Fish Type: Cod Price: $12.00
Overall, I would recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Good|
Potato Score: Good
Tartar Score: Excellent
Bread Score: Poor
Miscellaneous Score: Good
Comment: Crandall’s used to be THE Fish Fry in Madison. Back in those days they were up near the Square and did more business on a Friday than you could probably ever imagine. This led to them offering their famous Fish Fry every day of the week, and forced them to expand their operation which eventually landed them way out in Middleton. At some point things started slipping and their fish became more infamous than truly famous - although they still packed them in based on their reputation. Reputations can only take you so far however.
Fast forward to 2013, and a new era for Crandall’s. The Middleton Drive-Thru location is no more. The owners have closed up shop and moved the business back downtown where their Fish Fry once thrived. The new incarnation is definitely a departure from the Crandall’s of your youth, with the new restaurant combining the classic American cuisine you love with a hint of ethnic flair (Peruvian flair to be exact).
We showed up around 6:30pm, and decided to sit on the patio since Crandall’s new State Street location allows for that. There are a couple different options on the Friday menu and it starts with the cod. The cod is served every day (as you might expect), but only costs $12 on Friday, as opposed to $13.50 the rest of the week. On Friday they also add an ocean perch option to the mix, and we had a plate of each in front of us in no time flat.
One of the first things we noticed was how pretty our plates were. They had a wavy, almost flag-like, appearance which nicely framed the fish, and was certainly much more appealing than the Styrofoam takeout containers of yesteryear. The cod was perfectly fried to a rich golden-brown color and placed lovingly on the far left of the streamer. While the cod looked the part, the three non-descript pieces were just okay, and far from exceptional. The fish was home to a light, flaky breading that didn’t have much flavor of its own. Thus, that duty fell to the fish, and while it was pure, it was still just cod which is more of a canvass for a flavorful batter than masterpiece on its own. The ocean perch was similar for the most part, and while completely inoffensive, didn’t have much to hang its hat on besides its inherent OP essence.
The far right side of the plate was occupied by a by a small pile of house-cut fries, which, unlike the fish, were a little under-fried. The “al dente” spuds still slid down, and were a cut above freezer fries, but left a little something to be desired. Another couple seconds in the fryer would certainly have done them justice.
When fish is just kind of basic (like this fish was) it necessitates a tartar sauce with some real punch, and thankfully Crandall’s delivered. Their homemade sauce was thick, rich, and creamy, and pert near perfect. While it was mostly mayo, there was enough relish present to let you know it was actually tartar.
The finely-chopped slaw was also great, and had just the right amount of zip. Usually you’d like to see it paired up with a piece of rye, or even a dinner roll, but apparently Crandall’s doesn’t carry bread outside of the Ciabatta used on their sandwiches so none came with the fish. For shame.
While this wasn’t the return to greatness we’d hoped for from Crandall’s it was still a very solid Fish Fry and a welcome addition to the ever-expanding downtown Fish Fry scene. What’s more, the Peruvian cuisine was reportedly outstanding, giving us yet another solid option on our vegetarian-friendly Fridays. Overall, we recommend this Fish Fry, and will likely be back many more times since there is a little something for everyone; no bread, but at least a little something.
334 State Street
Madison, WI 53703