Fish Type: Lake Perch Price: $21.75
Overall, I would highly recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Excellent|
Potato Score: Poor
Tartar Score: Excellent
Bread Score: Excellent
Miscellaneous Score: Excellent
Comment: There are a few legendary places in Fish Fry lore: Serb Hall in Milwaukee, Wendt's on the Lake, and the Sister Bay Bowl amongst others, but Maricques's in Green Bay tops that list as far as I'm concerned. It's the Alpha Fry.
Maricques's has long been the name amongst names in NE WI thanks mostly to their prowess with lake perch. Not only does the diminutive dive bar on the city's north side fry the fillets to perfection, but legend has it that they can actually be ordered BONE-IN, which supposedly enhances the flavor and requires a special extraction method to ensure thorough removal. What's more, the Maricque's were a fishing family and supposedly had one of, if not the very last, commercial lake perch quotas on Lake Michigan which they used to fuel hungry appetites in their very own bar. Now if that isn't cool, I don't know what is... Needless to say I'd be hungering to try this Fish Fry for ages, and when presented with the opportunity while attending a conference at Lambeau I leaped.
I was there on a Wednesday, but to my dismay the bone-in wasn't available. I don't know if the bones are a Friday-only kind of thing, or if it's been phased out all together due to the current lake perch shortage, but for whatever reason it wasn't frying. Luckily, the standard bone-out butterflied babies were plentiful and I went for the "double" order which amounts to 6 fish or 12 fillets depending on how you count yours. Of course other sizes are available: a "single" (6 fillets - 3 fish), a "single" (8 fillets - four fish), or TRIPLE (you do the math). I wasn't about to pay ~$30 for the triple, and the difference between the "singles"? I have no idea, but my double was $20.75, which ain't cheap, but is a boatload of fish and probably justifies the cost.
A lot of places claim the be the Kings of lake perch, but after having it, I can say unequivocally that there is only one rightful heir to that throne - thine name be Maricque. These fillets are basically perfect in every way. They are kissed with a light breading that forms a sort of skin on the flaky loins. It clings effortlessly, but gives way like tissue paper once bitten. Subtle seasoning offsets the sweet meat and equates to a flavor profile that is 100% on the money. The fillet itself is light and limber, not chewy or rubbery. In a word, this is what lake perch is meant to be.
The craziest part about this whole thing is that your $20.75 gets you a ton of fish, a couple "Belgian Sandwiches" (that's rye bread with full slices of raw onion on top), and as much tartar as you can stomach, but that's it. No slaw, no sides - just fish, and rye with onion. Crazy. Of course, you can order fries separate, and I tacked some because, well, I like fries. They were basic crinkles, average in every way, but honestly, a welcome respite between the inundation of perch and onion.
As mentioned, tartar and rye come with the fish, and the sauce is supplied in two big beautiful cups. This is a supper club standard tartar - mostly mayo, thick as can be with just enough relish to keep it interesting. Pumpernickel rye forms the foundation of the Belgian Sandwich and while the onion was totally overpowering it's an experience you need to have, but I'm not sure I want again.
Since the first time I published a review as Madison Fish Fry I've heard: "well, have you been to Maricque's? It's the best..." And by god, now I can say I've had other's "best." Was it all it's cracked up to be? That's tough to say... It's pretty bare bones really and the fish is left on an island. The sides are non-existent, and if you don't like rye/onion I'm sure you'd feel burned paying that price for fish alone. For me, the fish is so outstanding that almost any cost is justified. The "Belgian," while odd to most, is charming in a way and I'm sure has a storied history which makes me like it even more. Yes, there's no relish tray, no coleslaw, and no sides included. It's not as "full-blown" as many other Fish Frys, but if you know that going in, and put the emphasis where it belongs - on the fish - there's no argument. It's a great one. Overall, we highly recommend this Fish Fry and think you would too.
As an aside, the mayor of Green Bay is actually a friend of the Fry. I've known him since we attended college together at UW; he's a hell of a good guy, and GB is lucky to have him. I was supposed to meet him for this Fish Fry but as mayor-y luck would have it something more pressing came up. In all honesty, it's his loss. And he knows this. He could have scored a $5 Maricque's t-shirt like I did!
1517 University Avenue
Green Bay, WI 54302