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Fish Type: Lake Perch     Price: $18.00

Overall, I would not recommend this Fish Fry.

Fish Score: Good
Potato Score: Poor
Tartar Score: Fair
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Good

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Comment: The lobby bar and restaurant is kind of an old school concept. Many of the newer business oriented hotels don’t even have them anymore. Usually this place is a Bennigan’s, or some other chain, that offers inoffensive “you know what you are gonna get” kind of stuff. I don’t think I’m off base in saying that these kinds of places are not known for their classic Fish Fry, thus we usually avoid them at all costs. Well, the Crowne Plaza on East Wash has recently undergone some remodeling and along with it a new lobby bar has moved in.

Growler’s Bar and Grille is the new kid on the Fish Fry scene and a far cry from your typical lobby restaurant. Growler’s is far more upscale (looking) than an Applebee’s or Fridays and seems to fit the Crowne Plaza better than one of those kinds of places would. As we approached the building the gigantic automated revolving door gently ushered us inside and practically spit us right into the deserted bar. This was the day after Thanksgiving so I didn’t really expect for the place to be packed, but I did figure there would be more than the six or so random travelers who were content to sit in isolated bunches sipping cocktails. We basically had our choice of tables and chose one out in the open so as to see as much of the “action” as there was to see.

As we sat down the bartender/host/waiter brought us over a couple of menus and went to get us some drinks. The only Fish Fry option is their “Wisconsin Perch Fry” which comes in at a whopping $18 and does not, I repeat, DOES NOT come with French fries. Oh well, I thought, maybe it will be simply awesome and worth the huge price tag; wishful thinking, I know. I gave him the order and sat back to enjoy my cold, crisp ($5.10!) pint of Spotted Cow.

The fish came out about 20 minutes or so after we ordered which I thought was strange since we were the only people in the place eating. I would have assumed it would have been ready in 5-10 minutes since fish fries quickly and our only other item was a salad. For your eighteen bucks you do get 10 pieces of perch which is quite a bit of food. While the fillets were smallish they were covered in a heavy beer batter which made them much more substantial. The batter was thick and creamy to the point where the fish underneath was almost unnoticeable. It also had some rosemary or something sprinkled on which didn’t really do much to help. Overall, it tasted good but was not great. It was also not scalding hot when served which didn’t help.

The tartar sauce also didn’t lend a hand. While the base of it was good, they clearly put far too much lemon juice in it to the point where it dominated the flavor. The relish and capers were powerless against this lemon coup and faded unceremoniously into the background. My fish suffered without it’s most important ally.

Any real Fish Fry must have a potato option on the side. Since I realized that Growler’s was going to stiff me on this one, I made sure to get and order of the “beer fries” on the side (for an extra $4). These thick cut beauties were the highlight of the meal bust since they are not included in the standard Fish Fry I can’t give them any credit for them. I will give them credit for the “Door County cherry slaw” and the marble rye bread. Both were good although the slaw tasted more like it should have been called “Horseradish County” slaw and the rye was kind of limp and lifeless, but still “traditional”.

With a name like Growler’s I expected this place to be more like a sports bar. Take it from me, it is not, and these are definitely not sports bar prices. The fish was slightly below average and I simply can’t recommend it at that price. With the thick batter the 10 fillets were too much to eat and I would gladly have sacrificed a couple pieces of fish for a pile of the beer fries.

This is yet another case of trying to class up a Fish Fry that hasn’t quite worked. For starters, an $18 Fish Fry is unheard of; maybe if you were offering AYCE walleye or something, but for perch, with no fries? No way. Simply adding two slices of marble rye and special coleslaw does not make up that difference especially since those are Fish Fry standards anyway. Growler’s Bar and Grille (what is up with putting the ‘e’ on the end of Grill? Is it to make it sound fancier so you can charge more?) has some work to do before I would ever feel comfortable recommending their Fish Fry. More bang, for less buck, would be a good place to start.

Perch with tartar, coleslaw and bread - $18.00
Beer fries (not included) $4.00
Spotted Cow $5.10
Total of $27.10 (not including tip)

Park Side Pub
Cod with tartar, coleslaw, bread AND fries - $7.00
Spotted Cow $3.00
Total of $10.00

4402 East Washington Avenue
Madison, WI

(608) 244-4703