Fish Type: Cod Price: $14.00
Overall, I would not recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Fair|
Potato Score: Good
Tartar Score: Fair
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Excellent
Comment: When the Branch Street Retreat closed we were saddened, but not totally surprised. The Regent Street Retreat had closed not long before and both places never really seemed all that popular. They also both had decent food (Fish Frys included), but nothing that really separated them from the crowd. The BSR building sat empty for a while after being shuttered only to briefly reopen as Cold Fusion - a restaurant we never made it to before it too closed. Thankfully, this most recent shutdown didn't last long and a new establishment opened with a new community-centric focus. It's now called Common Ground and is a unique flower in the Middleton monoculture.
Common Ground's mission is to appeal to an alternative crowd and to that end the mission is achieved. They host community-related events like poetry readings and self-help groups, as well as a plethora of kid-friendly activities - early afternoon sing-alongs with David Landau, anyone!? They also have an alt-diet friendly menu with lots of gluten-free and vegan options, but of course we weren't there for those. We were there for the Fish Fry...which (unfortunately for us) is also gluten-free. The fish of choice at the Grounds is Bearing Bounty cod, so you know it's gonna be good, right? Well, not exactly... 5 pieces came with our order, but were cut into very small chunks. The frying was a total mixed bag with some pieces being an over-fried gnaw-it-off affair end, while others were just fine. The common thread between them was the gluten-free breading that, by no small coincidence, was also free of flavor. It essentially served as a surface to make the fish fingerable and while we wanted to appreciate some aspect of it, it was just wasn't very good.
There are some decent sounding side options available with the fish, but we stuck with the regular fries which were...well...regular. They were your basic child-friendly freezer fries, which is just fine but nothing to make you take notice. The tartar was clearly made in-house which can be a good thing or a very bad thing. Unfortunately, this was a thin mix that almost seemed like sour cream with a smattering of dill pickle chunks here and there. It wasn't necessarily horrible, but just didn't have the allure you're after and didn't improve the already spotty cod.
Surprisingly, there is a choice of bread, one of which was obviously gluten-free. I went for the traditional rye instead (as you might have guessed) and it was fine, albeit a little dry. A colorful homemade slaw was probably the highlight of the meal with its subtle zest and perfectly creamy consistency.
The vibe at the new place on the corner of Century and Branch is warm and inclusive and a definite departure from what you generally find in Madison's most well-known suburb. There is a lot to like here, but unfortunately the Fish Fry isn't part of it, There were just too many shortcomings and missteps. Overall, we don't recommend this Fish Fry and think it definitely needs some more care put into its preparation.
2644 Branch Street
Middleton, WI 53562