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Fish Type: Smelt     Price: $12.00

Overall, I would not recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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Comment: As a staunch Fish fry purist when I first heard of the “Vegetarian Fish Fry” at the Green Owl I thought “no effing way will we ever waste a Friday on that.” I mean, would you? It isn’t a“real” fish after all. However, after reading some glowing reviews of it on Yelp and other sites, I knew I needed to see what the hubbub was about, and at least set the record straight. What we found was a pretty good meal, but not what we’d call a recommendable “Friday Fish Fry.”

To start, this isn’t exactly the cheapest Fish Fry you are going to find, coming in around twelve bucks. While that’s not outrageous, it isn’t exactly great for what you get. For your twelve skins you will recieve two lightly panko breaded pan-fried “fillets” of faux fish, some rosemary-garlic potatoes, a cup of homemade tartar sauce, and some house slaw.

The “fish” (which I believe is some kind of tempeh, but don’t quote me on that) was remarkable, but off-putting at the same time. The faux duo was shaped such that they actually looked like two real fish fillets, and what’s more, The Green Team also somehow even managed to make it taste fishy (I kid you not). It was a gallant effort, but while they nailed the taste and diamond shape silhouette, they came up short on the flaky texture that is the hallmark of any good fish. The (suspected) tempeh was very dense, as one might expect, and felt more like faux chicken (or Quorn) than fish. Furthermore, while it did mimic the taste of fish, it wasn’t necessarily a great fish taste. It equated roughly to a high quality fish stick, which in our ranking system, would fall somewhere just below Sysco brand cod in a taste test.

Instead of fries (I presume the Owl doesn’t have a deep fryer, see the pan-fried fish above) we received a good portion of rosemary-garlic potatoes. My veggie wife just loved them, and while I agreed that they were very good, I didn’t think they were as amazing as she did. They certainly did the job, and in reality were probably the highlight of the meal.

The thin tartar sauce, which appeared to be some sort of mayo/sour cream hybrid, did what it could to give the phony fish a kick in the tail, but came up a little short. It was a dill-laced mix, which was totally devoid of relish, and just not all that tasty. The homemade slaw was a little better as its thick cuts of red cabbage played joyfully in a creamy sauce which appeared to house a fair amount of yogurt. I know right, yogurt? But it actually seemed to work, so we’ll call it a win.

I would have thought a vegetarian place would serve bread with pretty much everything, but none came with the Fish Fry. It’s too bad really, as even that small addition would make the meal more substantive and easier for the traditional Fish Fry eater to swallow.

The Green Owl is actually a pretty neat little place and they seem to be doing a great job of serving their neighborhood’s needs. If you’re a vegetarian you are going to love it, hands down, no questions asked. If you’re not, I’m afraid it’s going to be a bit of a different story. There is no way we could recommend this “Fish Fry” to a Fish Fry loyalist, and most would probably just laugh in our face at the mere suggestion of it. The “fish” is a little too veggie, the portion a little too small, and the meal just little too far out there in general. In actuality it was good food, just not a good Fish Fry. Hey, at least now we know.
1970 Atwood Avenue
Madison, WI 53704

(608) 285-5290