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Fish Type: Lake Perch     Price: $19.00

Overall, I would recommend this Fish Fry.

Fish Score: Good
Potato Score: Excellent
Tartar Score: Good
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Good

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Comment: Surprise, surprise, the Avenue Bar won the best Fish Fry in Madison yet again. And surprise, surprise, I couldn’t disagree more. Sure, it’s still a highly respectable Fish Fry, but as far as the best in Madison is concerned I don’t think it even comes close. I guess when you have a great reputation it often precedes you, and somehow you can keep getting by on it. C’mon, Madison, we’re more objective than that aren’t we?

I will say this for the Avenue, since the Food Fight group has taken over things have tightened up. The place is cleaner and better organized, and the food has somewhat returned to its former glory. As far as the actual fish goes, it’s still no Toby’s or Dexter’s, but the Fry is at least back to respectability. Of course, they do their Award Winning Fish Fry every day of the week, so when we showed up on Labor Day I knew I’d still be able to get a slice of the “greatness”.

Since it was a holiday the fabled East Wash eatery wasn’t very busy and our large party got one of the big circular tables in the dining room with no problem. Our waiter was a little scattered, but eventually he came over to get out orders. Instead of the Icelandic Cod, or the Walleye Pike I went for the $18.95 Lake Perch with a side of hash browns and coleslaw. Our table also split an order of cheese curds, which were peculiarly cube-shaped, but still squishy and delicious.

Before the entrées, some little white loaves of bread arrived. The rolls were fine, but nothing special, although they did set the table for the fish which was to come. When it finally arrived the fish was steaming hot and looked really pretty on the plate. There were six generous perch fillets, along with a huge side of hash browns, a big old cup of slaw, and a small Solo of tartar. The cracker-meal crusted perch was thin and crispy, but surprisingly rigid. The fillets were uniform in size and texture, but were kind of dry which led to the firm feel. Even though the cracker coating had minimal flavor the perch was somehow still masked by it, which was somewhat mindboggling. By and large it was fine fish, but for $19 I’m not sure I’d get it again. That’s steep, and for that price I expect that greatness.

Whereas the fish was just marginally above average, the hash browns excelled in all aspects. The mountain of shredded spuds were perfectly fried, slathered with a couple slices of melted American cheese, and topped with more caramelized onion than is probably healthy. They were a true tour de force, and easily the highlight of meal. Holy yum.

The slaw on the side was also impressive, as the bountiful bowlful was really creamy, a little horseradish-y, and totally delicious. The tartar followed suit to some extent as the semi-thick sauce was sassy, but not super sassy. It did have enough oomph to override the fish which was (unfortunately) necessary.

I’ve always been a fan of the Avenue, but apparently nowhere near as much as some other people are. While I think this is a good Fish Fry, I wouldn’t rank it my top 10, more or less as the “Best of Madison”. Overall, we recommend the lake perch at the Avenue, but at $19 it is definitely on the cusp.
1128 E. Washington Avenue
Madison, WI 53704

(608) 257-6877