Fish Type: Smelt (AYCE) Price: $13.00
Overall, I would highly recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Excellent|
French Fry Score: Excellent
Tartar Score: Excellent
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Excellent
Comment: The Tour de Fish: Part VIII
Smelt is not for everyone. While the truly dedicated fish lovers among us appreciate the subtleties that the diminutive fish provide, many are turned off by the fishy taste, the tiny bones, and the “eat the whole thing” concept. These folks simply can’t do it, and will never really know what they are missing out on. What they’re missing, of course, is a classic Wisconsin experience - the All You Can Eat Smelt Fry. Where they’re missing it is at The North Bristol Sportsman’s Club and refuges like it.
Out in Bristol, men are men, guns get shot, beer gets drank, fish gets eaten, and all is well in the world. While all are welcome, all won’t be catered to, so don’t expect a fancy martini in these parts... Now, wine in a box? That, they can do.
Smelt Frys at the gun club are a seasonal affair (one Saturday per month From January through April) and if you’re planning on catching one we’d suggest showing up early. While the AYCE feast supposedly runs from 4-8pm you can bet dollars to donuts the hundreds of pounds of smelt provided will run out long before the little hand reaches the eight. We showed up around 5:00, and waited for almost an hour. Thankfully, the beers were flowing and the time flew by as we BS’d with the club’s president and vice president, bought raffle tickets for guns, and sipped our cheap drinks in the warm country sun while we waited.
When beckoned to eat we quickly paid at the register, received our disposable plates, and hopped in line. The spread began with a bang – a huge pan of cheesy potato casserole. The gooey goodness was immediately followed by members of the “Smelt Team” serving huge scoops of freshly fried smelt from one steam tray, and plump pieces of fried chicken from another. After loading up on this bounty there was hardly a square inch available for the slaw that followed, but I managed to squeeze a scoop or two in.
Wasting no time, I tore into my initial allotment as soon as I returned to the table. I was blessed with at least 20 smelt on the first round and ate every one of them. Besides being gutted and having the heads removed the fish were intact. Their waifish bodies were fried to a perfect crispness and had just the right amount of fishy taste without being overbearing. A nicely spiced breading was light and enhanced the flavor of the smelt even more. They were bite-sized bits of heaven that were every bit as good on round 1 as they were on round 2, and for some of us, rounds 3 and 4. Simply superb. Overeaters rejoice!
For those not in the smelting mood, the delicious, dare I say, supper club-esque fried chicken was also provided. The broasted birds were moist and meaty, with a copper colored crust that was as flaky as it was tasty. It was a nice bonus and a welcome respite after 20 or so smelt in a row.
Several scoops were taken of the cheesy potato casserole on round one and since it was absolutely phenomenal, several more were acquired on subsequent visits. It was everything you’d expect at a high school athletic banquet - tons of cheese, cornflakes on top, the whole 9 yards. It was awesome stuff and a smart move at an AYCE offering.
The migration of smelt from fryer to belly comes complete with a tartar cavalcade. The splendid sauce came in a huge squeeze bottle and was delivered to our table nicely chilled. It was practically the perfect blend - thick and creamy, almost all mayo, with just a dash of this and that. It paired perfectly with the smelt.
Rounding out the meal was some creamy coleslaw and some sort of bread (that I can’t remember for the life of me). The slaw was zesty and delicious, although with so many tasty treats available only once scoop was taken. The bread on the other hand, while not memorable, was available and at least average (we’re pretty sure).
What can you say about a Fish Fry like this one? It just has everything. The AYCE smelt and fixings were superb, the people were welcoming, and the event was well-coordinated. Everyone in our party agreed that it was a great time and well worth the drive into the country. Overall, we highly recommend the Smelt Fry at the NBSC and have already marked our calendars for next year.
Inside Tip: Bring your appetite, but not your gun…
The Smelt Fry is a very special occasion and since the club gets very busy all the shooting ranges are closed. Not to fear though. Wear your favorite hat, grab a cold Spotted Cow and you’ll be right at home. The Fry starts at 5:00 but make sure to get there early to ensure you get you fill of the tasty smelt. Even though they cook upwards of 300 pounds it does run out!
*The North Bristol Sportsman’s Club is in the country past Sun Prairie. There is no smelt like this anywhere in Madison. It is special.
7229 North Greenway Road
North Bristol, WI 53590