Fish Type: Bluegill Price: $13.00
Overall, I would highly recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Excellent|
Potato Score: Excellent
Tartar Score: Good
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Good
Comment: “Do we need a box here?” If you’ve ever made the trek to rural Marshall, WI you have likely heard that phrase uttered a time or two - and with good reason. It turns out Nelson’s Crossing - in lovely Deansville - isn’t one to skimp on the portions, and if you’re willing to take the drive you are almost assured to leave with leftovers. While their Fish Fry isn’t All You Can Eat, it might as well be since they deliver more food to your table than any one individual should probably consume in a single sitting… but we did it anyway… at least, one of us did...
We crossed the tracks on Berlin Road and landed at the grimy country bar (and restaurant?) around 7pm, right at the height of the frying hour. The bar was swamped, but a few open tables dotted the dining room/converted dance floor so we just grabbed a big one near the kitchen and snagged a pitcher from the bar. The menus were waiting in the condiment bin at the table and displayed the Friday (and Wednesday!) specials. The Crossing basically offers all of the traditional Fish Fry fish: cod, haddock, lake perch, bluegill, walleye, and smelt, but they even branch out further adding the likes of: frog legs, jumbo shrimp, lobster chunks and calamari. We didn’t get to sample anything on the secondary list, but since there were four of us we did get to try everything on the first lest except for the walleye, and let me tell you, everything was delicious.
Our waitress made contact initially, but since the menu was so expansive we weren’t exactly raring to go, and asked for a little time to study it. This turned out to be a bad choice. She buzzed off, waited on some other people, bussed a table or two, and by the time we could get her attention again nearly 15 minutes had passed. Thankfully, once she did take our orders and got them in, everything came like clockwork.
Thanks to some quick thinkin’ by Jer our appetizer of smelt hit the table first even though it wasn’t listed as an app on the menu (it always pays to ask, I guess). The lone plate was piled high with what had to be 35-40 individual smelt, and flanked by a couple cups of tartar. It was nuts. These little guys were coated in a fine dusting of breading and fried to sheer perfection. They were absolutely delicious, but there was no telling Gabe that. The look that came over his face when he saw the full fish bodies was priceless. He looked nauseated, and you could almost see his stomach turn at the thought of eating one.
Before Jer and I could scale smelt mountain the main course hit the table, and we realized exactly what we were up against. Each of the four plates was piled high with a fantastic amount of fish, piles of potatoes, tubs of tartar sauce, a regular roll, and a seemingly out of place cutsie cups of coleslaw.
My plate in particular housed about eight huge bluegill fillets which were much thicker than average and incredibly meaty. Like the smelt it had a light breading which was flaky as can be, but could have used a hint more spice. Even so, it was utterly delicious and not overly fishy; hell, compared to the smelt it almost tasted mild. The bluegill portion was plenty, but we did our due diligence and made sure to try the rest of the options floating around the table.
Jer’s lake perch was also quite scrumptious, but the pieces were actually smaller than the bluegill, which seems a little backwards, but whatever. Roughly five butterflies fluttered across his plate, resulting in 10 tiny fillets. They sported the same light breading as the bluegill, and were perfectly fried to the point where the breading was practically translucent. Gabe’s crap-load of cod was next in the queue as he let me have one of his four large chunks. The fish was very flaky, stark white, and featured a light breading which and was fine, but didn’t have a lot of flavor. It was mirrored by Bethany’s haddock which was also good, but could have used a little pick-me-up. The atypical cuts of haddock were denser and much firmer than their saltwater counterparts, but tasted quite similar. While all the fish were good, my bluegill stole the show with the perch, smelt, cod and haddock falling in line behind.
You might think with such huge portions of fish flying around that the sides would suffer, but you’d be wrong. Like the fish, there are a ton of choices for sides including: fries, potato salad, wedges, cottage fries and hash browns (the cottage fries were sold out, by the way). I decided on the hash browns with cheese and onion as did Jer, with Gabe picking the PS and Bethany the wedges. The hash browns took up half of the plate had to stand a good 3” high. These spuds were the cheesiest ever and crowned lovingly with huge fried onion loops. They were greasy and delicious and while Jer thought better of it, I took the whole thing down. Gabe’s potato salad was also delicious and also came in a huge pile, while the wedges were so-so, but also the thickest we have ever seen.
With so much fish floating around you’d think Nelson’s would drown you in tartar, but strangely, the amount of sauce served was highly disproportionate. It turned out this wasn’t the worst thing since the homemade concoction was good, but not great. It was composed of a fairly thick mayo base, but was a little heavy on the relish. Luckily, the small cup that came with the entrée was well supplemented by the two that arrived with the smelt and made overindulging all the easier.
The bread was not much to speak of as the plain-old roll was certainly not made in house or anything like that. The slaw also suffered as the small cup of finely chopped, semi-creamy cabbage didn’t have much taste, and lacked any sort of zip.
Since Nelson’s is a rural bar you really can’t expect it to be a five star establishment. It’s dark, it’s dingy, the bathrooms might get cleaned once a month (if you’re lucky), but these are just the kind of places you can expect to find a great Fish Fry. When all was said and done, only one of us (me) had a clear plate while the rest of the leftovers went into a box for Jer. Like we said, it is almost impossible to leave Nelson’s Crossing without a box, and apparently even MFF is not immune. Overall, we take the grime with a grain a salt and still highly recommend the Fish Fry. We are already making plans to delve deeper into Deansville for a little more felt and smelt.
The final rankings from a fabulous Fish Fry at the Crossing -
1 – Bluegill
2 – Perch
3 – Smelt
4 – Cod
5 – Haddock
1152 Berlin Road
Marshall, WI 53559