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 #526: Who’s On Layton in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Fish frys are for family. Family can mean a number of things: It can be those you grew up with, those who took you in along the way, or those you call friends. For me, a big part of family is about to change. I recently got engaged and will soon have a wife and three stepsons—and as they remind me, their two dogs will be family, too. While my fiancée and one of my future stepsons are vegetarians, the other two have taken a liking to Friday fish frys. Some of my favorite childhood memories with my family took place while sucking down kiddie cocktails and eating Friday fish frys at Kinker’s Korners, the Colony, and the Freight House in the Fond du Lac area. I’m hopeful my future stepsons gain many great fish fry memories similar to the ones I hold dear, and that the vegetarians and I will build memories alongside them.

Who’s on Layton? Who’s On Layton is on Layton, that’s who, between Oakland Gyros and 5th Street (512 W. Layton Ave; 414-312-7482). It’s in the same building where I once picked up a combo fish fry plate with nine pieces of fish, and isn’t much more than a stone’s throw from the Culver’s where I got a fish fry that has crinkle-cut fries apparently best described as “they’re fine, they’re good, whatever.” Just like at these establishments, a fish fry is on the menu at Who’s On Layton. The restaurant is owned by the same folks who own Who’s On Third, The Oak Barrel Public House, and the Third Street Tavern. One of my soon-to-be family members has had his eye on the restaurant since before they opened last August, and this past Friday finally presented an ideal opportunity for all of us to go (we left the dogs at home).

Most seats were taken, but we found two high tops placed together in the main dining area, a section with 10 or 12 tables and garage doors at each end: one that was open that leads to the bar and two that were closed that lead to the outside patio. We found some menus in a holder, and put in drink orders not long after. I was asked if rail brandy was okay for my Old Fashioned and answered in the affirmative. Garnish-free and lightly muddled, the Old Fashioned was smooth to the sip, like a neatly pressed suit or a ’67 Camaro running like a top, but kept a low profile, not being quite as flashy or memorable as these items. I forgot to ask for a review of the kiddie cocktails, but they came in plastic cups with pictures of fish on them.

Usually, this is the time I’d be soaking in the environment and looking around for content to put in my article, but I’m a family man now, so I started playing Kids Against Maturity instead. If being against maturity means keeping a sense of wonder about the world until one is old, count me in, I’m all for it. I’m also for kindness and empathy, and maybe finding joy in life despite the onslaught of indifference, inhumanity, and suffering around us. One way I do this is by going to Friday fish frys with good people.

At some point during the Kids Against Maturity game, we put in our orders. Who’s On Layton offers country fried cod ($16.95), beer battered brew pub cod ($16.95), baked lemon pepper cod ($16.95), and breaded lake perch (market price, $24.95). The baked cod is served with seasonal veggies and rice pilaf, while the rest come with coleslaw and a potato choice. I was given the option of fries or potato pancakes, but the online menu also mentions kettle chips as a choice. The fish frys do not come with rye bread. On some Fridays, Who’s On Layton offers a “Chef’s Special,” but there wasn’t one the night we were in, nor was there beer battered walleye, which they’ve also offered at times. The country fried cod is available every day of the week, and the rest of the fish fry options are available starting at 4 p.m. on Fridays. I went with perch and pancakes, while two of the boys went with perch and fries. The third asked for raw cheese curds—something not on the menu—and by gum, the kitchen came through for him.

Before long we had to set the board game aside, because the cheese curds and some other appetizers arrived, followed moments later by the rest of the meals. The coleslaw was sweet and was spiced with a few flecks of black pepper, and the deeper down I got into the cup, the juicier and sweeter it got. I kept going, like I was trying to lick to the middle of a Tootsie Pop. I wanted to keep digging, through the bottom of the cup, through the table, and into the floor, where the sweetest slaws of dreams must be, but I quickly reached the bottom of the metal cup and was knocked back into reality when it went ting. The boys are still getting sold on slaw, so just like that I was smiled upon and crawled myself to the bottom of two more cups.

Thin and fried golden, the potato pancakes had a smattering of seasonings and a salty and sweet symbiosis. They were delicate in nature, in part because of their thinness, and I found one of them had already crumbled underneath the perch, of which there were six pieces. The fillets were light in flavor, with a thin, rugged coating that had a salty but otherwise rather neutral taste. The tartar put the tart back in tartar—maybe a little too much so for my liking.

Who’s On Layton considers itself a sports pub, and I think it would be a fine place to sit at the bar and have a fish fry while watching a game. But the dining area can be family-friendly too, and it’s also not far-fetched to imagine sitting on the patio on a warm, sunny day. While the perch fry isn’t unmatched, and by some measure may be a bit on the pricier side—compare it to last week’s supper club fry, for example—it is a respectable fish fry. No matter who your family is, who you find yourself eating with, or even if you find yourself eating alone, may you always find peace each week in the simple goodness of a fish fry.

Takeaways: They’ll make cheese curds your way; smooth Old Fashioned; slaw that’ll make you want to keep digging for more; thin and golden pancakes; lightly flavored perch with salty but rather mild coating; putting the tart back in tartar.

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About The Author

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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.