Fish Type: Lake Perch Price: $16.00
Overall, I would not recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Fair|
Potato Score: Good
Tartar Score: Good
Bread Score: Fair
Miscellaneous Score: Fair
Comment: I've been bitten by impostor lake perch a couple times recently and I think it's becoming a bit of a problem in Madison. What's that you say? Impostor perch? What on earth is that and what is it doing in my city? Well, I'll do my best to explain. The impostor in this case is still fish, and in many cases it's still a variety of perch, just not the traditional yellow perch that made the Wisconsin Fish Fry famous. These pretender perch are usually Pike-Perch or European Zander, both of which are species that have similar characteristics to the traditional yellow perch, but also some pretty stark differences. The lake perch we got at Lucky's 1313 was one of these slippery suckers.
$16 isn't cheap for a plate o' perch and when I saw the portion was two large fillets instead of five to seven small ones I knew I'd been had. The fish is billed as 10-12 oz of lake perch and I should have known when they quoted that amount that something was amiss - normally you are lucky to get half a pound for that price. Unsurprisingly it was not the real deal yellow perch, and while it's not false advertising (these fish are often mislabeled or intentionally misrepresented by distributors to fool consumers) it's no less disheartening. The massive fillets had all the typical characteristics of the fill-in fish - the size, and squishy rather than firm texture, and none of the subtle fishy flavors. It is usually also "slimier" to the touch and has a sheen on the meat. The flavor is pretty bland when compared to yellow perch and necessitates a thick beer batter to mask some of these less desirable qualities - which 1313 had. This batter was thick enough, and had a good crunch, but worked much better on the "clean" tasting cod we had last time around. Next time we come it will be cod all the way.
Despite the fact there were only two pieces of fish they still dwarfed the allotment of fries. The spuds were about as basic as it gets, and pretty disproportionate all things considered.
We lauded Lucky's cod on our last visit, but felt it was weighed down by a sour tasting tartar. I'm not sure if we just had a bad batch last time or what the deal was, but this time not was much better. It was more mayo-y and had none of the less of the funky aftertaste. For us, the change was dramatic and left us wishing we'd had the cod of visit one and the tartar of visit two.
Speaking of changing things up we were disappointed to see the lovely slice of rye that we so enjoyed last time replaces by a cornbread muffin. While the crumble cake was actually as pretty good (and not too dry as so much cornbread is) it doesn't scream fish fry to me and certainly can't make up for real rye. The slaw maintained its excellence however with a welcomed diversity that must be made on site.
As Lucky's 1313 is a college bar it stands to reason they would have a college aged wait staff - and they do. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, there is definitely a noticeable lack of dedication versus servers who are in it for the long haul. Yes, our waitress was very friendly, but also didn't "hustle" or come around to see how we were doing as we got into the meal. Like I say, it comes with the territory, and while it's far from a deal breaker for me, I know there are people who would go bananas at the level of service we've received on both occasions. Of course, maybe we just got two waitresses on an off day, that happens, which is why I note it but don't put much stock in it. For me it's about the food. If the food suffers because of the service then I have a problem.
So, Lucky's 1313 has been hit-and-miss to say the least. We liked the cod, not the perch. We disliked the tartar once, but thought it was better the second time. We were all about the rye, but then were left to wonder where it went. It has been a very inconsistent couple of visits and when you're talking Fish Fry consistency is king. Overall, we don't recommend the lake perch at Lucky's 1313, but like the bar very much, and think the cod is worthy of a reprise. We'll be back at least once more for the rubber match. I think I'll wear green that day.
1313 Regent Street
Madison, WI 53715