We try to make these reviews as in-depth as possible. We have been visiting local establishments every Friday for the past several years and putting them up against each other in a comprehensive rating system to truly determine what the best Fish Fry in Madison is.
Each visit to a restaurant is broken down into five components which are weighted according to their importance in the overall Fish Fry experience:
1. The Fish
2. The Potato (French fries)
3. Tartar Sauce
1. The Fish - This is obviously the most important element to any Fish Fry. It is the sun in the universe that is the Fish Fry. We don't simply rate the establishment as having good fish or not, we rate each and every fish offered at the establishment as we try them. This way you know if a restaurant has good cod, but not good perch. This will help you in choosing the place for you. All You Can Eat (AYCE) gets you extra points in our book, if the fish is good enough for us to want more, that is.
2. The Potato (French fries) - French fries are everywhere, but there are varying degrees to how good French fries are. A French fry can't make or break a Fish Fry on its own, but it is a very important complement to the fish. What we expect at a Fish Fry are crinkle cut style fries which are served so hot you can't eat them, but damned if we won't give it a shot anyway. Variations on the French fry (steak fries, waffle fries, etc.) or potato pancakes are always welcome as long as they are done well and taste good. We always try to note exactly which type of fries is being reviewed on each visit.
3. Tartar Sauce - While fries usually can't ruin a Fish Fry, tartar sauce can. We love a good heavy-on-the-mayo relish tartar sauce - the thicker the better. We will also accept a ranch-based sauce if it tastes good, but certainly don't prefer it. What we can't stand are the tartar sauces that are very dilly. These usually seem to consist of sour cream and dill, and are really similar to the dip that your mom serves with carrots and celery at Christmas. There are some places in Madison that serve this kind of sauce and I must say that it makes them less desirable.
4. Bread - We always give it a try, but we try not to fill up on it, especially at an AYCE. To keep everyone happy bread needs to be served with a Fish Fry. We even know some people who will use the bread and the fish to make little fish sandwiches.
5. Miscellaneous - Coleslaw, atmosphere, service and the like. None of these are deal breakers, but all contribute to the experience of the Fish Fry and need to be included.