Fish Type: Bluegill Price: $15.00
Overall, I would barely recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Good|
Potato Score: Excellent
Tartar Score: Good
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Good
Comment: Ale Asylum was there when it all started; hell, they were there before it all started. Of course the ALL I'm referring to is the ultra-craft beer boom that has enveloped our country in the last couple years. AA was on the scene brewing their famous west coast IPAs long before any of there New England IPAs came on-line, when lagers and lites were still king. They were unique at the time and carved out quite a niche for themselves by adhering to strict standards - brew by the Purity Laws, let the beer speak for itself, and don't allow TV's or food in the taproom. This worked for a while, but as times changed they were slow to adapt. Bar snacks were phased in, followed by a full menu and a real deal Fish Fry some time later. Eventually deep fryers made their way into the kitchen, then TVs to the bar, and now they are even on-board the hazy IPA - cocoa nib stout - hard seltzer train. It's a HUGE departure for them to say the least...Oh the times they are a-changin'.
The FF part of the AA evolution is likely my favorite part of their overall transformation. This is the genuine article Fish Fry, and time and thought were clearly put into making it all it can be. It starts with the sheer variety of fish offered; it's all the usual suspects here: cod, lake perch, bluegill, walleye, and even shrimp (if you're into that sort of thing). All the freshwater options fall at $15 with the cod being significantly less. This was a bluegill Friday for me since I'd has the cod and walleye on recent visits.
$15 is on the low end price-wise for the famed freshwater fish and once I saw the portion I realized why. Only five fillets found their way to plate, which is sort of silly for bluegill. Usually you'll see at least 10, and I've even seen upwards of 14-16 for this price. Yes, you can add more for $2 each, but if you'd do that to get to the regular 10 or so it would be a $25 plate! And that's just crazy. Still the fish was really tasty, but obviously those are one bite each so it was gone in a flash. By and large it's good, but would easily fall into excellent territory had it been more plentiful.
While the fish came up a fin short the fries were abundant. The portion was more than reasonable and their spicy crunch nearly stole the show. These suckers are seasoned to the nines and just keep you coming back for more and more. Sure, they're probably full of MSG or something, but I could really care less. They're awesome.
One of the hallmarks of this Fry from day one has been the twin tartars - one traditional and one spicy. Those days were numbered apparently and the twins have gone their separate ways. What remains is a single cup of the traditional type. The spicy is now but a distant memory, but its absence really lets you focus on regular one (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). It's got some semblance of beer in it and as such it's not super thick, but still has some chunkiness to it. The little flat bread style biscuits have also been replaced by a plain white roll, which is well...plain.
The next tweak comes in from the slaw, and while it's still 100% made in house, they seem to have dialed back the spice quotient to some extent. Sure, it was still pungent, and different than you'll find anywhere else, but I didn't find myself reaching for my beer after each bite as I recall doing previously.
It took time, but once AA decided to compromise their beer-and-beer-only mentality the change was swift. Their Fish Fry instantly became one of the best around, and was incredibly accessible on Friday night leading us to say it was one of Madison's finest. As the months and years continue to roll by subtle changes are still being made though - mostly in the amount of food on the plate - and these last few tweaks haven't necessarily been for the better. The portions are smaller, the variety is lessened, and the heavy handed seasoning has been dialed back . Overall, we still recommend this Fish Fry, but not quite as highly as we once did.
2002 Pankratz Street
Madison, WI 53704