Fish Type: Smelt Price: $16.00
Overall, I would highly recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Excellent|
Potato Score: Excellent
Tartar Score: Fair
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Excellent
Comment: I like to make it out for the Smelt Fry at the North Bristol Sportsman's Club at least once every year if I can. It's easily the area's best (and really) only one of its kind, so if you miss a year it can feel like forever before you get another shot. This year I scrambled out on a Saturday night when the rest of the family wasn't interested in joining and was happy as a clam with what I found...at 6:30 there was an open table! So there was no line, no wait, and plenty of smelt to go around. It was like being in an alternate universe...I tried to pull the same stunt WITH the family a few weeks later and got shut out at 7:00. Go figure...
The smelt at the gun club is done right - heads are chopped off, gut are cut out, and the rest is fried to perfection with a light and crispy breading that actually lets the fish show through. For $16 you get two trips through the buffet line which amounts to two massive piles of smelt if that's what you're after. There is also fried chicken and a bunch of sides so there is SOME variety.
Since it wasn't jam packed the turnover was lower and the smelt I got had been sitting in the roasters for a bit. It wasn't as hot and crispy as I'd like but still featured their lovely breading and alluring fishy flavor. Between two trips through the line I easily put away 40 of the diminutive divers and felt like anymore would have put me over the edge...so I'll consider that All I Could Eat.
As far as sides go the NBSC has them on lock-down. It all starts with their famous cheesy hash browns that live in the Nesco roaster adjacent to the smelt. This creamy and starchy blend is the shizzit and as close to the High School Athletic Banquet as you are going to get without setting foot inside a school. Following those spuds are even more potato products as pancakes make up the second option. These cakes were a little on the droopy side and didn't have much flavor of their own which made slathering them with the suppled with apple sauce or syrup a must (and something we would have done anyway).
Historically the tartar at the club has hit the mark but this big squeeze wasn't sighted in correctly. It was warm (obviously), but you could tell it had been sitting a while without use - the oil was starting to separate and despite a good shaking by yours truly it never fully came back together. It was skunky, off-color, and off-putting. Luckily, this smelt can stand on its own two fins.
Rounding out the buffet (at least for me) were some nice little slabs of bread and a creamy coleslaw. There is also coffee and milk for those who want it, but or me it's smelt and beers all the way. As far as the boasted chicken goes, I plucked a small drumstick and loved the crunchiness and the moist meat. Broasted chicken is always the bomb...you really can't screw it up too bad.
This whole visit to the Club was kind of an anomaly and I wouldn't expect it to ever happen this way again. Usually, if you show up at 5:00 (when they start serving) you'll wait for at least an hour. The turnover will be so high the smelt will always be hot and freshly fried, and the potatoes will always be steaming hot. Our experience differed somewhat, but that's the price you pay for not having to wait...it's a trade-off and one I was fine with. Everything was still very tasty and the $16 felt justified. Overall, we highly recommend this Fish Fry and think it's one you simply have to experience for yourself. Lock and load!
7229 North Greenway Road
North Bristol, WI 53590