Fish Type: Lake Perch Price: $20.00
Overall, I would highly recommend this Fish Fry.
|Fish Score: Excellent|
Potato Score: Fair
Tartar Score: Excellent
Bread Score: Excellent
Miscellaneous Score: Good
Comment: It's 2020 and no one took it seriously at first. They all thought, it's just a little thing happening "over there," it couldn't possibly affect how Wisconsonites go about their daily lives. The people in charge don't seem worried so why should we be? This will all blow over... Well, it turns out it hasn't blown over and this is a BIG deal; so big in fact that it may change life as we know it forever. Of course, I speak of the Great Lake Perch Shortage of 2019 - or GLPS-19 for short.
Although it's currently 2020 the shortage started well before now. In 2019 it was evident it was coming, and the signs were there are far back as 2018 and even 2017. Real yellow perch was getting harder and harder to come by and the places that were able to find it were having to charge more and more for a plate. The writing was on the wall, but only just now have those chickens fully come home to roost. Pristine yellow perch has been crossed off most menus in Madison or replaced with one of the impostors like pike-perch or ocean perch. The only places that seem to be able to get it regularly are on the Lake Michigan coast so we took a jaunt over to Manitowoc to get a plate...but man, what a plate it was.
Truth be told, we were heading over there anyway to visit some friends and since I'd heard the Fat Seagull was the spot for perch in town I insisted we meet there. Perch is clearly the name of the game at the 'gull and they serve it as a single or double order. Since I knew the score I doubled up for the full "Market Price" of $20, despite having reservations that it wouldn't be the real deal yellow perch. Of course, those fears were unfounded and on first sight I knew that this fish was the genuine article. Four fat butterflies lorded over the plate and were absolutely astonishing. As the best perch is, this batch was lightly breaded with just a hint of seasoning that let the fish shine. Based on the extra-firm texture I'd guess this fish was farmed, but the flavor was simply superb nonetheless. It's really hard to describe what makes real lake perch so delectable, but when it's this light and this juicy, it feels almost like eating nothing at all, if that makes any sense. Obviously, there were no overtly fishy flavors or rubbery textures here.
Compared to the fish, the crinkle-cut fries were pretty underwhelming in taste department, the texture zone, and the portion partition. Luckily, the tartar was a big bold bad boy, and while a lesser perch may have taken a back seat to the supper club standard sauce that was not the fate of this fish...not by a long shot. A 4 oz cup of creamy slaw had a nice kick, and offered a welcome contrast to a piece of pre-buttered marble rye. Both sides fell in line with the typical eastern Wisconsin style making for most traditional take on Friday Night Fish Fry.
Just like COVID-19 the GLPS-19 is no laughing matter. It has affected not just those who love eating perch, but the people around them, the bars and restaurants serving it, and the fishing industry that relies on it. Hopefully things will turn around whether it be through better management techniques, more aquaculture, or something else, but there's no guarantee there either. Luckily, some places are still able to get a bit, and places like the Fat Seagull are doing all they can with it. Overall, we highly recommend this Fish Fry and think another trip over to Manitowoc might not be such a bad idea if this ever blows over.
807 Quay Street
Manitowoc, WI 54220