Caleb Westphal hasn’t missed a Friday fish fry since 2013. Follow his never-ending adventures—sponsored by Miller High LifeHERE. This week, fish fry #541: Joey Gerard’s in Greendale, Wisconsin.

I‘d put on some of my finer clothes, because I was going to a supper club—or at least a restaurant that hearkens back to supper clubs—but right after I walked inside I was informed by my wife that I had a hole in the center of the back of my pants. It wasn’t large, but it also wasn’t hard to imagine the pants splitting wide open, so I held my shirt down and walked cautiously as my wife, stepson, and I were led past the front bar area, past the middle dining area, and to the back dining area. One great thing about Wisconsin supper clubs is that despite their air of elegance, they generally have a come-as-you-are policy for attire. My stepson was still wearing his “pajama day” outfit for school along with a pair of Crocs, and now I was one faulty step away from baring my backside to an unsuspecting group of refined diners. Safely ensconced in a large semicircle shaped booth, dreams of an Old Fashioned and fried fish returned to the front of mind.

Brothers Paul and Joe Bartolotta of the renowned Bartolotta Restaurants opened two Joey Gerard’s restaurants in 2012, the name being a reference to Joe—who passed away in 2019—whose middle name was Gerard and whose mother regularly called him Joey Gerard when he was a youngster. The second location in Mequon closed in 2017 and became Mr. B’s, but the restaurant in the heart of Greendale is still in operation (5601 Broad St.; 414-858-1900), in a building that once was the Harmony Inn—and before that Taste Of Home, Eleanor’s On Broad Street, and the Village Inn.

There is one fish fry at Joey Gerard’s, Joey’s Fried Seafood Platter ($29.95), listed on the printed menu as coming with lake perch, codfish, gulf shrimp, calamari, scallops, crinkle-cut fries, and house tartar sauce. Ordering started simple: one of these big boys and a Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet ($9). But I couldn’t resist adding Joey’s Classic Relish Tray ($10.95) as an appetizer.

For a brief moment my mind began to reel. The menu had said nothing about coleslaw or bread. What makes a Friday fish fry a Friday fish fry? Are fish and potatoes sufficient, or are bread and coleslaw needed? I decided for now and forever that all that is needed is fried fish, the rest just being a bonus and forming a more true meal, but not a requirement. Still, I had to steel myself for the possibility of a fish fry without bread or slaw.

Smooth, fruit-forward, and uniform, with a gently jostled cherry and orange slice mixed in, and garnished with the same, the stylish Old Fashioned made me feel like I was drinking with all the mid-century Hollywood royalty who were framed on the walls in black and white photographs. The relish tray had a more extensive vegetable spread than the produce section at your grocery store, and came on a full-size dinner plate. Carrot, celery, green onion, cucumber slices, pickle slices, fennel, black olives, green olives, radishes, and broccoli surrounded a sauce boat of green goddess dressing. A silver cracker tray with two dishes of cheese spreads was also brought out.

Then, there it was, as I could have assumed: a basket of bread. Or were they rolls? They were warm, slightly sweet, and soft yet supple. Soon the fish fry came out, and to my surprise, there was a side dish of coleslaw. The slaw was creamy, and mellow at first taste, but the flavor became richer as the juices rolled over the cabbage, and it gained even more range from a few slivers of red onion.

While I got a fish fry and two drinks for under $20 last week, this week the fish fry was almost $30 on its own. But it only took one glance to confirm there was a reason it was called a platter. It took considerable effort to investigate and see what I had all caught. There were four pieces of calamari, two pieces of cod, two scallops, two pieces of perch, and three shrimp. From the outside, the cod and scallops were almost identical in appearance, with the scallops being somewhat more circular, but otherwise indistinguishable from the small chunks of cod. The seafood was on a bed of salty and crispy fries. The calamari were also rather salty; three of them were like strings, and one had a bit more bulk.

The rest of the seafood all had the same breading—but was it a breading close to a batter, or a batter close to a breading? It was distinguishable and sat at the sweet spot between soft and crispy. All of the seafood was fresh and well sourced. The cod was flaky, meaty, and compact, while the perch stretched its fairly distinct flavor into long fillets. The shrimp were large and juicy. The tartar was sweet but sharp, with a thinness that contrasted with large pickle chunks, and dill adding extra character. (The one downside was there was no cocktail sauce, and after I requested some I was charged $2 for it.)

One of the most noticeable aspects of Joey Gerard’s is the superb service. We were checked in on often, and food items were explained to us in detail, down to what type of cheeses were on the cracker tray. Our server even offered to go over the menu with us—but being that it was Friday, I turned the offer down. Workers dress well, and so do the tables—with fabric tablecloths being switched out after each diner leaves. These were marks of a supper club, which dovetailed with my urge to dress nice and not have a hole in my pants.

But then it happened. Then we spotted the dog…

Across the room, underneath the table of a couple who had drinks and were looking over the menu, sat a little doggy. It was a little pooch patiently waiting while its owners were about to enjoy a meal. This was the moment it became apparent that none of it mattered. I’ll wear my pants with a hole, he’ll wear pajamas and Crocs, they’ll bring their dog, and we’ll all have great fish frys. It’s Friday in Wisconsin! For the refined ambiance, for the service, for the food, and for not judging people for how they look or who they bring to sit under their table, Joey Gerard’s deserves a visit.

Takeaways: Smooth and stylish Old Fashioned; world’s largest relish tray; warm bread in a basket; five types of seafood on a bed of crinkle-cut fries; distinguishable sweet spot breading; superb service; allows dogs, or at least this one dog.

Want more Caleb? Hire him for all your 100%-vinyl DJ needs and follow him on Patreon.


Enjoy Every Fish Fry main page

Enjoy Every Fish Fry: Wisconsin fish fry reviews

Enjoy Every Fish Fry: The best Milwaukee-area fish frys of 2023

About The Author

Avatar photo

Originally hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin—home of Walleye Weekend, the self-professed "World's Largest Walleye Fish Fry"—Caleb Westphal has not missed a Friday night fish fry since sometime in 2013. He plays saxophone with the surf-punk-garage outfit Devils Teeth. He also spins classic 45s and would love to do so at your roller skating party, car show, or 50th high school reunion.