened his own bar and restaurant, which his children then had the opportunity to work at. They took up this calling and kept the business going for the past 40 years. Their children, the third generation, went off to other careers—which in some way is a testament to the American Dream itself, that your children will have the opportunity to pursue their own dreams—so they are closing the place down in September.

What have immigrants given to this country? Well, one thing they’ve given is the fish fry at Fritz’s Pub in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Get yourself down to Fritz’s to enjoy one while you still can. You only have nine Fridays left.

Takeaways: It’s a family-run business, started by Fritz, and now operated by his children—Maria, Stephen, and Joseph; they are closing exactly 40 years to the day after when they opened; the food is homemade, and the flavors are of high quality and distinct; especially high marks for the fish and tartar pairing, as well as for the coleslaw; you may have to wait awhile for a table, or to get your food, but it’s worth it; they make comedic posts about this and other things on their Facebook; they now have “retirement hours” and are only open Fridays and Saturdays; you only have nine Fridays left of this Milwaukee institution; somebody buy this place and keep it exactly as it is. RECOMMENDED

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238 consecutive Friday fish frys and counting: A.J. O’Brady’s Irish Pub & Grill http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/238-friday-fish-frys-a-j-obradys-irish-pub-grill/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/238-friday-fish-frys-a-j-obradys-irish-pub-grill/#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 14:48:09 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=53455 Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here. s I looped around the back parking lot of A.J. O’Brady’s (N88 W16495 Main St., Menomonee Falls, 262-250-1095) there wasn’t one parking spot to be found. “No problem,” I thought, as I drove down the block past a […]

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Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here.

As I looped around the back parking lot of A.J. O’Brady’s (N88 W16495 Main St., Menomonee Falls, 262-250-1095) there wasn’t one parking spot to be found. “No problem,” I thought, as I drove down the block past a line of parked cars, “I’ll just park on the road.” I pulled behind the last car and looked up to find a sign that said “90 MIN PARKING 8AM TO 6PM EXCEPT FRIDAY 8AM TO 9PM EXCEPT SUNDAY AND HOLIDAYS 30 MIN PARKING 2AM TO 6AM.” I read it a few times and couldn’t tell if I was reading it properly (maybe I’m still not?). “Am I just an idiot and can’t figure this out,” I thought, “or is this sign really telling me that I have to move my car in 90 minutes or I’ll get a parking ticket?” Could people really be given parking tickets during their Friday fish fry? I decided that there was no way in hell that could possibly happen in Wisconsin, so I stayed parked and went inside.

I had been to A.J. O’Brady’s once before, on February 21, 2014, just eight weeks after I started keeping track of which fish fry locations I went to each week. I remember having all-you-can-eat fish, and seem to remember having three different kinds of fish at once as well, but I can’t remember that for sure. It was my hope to have a similar experience this time around.

Although it was already 7 p.m., the place was still swelling with a dinner crowd. I was thus surprised to hear it would only be about a 20-minute wait for a table (it ended up being not much more than that). I took a seat at the bar and found a card that listed six types of unique Old Fashioneds. I was at a loss as to what to pick until I saw that the “Cherry Old Fashioned Smash” was made with Traverse City American Cherry Bourbon. Back when I was in high school I used to march in a parade with a band at Traverse City’s National Cherry Festival. “A toast to memories,” I thought. The sour soda that topped it seemed to help bring the bourbon flavor to prominence, and it was a bit boozy anyway, but still good.

While sipping the drink, I tried to read some of the written-on dollar bills that were hanging from the ceiling above the bar. I also noticed a Guinness countdown clock that said it was 239 days until St. Patrick’s Day. I thought that was interesting considering this was fish fry #238, and an idea came to mind, but I thought I’d sit with it until after dinner.

