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Fish Type: Lake Perch     Price: $12.00

Overall, I would recommend this Fish Fry.

Fish Score: Good
Potato Score: Good
Tartar Score: Good
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Excellent

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Comment: When you’re from small-town Wisconsin, the shift to living in Madison can come as a bit of a shock. The city can seem overwhelming at first, but the longer you stay the more you realize it’s more like a bunch of small towns smooshed together than some sort of intimidating metropolis. It really is an ideally sized city and features plenty of locally owned restaurants and taverns that tie it back to the fabric of rural Wisconsin. Still, every once in a while, a country boy (and I use that term loosely) yearns to return to places like those he grew up with; places like Norwegian Hollow in Purdy, or the aptly named Romance Tavern in Romance. The Paoli Pub is a place like this.

I’ve been known to say that small town bars often have great Fish Frys, and the Paoli Pub proves that point. While I really had no idea what to expect from the Belleville-area bar, I was pleasantly surprised with how nice it actually was. Unlike some small town dives, it was well-lit, well-kept, and very inviting. It was also plenty busy, but there were a couple open high-top tables and a few miscellaneous barstools so I just grabbed a beer and got to business.

There was plenty of fish visible around the bar and most of it was cod (as you’d expect). It’s usually wise to follow suit when you see all of one style going out, but I was brazen and chose the lake perch instead because I’m stubborn like that (“and maybe these people just didn’t know what they’re missing out on”)... I probably should have just stuck with the status quo. The lake perch runs $12 and is a fair value at that price. My plate came with five fillets, a smattering of hash browns (cheese and onion 50 cents extra), a half cup of coleslaw, a quarter cup of tartar, and a glistening dinner roll. It looked ideal, but didn’t quite deliver perfection.

Light and spicy breading is the way to go when it comes to lake perch, and the PP got half of that equation right. The breading, while incredibly light and crumbly, lacked any discernible seasoning, which left the fish to fend for itself. Thankfully, the delicate fillets were soft, flaky, and not overly fishy. Since the breading was basically non-existent the full flavor of the perch really came through, and while I love that taste, a little compliment from some spice would be nice.

The hash browns followed a similar path, and while they looked prototypical, were missing a little something. Don’t get me wrong, they were tasty, but the portion was on the small side and they spuds just weren’t what I’d call excellent. The tartar sauce also didn’t blow me away, although like everything else it was perfectly acceptable. It was chockfull of mayo, but the relish had a distinct Kraft-like twinge that turned me off a little.

Adding some shine to the apple was a standard dinner roll and some finely-chopped coleslaw. The roll was incredibly soft and fresh while the slaw added the zesty pop that the fish was lacking. They really bathed everything in a more pleasant light, which made for a much more enjoyable experience when all was said and done.

Next time I make my way to Paoli I’ll probably go for the cod so as to get the full picture on all this Fish Fry has to offer. That’s not to say I’d never get the perch again, but I’m curious to see if the cod takes it all to the next level – I kinda think it does. Overall, as it stands I have no problem recommending the perch and highly recommend the Paoli Pub itself. If and when I’m down that way again you know I’ll be stoppin’ whether it's for a full-blown Fish Fry or just a couple of beers.
6893 Paoli Rd
Belleville, WI 53508

(608) 845-8100