Fish Type: Bluegill Price: $17.00
Overall, I would highly recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Excellent|
Potato Score: Excellent
Tartar Score: Good
Bread Score: Excellent
Miscellaneous Score: Excellent
Comment: The menu was clear. It was bold. It was to the point. It read, in all CAPS:
BLUEGILL. HAMMS. CHOICE OF TATER. SLAW. TARTAR. TRADITION.
Mint Mark has been receiving rave reviews since the moment they opened their doors, and I'd heard from not one, but two people, that I needed to get in there to try their Fish Fry immediately. I don't think I've ever had such high expectations going into any Fish Fry and was almost certain they couldn't be met. We showed up at 5:00 this Friday and the place was already buzzing - the bar was full, the wait list was growing, and we were fortunate to land one of the oddball tables for three near the front door.
Mint Mark is a nice restaurant and in general they have small plates, which usually means ordering a few different things and sharing them out - the Friday Fish Fry is the exception. The $17 Fish Fry is the only large plate on the menu which also consists of $3 cans of Spotted Cow...yeah, you read that right, $3 cans of Cow. That is literally the cheapest I've seen it anywhere in town...ever. It's like they made this Fish Fry just for me! And yes, Spotted Cow haters I can hear you murmuring under your breath that $3 is still too much to pay for it, but that's your issue, not mine.
Five fillets make up the portion of bluegill, which is the standard allotment for the freshwater fish. They were clearly the real deal and all average sized - no minnows here. Each was home to a light Hamms beer batter with a plentiful amount of seasoning that made for an interesting dichotomy. On one hand the batter had a ton of flavor and no grease, but it almost felt removed from the moist fish. They didn't really mingle on the palate and while both had exquisite flavor on their own they didn't meld into something more. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing but I don't recall ever feeling that was about a fish before. Both the fish and the batter were totally discernible and totally delicious. I could easily have eaten one without the other, or both at the same time. It was intriguing to say the least.
So many places trot out freezer fries that it's refreshing to see a place that tries harder, and at MM it sets their Fish Fry apart. Theirs are house-cut, fried to perfection, and easily some of the best I can remember eating. The pillowy interiors and snappy skins of these spuds could easily ball with the frites at Brasserie V and that is really saying something since to me the BV frites are the pinnacle of frydom.
The smallest cup of tartar I've ever seen was tucked-in near the fish, but despite it's diminutive stature it actually lasted to the end. I'd say that is more of a testament to how flavorful the fish is on its own than the zestiness of the sauce though. The mix is made in-house, on the thin side texture-wise, and certainly not a supper club zinger. While it did do it's job it really took a back seat here since the fish and fries were so far out in front.
Falling into the third row of seating was the slaw which like everything else was house-made. While a little sweetness perked up the cabbage it didn't blow me away and wasn't nearly as memorable as its fried friends. Again, this is probably more of a testament to the quality of the fish and fries, and since slaw is a tertiary element, fading into the background and lending support is kind of its job anyway. An unadvertised piece of pre-buttered rye warmed my heart and made me feel that the "TRADITION." tag-line on the menu wasn't just lip service. These guys clearly care about doing Fish Fry the right way and it shows.
I have to say I was almost hoping I'd be able to douse some of the flames surrounding Mint Mark, but all the hype seems to be legit. It really is a great little place, and this is one great little Fish Fry. While a lot of nicer places have a tendency to want to reinvent the Fish Fry, Mint Mark didn't try to do that in the least. They just took the best ingredients they could find and prepared them as well as they could (which is exactly how it should be). It's clean and simple with just enough nuance to make it unique without becoming a caricature. Overall, we highly recommend this Fish Fry and think it definitely hits the mark.
1929 Winnebago Street
Madison, WI 53704