After being seated, I took a closer look at the menu, which was almost as confusing as the parking sign outside. Most of the regular fish frys were listed in the same section as the sides, while the soups were listed in the all-you-can-eat section—but it was only slightly apparent that this was being done because the soups were included with the all-you-can-eat meals. Kick up your feet and let me try to break down this menu for you:

The white fish meal (available pan fried, baked, deep fried, or blackened pan fried or baked) is $6.99, the Guinness battered cod meal is $7.99, and the lake perch meal (available pan fried or blackened pan fried) is $13.99. Soup or salad can be added to the white fish or cod meal for $1, but apparently not to the perch. The meals also include a choice of pub fries and coleslaw, waffle fries and coleslaw, or potato pancakes with applesauce. Mashed potatoes or veggies can be added for a dollar, and an extra coleslaw or applesauce can be bought for 50 cents. The white fish and Guinness battered cod are also available as all-you-can-eat, for $9.99 and $10.99, respectively. The all-you-can-eat meals also include a choice of soup or salad. You get to choose a potato option as well. All fish meals also include warm bread (actually warm rolls) and Irish butter (when available). Was that a confusing paragraph? Try reading the menu.

I ordered the all-you-can-eat Guinness battered cod with the potato pancakes, and chose clam chowder as my soup option. Having a fish fry without coleslaw just doesn’t seem right, and after initially forgetting to order a side of it, I flagged my waitress back down and ordered one. The rolls and clam chowder were quickly brought out, and complemented each other perfectly. Now, I know there is something actually called Irish butter, and this is probably what I was given, but when it was brought to the table colored green I could only think that maybe it was just “Irish” butter. The chowder was above average; it was moderately above average in its taste, had an average amount of clam and vegetables, and was exceptional in its creamy texture.

I’m sure other restaurants serve Guinness battered cod, but I’m not sure I’ve had it. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty original idea. The cod was covered in a uniform, encased batter. It had a unique flavor that I can’t quite put my finger on. Did it taste like Guinness? I don’t think so, but that must have been where the underlying flavor was coming from. The tartar was thin and was made with a sweeter relish, but beyond that it didn’t have too much flavor. The pancakes were smaller in circumference, but this was made up for in their thickness. They were a little stringy around the edges, but the browned outside helped hold them together. Inside they were soft and fluffy, and overall they had a mild flavor. There wasn’t much going on with the coleslaw, but I’m still glad I bought it so I felt complete. The rolls took the place of the usual rye bread. After clearing my plate, I had another piece of cod, as well as a piece of white fish.

I thought about all the dollar bills hanging from the ceiling, and how I had spent some time trying to read them. I also thought about how I had never hung a dollar on a ceiling before. So, before I walked out the door, I wrote “#238 MilwaukeeRecord.com” on a dollar bill and asked a bartender to hang it on the ceiling for me. Go and find it.

Takeaways: dollar bills hanging from the ceiling; Old Fashioned options; solid chowder; the butter was green; cod battered in Guinness; excellent price for an all-you-can-eat meal, which also comes with soup or salad; the menu confused me, and so did a parking sign outside; if you walk across the street from the restaurant you can see some falls in Menomonee Falls.

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237 consecutive Friday fish frys and counting: Twisted Fisherman http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/237-friday-fish-frys-counting-twisted-fisherman/ http://milwaukeerecord.com/food-drink/237-friday-fish-frys-counting-twisted-fisherman/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 14:48:44 +0000 http://milwaukeerecord.com/?p=53140 Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here. ish frys aren’t always convenient. In an ideal world they would be the centerpiece of every Friday evening. Platters of hand breaded or beer battered perch and cod would be brought out to you while you casually sipped […]

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Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday night fish fry since 2013. Follow along with his never-ending adventures here.

Fish frys aren’t always convenient. In an ideal world they would be the centerpiece of every Friday evening. Platters of hand breaded or beer battered perch and cod would be brought out to you while you casually sipped Old Fashioneds with friends and family, perhaps in a low-lit supper club, or in a corner tavern. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and sometimes you end up eating your fish fry alone, or you have to hurry, or you aren’t feeling well, or your mind is somewhere else.

