Fish Type: Cod (AYCE) Price: $12.00
Overall, I would recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Good|
Potato Score: Excellent
Tartar Score: Good
Bread Score: Poor
Miscellaneous Score: Good
Comment: Madison Fish Fry is a Lake Geneva novice. I have never been to the popular weekend retreat before and really didn’t have any idea what to expect. It turns out LG pretty much like any other touristy destination in Wisconsin, complete with higher-than-average prices and wider-than-average selections. Hey, people are there to spend money and have a good time which makes for a good business climate and a lot of competition – especially when it comes to Friday Fish Fry.
As per usual, there are four or five places in the area that claim to have “The Best Fish Fry in Lake Geneva,” which always makes selecting one a bit of a crapshoot. I did as much research as I could and eventually settled on Popeye’s since A) Most of their reviews were at least marginally positive, B) It was right near our hotel, and C) They supposedly make a whale of a Bloody Mary. We met a few friends there for lunch, grabbed some bloodies, and got some food. A couple of us went for the AYCE Fish Fry while most branched out and tried their luck with the everyday menu.
While Popeye’s may have a bit of the Applebee’s/TGIFridays feel to it, I think it is more genuine than those kinds of places. It actually seems like the stuff that has accumulated over the years, not just been slapped together by some kitschy designer. While I’d still prefer the personality you’ll find in a small town tavern or supper club, Popeye’s wasn’t overly commercial. The AYCE runs a reasonable $12 (an $18 lake perch is also on the everyday menu) and ours came relatively quickly.
Since we had a couple cod crunchers our fish, fries, and potato pancakes all came out on a family-style platter. Hull and I dove in, divvying out the delights onto our personal plates. The cod was cut in long finger-like pieces which were fairly substantial (probably a good 4 oz. each). The fish was light, but not super flaky. It was bolstered somewhat by a light breading that was a little lax on the spice, but also had parsley or some such nonsense in it for decoration. The pale coating clung to the cod well, but really could have used some more pep.
Lake Geneva is in the SW portion of the state so they feature something you don’t see in the Madison area very often - potato pancakes. Like the fish, the PPs are AYCE, and good, not great. They are clearly made in-house as evidenced by their crispy brown perimeters and supple centers. Unfortunately, like the fish, they lacked any sort of zest, especially the subtle onion undertone that good pancakes feature. The battered French fries also come with the AYCE and actually outshone the pancakes in my opinion. They were crispy and delicious, and really make the potato options at Popeye’s much more appealing.
AYCE fish requires a lot of tartar and Popeye’s has no problem playing along. Their personal brew comes in gigantic cups, is zippy and semi-creamy, but a bit heavy on the dill for my taste. Still, it was mild enough, and made the fish more palatable so I’ll give them credit.
Strangely, with so much fried food flying around there was no bread served with the fish. Maybe it was just a lunch time thing, or maybe they just forgot, but for whatever reason it wasn’t there and not there is not acceptable. The coleslaw was also not acceptable as it had white beans in it (weird) and no pop whatsoever. Blech. Just blech.
In the end, the All You Can Eat Fish Fry at Popeye’s was a lot like Lake Geneva itself – while it is interesting, and I would recommend trying it once, I’m not sure if I’d go back of my own volition. The fish was clean and abundant (much like the town itself), the fries and potato pancakes gave you options to choose from (much like the town itself), the tartar was feisty, but a little off (very much like the town itself), and the slaw was ugly at times (exactly like the town itself). Overall, we feel fine recommending this Fish Fry if you happen to find yourself in Lake Geneva on a Friday and in need of a good, solid meal, but as far as the best in town, I’m not so sure.
811 Wrigley Drive
Lake Geneva, WI 53174