Fish Type: Cod (AYCE) Price: $15.00
Overall, I would recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Excellent|
Potato Score: Good
Tartar Score: Good
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Fair
Comment: If you watched the Wisconsin Supper Clubs documentary, an overarching theme in the film was the idea that the “younger” generations have not embraced the supper club atmosphere like their fathers did. They point to this fact as one of the main reasons why these local institutions are falling by the wayside in favor of TV-laden sports bars and other modern style establishments. While we can’t help but agree with this assessment, it is with some reservation that we do.
You see, Madison Fish Fry isn’t exactly what you’d call a flock of spring chickens, but then again, we’re not a bunch of salty old dogs either. While we fall somewhere between young bucks and aged cheddar, we don’t necessarily look the part of a seasoned Fish Fry critics. Being that we don’t “fit the mold” of your traditional supper club diners, we are no strangers to the discrimination that younger folks frequently encounter on Friday nights. And you can take it from The Fry Guys, the bias does exist.
We knew about the Buckhorn Supper Club long before the delightful documentary highlighted their Lobster Boil, but since it is quite a ways away from Madison (at least relatively) we never took the hour-long trip to rural Milton. Well, after watching the flick, we were powerless to resist the draw of the Koshkonong-adjacent eatery and took the first available Friday to pay them a visit. We arrived about 7:00 and to no one’s surprise were given the 45 wait routine – fair enough. Luckily, we snaked a bar side table from a group whose name was just called, eventually got the bartender’s attention, grabbed some drinks, and prepared ourselves fish. Three beers, and pushing an hour and a half later, just as the sun was setting over beautiful Lake Wisconsin and the bar was totally thinned out, our name was called and we were led to the once densely packed patio, now sparsely populated. We were one of, if not the last, groups of the evening (even though we were far from the last to arrive, mind you).
We were seated and had plenty of time to drink in the superb view of the lake. After about five minutes of imbibing the beauty, our young waitress finally ambled over and sensing that we were ready, immediately jumped into her spiel. She ran through a bunch of specials, my veggie wife eagerly hanging on every word hoping for some sort of non-meat miracle. Unfortunately, a veggie vision was nowhere to be seen, but she wound up being more than happy with the Bruschetta and salad she did get. As for the fish, after a couple back-to-back weeks of so-so offerings I was ready for the $15 AYCE cod, casting the $13.50 3-piece, and $12.50 2-piece aside. Jer decided to branch out and go for the half chicken half fish combo, which seemed sage, but that would prove to be costly.
Before the fish, some delicious homemade coleslaw and mini bread loafs made the rounds. The slaw was smooth and creamy featuring just enough zing to tickle taste buds while the soft rolls balanced its zest nicely. The duo did their part, laying down the perfect foundation for the unending fish that was to come.
The entrées arrived about 8:45, just as the sun dipped below the horizon. As soon as she set my plate down she asked if I wanted to re-up (a sure fire sign of a good AYCE Fish Fry) which I, of course, did - requesting an additional three pieces. She scurried away to drop the order by the kitchen leaving in such haste that Jer couldn’t even inform her that she had mistakenly brought him ALL chicken and no fish. Boy, was he steamed by her oversight. I did what I could by offering him a piece of my scalding hot cod, but even that gesture couldn’t ease his pain.
It’s really too bad he got that bad taste in his mouth because the cod was actually quite good. It was nice and flaky, but as he was sure to point out, a little dry. I didn’t think it was overly dry and while the first round (which he tried) wasn’t necessarily moist, the second round (which he didn’t) was. The light and flaky breading was consistent on both rounds, peeled off effortlessly, and had a slight hint of spice. While it could have used a bit more flavor, it was still above average, and I had no problem putting away every piece afforded me.
A small stack of classic supper club style French fries accompanied the fish. The thick steak fries were well fried, and even though the portion was tiny, they were acceptable. A lot of times AYCE fries will accompany the AYCE fish, but I forgot to ask for more the one time the waitress came back. Jer was less enthusiastic about the fries and pretty much poo-pooed them, but I chalk it up to him being overly critical due to the fish fiasco he endured.
Topping off the cod was the Buckhorn’s homemade tartar sauce. It had the proper proportion of mayo to relish, and made the fish even better. What’s more, the ‘Horn stores their sauce in an outdoor cooler on the patio making retrieval of additional cups easy, even for the slowest of waitresses.
Speaking of the young lady who took our orders and brought our check, that is about all she did. She certainly didn’t go out of her way to make us feel welcome, and even though she was in and out of the restaurant many, many times, she never once stopped by during the meal to see how we were doing, save for the time she dropped off my second plate of fish. It kind of made us feel invisible, and only added to unwelcoming timbre of the evening.
While I know what Jer’s opinion is, I would still recommend the AYCE Fish Fry at the Buckhorn as I personally liked everything except the service and the fact we didn’t feel really wanted. The food was good, the view was spectacular, and ambiance of the supper club shined despite the sideways glances, and subtle disdain.
Look, we love supper clubs, and will continue to partonize them as long as they are around. Sure, we don’t always receive the best service, and we’re not sure what the basis for the discrimination is, but we can safely assume it’s because we simply don’t look the part. Yes, we don’t drive Buicks, or have grey hair, and no, we don’t order Old Fashioneds, or wear flannel shirts out to dinner, but does that mean we’re not good tippers or somehow don’t appreciate a good Fish Fry? Hell no. We are the next generation of supper club diners, and we love you. Please love us back.
11802 N Charley Bluff Rd
Milton, WI 53563