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Fish Type: Cod     Price: $18.00

Overall, I would highly recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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Comment: Well folks, we are vaccinated, the pandemic is (hopefully) drawing to a close, and we are hungry (both figuratively and literally). We're hungry to get out of the house, hungry to see real humans again, hungry to rejoin society, but mostly just hungry to eat some fish we didn't have to fry ourselves. This Friday was our first real Fish Fry at a real sit-down restaurant since this whole mess began, and we couldn't have been more excited to do it at the Settle Down Tavern.

The SDT has become a Madison institution seemingly overnight thanks in no small part to their house burger (which is supposedly one of, if not THE absolute best in town). People are flocking to the square-adjacent establishment in droves for this burger, and apparently to get their Friday Night Fish fix as well. Like many places, the Settle Down started offering a Fish Fry during the pandemic as a way of staying afloat by any means necessary. On Fridays an $18 2-piece cod platter now graces the specials board accompanied by a cod sandwich for lighter appetites. Since, I'm only interested in the full meal deal come Friday it was a platter for me, with my better half opting for the aforementioned acclaimed burger, and the kid (fittingly enough) opting for the kid's version of the benevolent burger.

I oft skew towards hyperbole in these reviews, but there is no exaggeration when I say that I've never in all my years on this tangled sphere seen food prepared so quickly. First came the Cheese Puppies!!! (the Settle Down version of fried curds) and they were ready, I swear, no longer than two minutes after I said "Puppies!!!". It was insane. As they landed table-side the fish and burger orders went in, and (I swear again) they were ready no more than 4 minutes later...i.e. before we were even half way though the bountiful basket of creamy curds. It was crazy and really spoke to the speed and professionalism of the kitchen and wait staff. And to that end, despite the semi-casual and fun atmosphere of the SDT, the waitstaff was on point. They worked as a team, picking up slack wherever and whenever it was needed. Our waiter took our order and brought our food, but no fewer than three other members of the waitstaff cleared empty plates when they appeared or filled water cups when they were depleted. It was a symphony of service and something I'm not sure I remember seeing in pre-pandemic days.

Service like this is so exquisite that lesser fare might have been lost in the shuffle, but not the Settle Down fish. The platter was adorned with two hulking pieces of beer battered cod, a slew of matchstick fries, some fiery house slaw, and a trio of sauces including: homemade tartar, house ketchup, and the famous Settle Down Sauce. The cod was as decadent as they come thanks to a pristine beer batter I could only hope to emulate at home. The sinfully satisfying sheath held together incredibly well (almost like a skin) and stayed adhered to the fish despite some air pockets that developed between the batter and meat.

The matchstick fries were done right and paired nicely with both the house ketchup, and the Settle Down Sauce. The creamy tartar kept pace with its brethren sauces, but necessitated some serious scooping to be properly loaded onto the flaky fish. It was so thick in fact, that I lost a bite of fish to its depths on more than one occasion necessitating the use of a rescue fork to salvage the morsels.

A small portion of slaw seemed slightly out of place next to the heaping chunks of cod, but brought big heat with each mouthful. Unfortunately, there was no bread on the platter, but the amazing service and Cheese Puppies!!! appetizer made that oversight an afterthought.

I don't know if it's just the fact we've been gone so long, or if the Settle Down is just that good, but whatever the case may be this just felt right. Everything was incredibly tasty, prepared incredibly quickly, and the staff incredibly friendly, which made this a pretty incredible way for us to break out of our quarantine. Overall, we highly recommend this Fish Fry and can only hope all our post-pandemic experiences live up to the high standard set by the Settle Down.
117 S Pinckney St
Madison, WI 53703

(608) 442-6335