Fish Type: Bluegill Price: $13.75
Overall, I would not recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Fair|
Potato Score: Fair
Tartar Score: Good
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Good
Comment: I've long looked for a great Fish Fry on Highway 14 between Madison and my hometown. The ideal place would be about half way in between - not so close to Madison that you feel like you haven't even gotten going, but not so far that you feel like you should just drive the whole way and eat after either. This sweet spot rests somewhere between Mazomanie and Gotham and while we've picked off a few (Freddy Valentine's and the Shed in Spring Green, and Rookies and The Old Feed Mill in Mazo) none of them have fully resonated with me (although the Shed was pretty good). Since there are still a few we have yet to visit along that stretch, many of which openly adertise their Friday specials, I figured they should be knocked out eventually as well. Today's punching bag was Trader's Bar and Grill just outside of Spring Green right before you go over the bridge.
Trader's hangs their hat on the summer canoe rental business, and I've actually stopped at the bar for a drink before and found it to be quite inviting. I'd always noticed their "FRI. NITE FISH" sign outside and figured with a declaration like that they had to be pretty damn serious about it. Of course, Trader's is a bar first and a grill second and when we showed up to an empty dining room I wasn't surprised as much as disheartened. Regardless, we were there, and we had the bartender/waitress' undivided attention so I felt all was not lost.
I figured Trader's would have cod (almost every place does), but what I didn't expect was the bluegill that showed up on the menu. I was tempted by, and eventually ordered, the $13.75 sunfish, but in retrospect should probably have just gotten the cod as this "bluegill" was no bluegill. The hunks of meat were crudely cut into shapes that mimicked the diminutive divers, but the meat was far too flaky, and far too thick (a good inch or more in places) to be the real freshwater fish. I'm guessing the 'gill weren't in stock (if they ever actually are), so they just took some cod and cut it into smaller pieces and tried to pass it off. It also had none of the fishy essence you get from real 'gill and basically just served as a stuffing for the fabric of breading. Speaking of the breading it was fine, but needed some serious seasoning.
After having some killer hash browns earlier in the day I decided to double-down at Trader's since they seemed like a hash browning kind of place. Unfortunately, these browns wound being some of the worst I've had. They were insanely puffy, and had a dark crisp skin on one side that couldn't even be cut with a fork. The cheese and onion went practically unnoticed, and like the fish, there just wasn't much flavor here at all. Needless to say, I should have cut and run.
A thick and bold tartar held up its end of the bargain, but in reality there was only so much it could do when this is what it had to work with. A garlic buttery slice of a French was laid lovingly on top of the pile and was probably the best thing this Fish Fry had to offer, save for the homemade coleslaw. This slaw was a total anomaly as it shown bright above the the plain fried goods. It was highlighted by bits of bacon scattered evenly throughout that punctuated the otherwise standard creamy mix. I'll say this, I like bacon, not as much as the Internet like bacon, but I like it. It worked so well here I have to think if more places would put bacon in their coleslaw the world would be a better place. I'm sure the Internet would agree with me there.
In my never-ending quest to find a great Fish Fry on Highway 14 yet another has fallen by the wayside. Trader's just didn't live up to my expectations, and maybe they were too high, but when you see a sign that says "FRI. NITE FISH FRY" in big yellow letters I think high expectations are justified. Overall, we don't recommend this Fish Fry and will just keep looking for that elusive roadhouse. Next up: Crappie Shop???
Arena, WI 53503