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Fish Type: Cod     Price: $10.00

Overall, I would not recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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Comment: The Nitty Gritty has long been known as the “Birthday Bar of Madison” and with good reason since they generously offer up free beer on your special day. While that is definitely a great thing, it doesn’t tell you much about to their food, and after overhearing a conversation among their employees who were recommending Fitzgerald’s, apparently even they know it isn’t exactly the “Fish Fry Bar of Madison.”

I showed up at the Nitty for an early lunch and grabbed a stool at the bar because I was rollin’ solo, as my fishy friends happened to be otherwise occupied. I quickly grabbed a Cow and put in my order for the $10 “Gritty Fish Fry” at the same time. I got about half way through the beer in about 7 minutes and just as I did my super long Fish Fry basket appeared from the kitchen. It was fresh fried and ready to go - so was I.

At first bite it was immediately apparent that the fish was good, but not top notch. While it was fairly flaky it was rather bland, and had accumulated a tiny bit of that white fish-gel stuff between the flakes due to some grease that was present. The grease fully saturated the second piece, and by the time I reached the end the batter had gotten a little mushy and fairly unappetizing. Speaking of the batter, it looked really good when the fish first appeared but was lacking any real flavor. There was clearly some spice, as black pepper was clearly evident, but unfortunately the taste did not come through. At the least, it was nice and hot up until the end, which is something… not much, but something.

Partnered with the two average sized cod fillets was a veritable pant-load of Nitty fries. This drove of skin-on Julienne cut potatoes followed suit with the fish in that they were well fried, but nothing special. The tartar sauce was also nothing special and I would say it was well below average. It stood on a thick mayo foundation, but deviated from the ideal mayo/relish ratio with a hefty dousing of the latter. What’s more, it was a sweet relish, which really gave it an odd twinge and didn’t improve the pedestrian cod one bit.

The slaw was also in abundance, but like pretty much everything else, the finely chopped mixture was uninspired, and just not tasty in any way. Most of mine sat uneaten until the point the bartender removed it from my sight.

Based on their performance up until this point this was not going to be a recommendable Fish Fry anyway, but when we realized that there was no bread of any sort included the camel’s back was officially broken. It was definitely the final straw and a lackluster end to a mediocre meal.

Overall, at $10 this just doesn’t add up to a recommendable Fish Fry. Everything was just so-so and even spectacular service from the friendly bartender wasn’t enough to save the day. The only thing that shined was the service and the speed with which the food was served, but I gotta chalk some of that up to the fact they just opened and I was literally one of the very first people in for lunch. The Nitty is still definitely the place to go on your birthday, just make sure that if it falls on a Friday, you get your fish fix somewhere else before you head over for the bottomless beer.
223 N. Frances Street
Madison, WI 53703

(608) 251-2521