On one hand, I suppose writing this column has influenced me to try more new places and to vary the geographical locations of the restaurants I go to, more than I would have otherwise. Prior to the column’s existence, in 2014, I went to Klinger’s East two weeks in a row because I lived a few blocks from it. Similarly, I got fish from the Packing House drive-thru more than once in 2015 (yes, they have a drive-thru just for fish frys). I went to nearby locations and drive-thrus on multiple occasions to help make the meals more convenient. It’s less likely I would do things the same way now, now that I’m making a written record about where I go.

But on the other hand, I don’t let the column influence my fish choices too much. In some sense I am still just doing whatever I was going to do anyways. Take this past Friday for example. I was playing a show with Devils Teeth, opening up the evening for Mondo Lucha! at Nomad Nacional. We were supposed to be there between 5 and 5:30 p.m., but I wasn’t going to be free to grab fish until after 4. This was too early to find anyone to join me, so I ended up going alone. I thought of a few places near the venue with fish, such as Steny’s, Drink Wisconsinbly Pub, Fuel Cafe, and the Twisted Fisherman (1200 W. Canal St. 414-384-2722). I decided to go with the last one.

Tucked along the Menomonee River on the stretch of Canal Street between the Harley-Davidson Museum and Potawatomi, the Twisted Fisherman specializes in crab and other seafood, such as salmon and tilapia, but you better believe a place with the word “fish” in its name serves a Friday fish fry, too. The wide range of seating options available in and outside of the restaurant are ideal for the summer months. Some Adirondack chairs are situated along the river, giving people the chance to fully soak up the sun. A little closer to the building, wooden picnic tables with umbrellas still allow people to sit near the water, but with a little more shade. Attached to the building is a large yellow tent with more picnic tables. A large, square wooden bar begins in this outdoor area, and continues into the building, where more seating can be found. I took a seat at the end of the bar that was outside the building.

As I drank a stiff, half-muddled Old Fashioned, after having waved off an offer for a tropical cocktail, I took a look at the food menu. There are two fish fry options: the Traditional Milwaukee Fish Fry is $13.95, and includes breaded deep fried perch from Lake Erie, with two sides; while the Beer-Battered Cod is $12.95, and consists of cod made with a Point Seasonal beer batter, also with two sides. The side options are baked beans, Wisconsin cheddar mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, spiced Cruzan rum glazed carrots, coleslaw, steamed broccoli, and fries. I went with the perch, and ordered some chowder as well.

Now, this wasn’t just any chowder, but “Milwaukee Chowder,” with smoked trout instead of clams, as well as Wisconsin cream, sweet corn, and potatoes. The smoked trout flavor was prominent, the cream gave it a good consistency, and overall the original offering was well welcomed. I was given three butterfly fillets of perch—the breading adhered well to the meat side, but not as well to the skin side, where it flaked off a bit. Still, the fish had a good flavor, and I wasn’t disappointed. As much as I was tempted by the Wisconsin cheddar cheese mashed potatoes, I knew I had to get the fries because it was National French Fry Day. In both taste and texture they were satisfactory. The second side I chose was coleslaw, because, well, I was eating a fish fry. It came in a decent sized container, and had a light, mild flavor. A handful of thin zucchini slices gave it an added originality.

I looked at the time and it was after 5. My mind had been drifting back to the rock and roll show off and on during the meal, and now it was time to get going. It had been another solitary fish fry, eaten in a somewhat hastily manner. But I’m not going to question why I keep going back every week. While fish frys might not always be convenient, Fridays just wouldn’t be the same without them.

Takeaways: Relaxing outside summer hangout, not unlike Barnacle Bud’s; the chowder had trout in it; why the hell wasn’t there rye bread?; the perch breading was a little flaky on one side, but almost perfect on the other—I think there is a deeper life lesson here, but I’m not sure what it is; there was zucchini in the coleslaw; maybe I’ll write about the Packing House drive-thru sometime; I’m sorta glad there wasn’t all-you-can-eat, because that would have made the rock and roll show difficult.

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