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Fish Type: Lake Perch     Price: $20.00

Overall, I would highly recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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We used to go to Mariner’s every so often and when we did the place was swamped each and every time. Not only was it hard to find a spot in their huge parking lot, but there was always a significant wait at the relatively tiny bar. It was such an ordeal we stopped going and figured we’d just fight the crowds elsewhere. Well, something has changed, or maybe we just hit them on an off night, but these last two Fridays things were slower, like waaaaaay sloooooooooower. Great for us!

We actually used their on-line reservation system, but when we showed up at 6:30 it was clear that forethought wasn’t at all necessary. The parking lot was sparsely populated allowing us to walk right in and have our pick of tables. Of course, being that we had free reign, junior picked a high top in the bar area near the restrooms which was likely the least desirable spot in the whole place. Rather than fight that battle we just went with it, but seriously, just typical. Regardless of that situation, the service in there was great and the food quickly made us forget about the poor choices toddlers make.

Mariner’s has lake perch, cod and, walleye available on Fridays, and since I’d never had it I spring for the $20 perch. Before the fish found us a steaming hot napkin-lined basket of pumpernickel rolls and other breads did. The pump-rye was really outstanding and so hot that the butter liquefied on contact creating a molten river atop the brown buns. It sounds as amazing as it tasted.

These days you see a lot of places peddling “perch” and uninformed patrons go ahead and order it assuming it’s the traditional yellow perch. Far too often it’s not, with pike-perch or ocean perch sitting in its rightful place. Places like Mariner’s know the drill, and while they need to charge a bit more for it, stick with the real deal. Their portion is made up of seven fillets that are home to a light and crispy breading with just enough seasoning to let you know it’s there. Our lot was perfectly prepared and served as hot as can be. It was a rousing rendition and made us want to run right back in for more the next week.

Mariner’s touts their hash browns and when I hear boasting like that I feel the need to make them back it up. Sure it’s an extra buck-fifty, but if they are as good as they say they are then that cost should be well justified…and it was (but almost wasn’t). My plate came sans-browns initially as a bevy of battered steak fries took charge. These spuds were super crunchy and generously portioned but had me soured on the thought I might miss out on the hash browns. But lo and behold the hash browns did appear eventually, and since they were tardy we didn’t even get charged for them. Two potato sides! Needless to say I was in heaven. Tons of caramelized onion lorded over the spud cake and almost tasted sugary. They were special, and not like any I’ve had before. They were so unique it was difficult to describe, but essentially took things up a notch which is all I was expecting them to do.

The tartar came in a clear ramekin and had a good zip, but wasn’t as supper clubby as expected. Regardless, it was thick and creamy and complemented the already alluring perch just as it should.

Keeping with our recent run of seductive slaws was Mariner’s brew. This batch was some of the best we’ve had recently which is saying something since we’ve had some good ones – see Avenue Club, and Freddy Valentine’s. It had the zip we love and an enticing vinegar essence that made for easy eating. It was obviously made in-house so you can bet there are no big Sysco jugs of slaw sitting around the kitchen.

I’m sure there will be some dissention as $20 isn’t a cheap Fish Fry by any means, but man, this baby has it all. From the thoughtful service, to the genuine lake perch, to the signature hash browns, I felt like my cash was well spent and think well be dropping more dough there again real soon. Overall, we highly recommend this Fish Fry and think this is one mariner who takes the sea(food) seriously.
5339 Lighthouse Bay Drive
Madison, WI 53704

(608) 246-3120