Fish Type: Smelt Price: $20.00
Overall, I would barely recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Good|
Potato Score: Fair
Tartar Score: Fair
Bread Score: Excellent
Miscellaneous Score: Good
Comment: I feel like I've heard this record before. A farm-2-table concept with super market style to-go coolers at a lofty price point. Historically, it seems like the to-go cooler part of these endeavors fails first with the table service part following soon after. It's a hard marriage to maintain, but if anyone is going to work it out I feel like Pasture and Plenty might just be the ones.
P&P also has a meal-kit angle to their business so it's really more of a twisted love triangle than the typical storefront/restaurant (which is yet another reason I think they might actually persevere). They're also doing the restaurant part the right way by offering a legit Friday Fish Fry on Fridays (which is what we Wisconsin folks want)! What's more, they're keeping the local angle with their Fish Fry by offering walleye and smelt from Lake Superior - which is the closest commercial fishery where these species are available. These locals come at a premium - $20 for either - but you can feel good about eating them if you're willing to splurge.
It also doesn't hurt that they prepare the fish well. The smelt were individually filleted which has to take some serious effort. They also came is a large school and while I tried to count them, I lost interest after 15 or so...let's just say the portion is fair. While the dry breading (common to both fish) wasn't ultra-flavorful I had no problem enjoying each and every crunchy bite. The walleye comes as two fillets and was definitely the real deal. It had the look and those desirable musky undertones. If I had it to do over again I'd go for the walleye, but both were easily recommendable and enticing in their own way.
As a fancier-than-average Fish Fry French fries aren't on the menu at Old University establishment but there are four other options to choose from (of which you get to pick two). We sampled the onion gratin (which were surprisingly mild), the roasted spuds (which were best when paired with the gratin), and the apple slaw (which was surprisingly sweet and inviting). The side were well thought-out all-around and we were pleased with our selections.
The tartar was just a straight-up aoili with a little lemon which was pretty wispy and didn't really help the fish. The spicy cheese roll on the other hand was simply excellent and did everything it could to make this Fish Fry all it could be.
Like I say, I've seen this song and dance before, and while I'm hesitant to believe it will work this time I think P&P is playing a slightly better angle than those who've failed before them. While they weren't super busy this Friday when we showed up, business was picking up as we were finishing. Overall, we recommend this Fish Fry and think it has a good chance to succeed where others have failed.
2433 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53726