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Fish Type: Cod     Price: $8.50

Overall, I would highly recommend this Fish Fry.

Fish Score: Excellent
Potato Score: Good
Tartar Score: Excellent
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Good

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Comment: We think itís fair to say that in Wisconsin Friday night Fish Fry is an accurate barometer of the economy. During good economic times the most popular places are often packed to the gills (no pun intended), and the mere mention of their name becomes synonymous with long waits. The Avenue Bar, Tobyís Supper Club, and VFW Post 8483 are the kind of places that carry this measuring stick with pride, and clue the rest of us into just how bad (or good) the fiscal situation is. If this past Friday is any indication, the situation is getting dire, and times are tough in the Badger State.

We had a hearty crew of four Fish Fry devotees this week, and since there wasnít a vegetarian to be found, we set our sights on one of Madisonís classic Fish Frys at the Northside VFW. Upon pulling into the lot around 6:30 it was immediately apparent that the crummy economy was at work, and we would have no trouble finding our fix this evening. We strode right into the dining side of the VF and gave our orders to the geriatric gem who awaited our arrival. Everyone in our party went for the fried cod ($8.50), with three out of the four adding an additional piece for $2. We took our laminated ďCod cardĒ and ambled over to the bar to grab a few cheap beers before dinner ($1.75 for a mug of MGD is none too shabby).

As soon as we had our drinks we picked one of the many available tables, and waited for the server to swing by, which she did a few moments later. She grabbed our cards, queried us as to our potato preferences, and zipped off to the kitchen (zipped may be a bit generous, but she was moving as fast as is probably advisable). We killed the 10 minutes or so that followed by downing our beers, and BSing with some friendly members of the Ladies Auxiliary.

Our plates were not overflowing when they arrived, but were amply stocked with: fish, fries, tartar, baked beans, and slaw; while a basket of rolls also appeared after a tiny bit of prodding. The pieces of cod were larger than average and tasted great, as we expected they would. The flaky white fish was blessed with a spicy cornmeal style breading that was very light, and complimented the smooth cod well. For a brief moment I thought the fish was going to get greasy, but for whatever reason the tiny bit that developed seemed to vanish into thin air. I quickly destroyed the standard 2-piece, and was very thankful I had the foresight to get that extra piece ahead of time.

When the choice was given for crinkle fries, wedge fries, or baked potato, my brain must have been out to lunch because I didnít even give it a second thought, and went for the standard crinkles with no hesitation. As soon as my small portion was delivered I immediately had buyerís remorse. While the Sysco-standard fries were a little undercooked and uninspired, the wedges were thick-cut, well-seasoned, and much tastier. Jer reveled in his wedge-wise decision, but was gracious enough to allow us a taste at least.

Pairing perfectly with the cod was a small, but adequate cup of homemade-looking tartar. This savory sauce was right on the money as the thick mayo base was accompanied by an ideal amount of dill relish. The coleslaw stole a page from this book as its creamy base, and zesty horseradish-kick fit right in. In the end, both sauce and slaw did what they needed to do, and added their own special touches to the meal. The baked beans were also a bonus, and tasted like they were fresh from the Bushís can.

The rolls were your standard packaged dinner numbers and nothing special, but at least they were extant, and I give them credit for that since so many places seem to be cutting this corner in 2010.

Overall, this is Fish Fry is easy to recommend. The fish was excellent, as was the near-perfect tartar sauce. The crinkle fries didnít necessarily add much to the meal, although the wedges certainly would have. When you tack on some tasty slaw and a regular roll, the standard 2-piece becomes a good value for only $8.50. As we scraped up our last bits of tartar, we became fully aware how just few people were at the VF this Friday. We assumed a classic Fish Fry like this would reach their average week in and week out, but according to our waitress they werenít even close tonight. Clearly, Fish Fry isnít a top priority with the holidays approaching and people spending more scrupulously than ever. It is too bad really, but I guess itís just a sign of the times.

737 County Road CV
Madison, WI 53704

(608) 241-3740