Calling all comfort food fanatics: you cannot call your visit complete without the experience of a Madison fish fry. And there are so many places to try!
TRIED & TRUE
If you like your fish fry as classic as they come, our supper club and tavern-style eateries don't disappoint. The Avenue Club (formerly Avenue Bar) has been voted "Madison's Best Fish Fry" time and again and Quivey's Grove has been recognized in the "Best of Madison" mix according to Madison Magazine readers in recent years.
Other classic spots that capture Friday-night fish lovers include the family-owned Kavanaugh's Esquire Club, known for their all-you-can-eat, hand-breaded ocean perch. The Old Fashioned Tavern & Restaurant on the Capitol Square is another favorite—not only for the fish, but for the sides and spirits that pay tribute to the traditions that make Wisconsin famous (would you like cheese curds and a cocktail with that?).
If a fancy fish fry is more what you're looking for, try Tornado Steakhouse for white linen dining in a supper club atmosphere. Or, take a true seafood aficionado to Sardine, where the seafood menu is far from fried, and features everything from salmon and scallops to mussels and their famous Oyster Happy Hour.
For those who believe there's no such thing as too much of a good thing, you'll love this part of the fish fry phenomenon: all you can eat (or AYCE to pros in the know). Just a few of the Madison-area menus that feature a bounty of breaded filets include Kavanaugh's Esquire Club, Highland Corner Grill on the near west side, and the historic New Glarus Hotel Restaurant.
For more of a twist than you'll get with the traditional lemon wedge served on the side, go for a little world flavor for your next fish fry. You'll find fish and chips, served Irish style, at The Coopers Tavern on the Capitol Square. The Essen Haus German restaurant serves all you can eat fish two nights a week and adds a little oomph with live oompah music played nightly. You'll find an Italian fish fry at Francesca's Al Lago Trattoria among seafood selections including tilapia, shrimp and calamari. And you'll definitely want to catch the seafood selection at Liliana's, where fried alligator and Cajun mussels are just some of the options served in an elegant, French Quarter décor.
BEST PLACES TO PERCH
If the where you eat is just as important to you as what you eat, you'll enjoy some of the more picturesque locations for fish fry. The Boathouse at The Edgewater Hotel is a two-story restaurant with wonderful views of Lake Mendota and a classic fish fry. The von Rutenberg family owns three restaurants in and around town, each with a unique waterfront location: Captain Bill's in Middleton, Nau-Ti-Gal nestled on the Yahara River and Mariner's Inn, also on Madison's near north shore of Lake Mendota.
Or, try some of the neighborhood hot spots such as Blue Moon Bar & Grill on University Avenue (and stay for the pool and darts). On Monroe Street, you'll experience an eatery that combines East Coast, Italian-style fish house with a Wisconsin tavern feel at Gates & Brovi, and fresh catch of the day (made gluten-free if need be!) at jacs Dining and Tap House. In the Atwood neighborhood, you won't want to miss Stalzy's Deli, an order-at-the-counter affair where they serve fish fry with potato pancakes on the side. Just off the Capitol Square there's Tipsy Cow, a triangular-shaped tavern that serves their fish fry with Tipsy Sauce instead of tartar. Just a short drive from downtown, discover Quivey's Grove Stone House or Stable Grill restaurants, both of which are on the National Register of Historic Buildings or the Old Feed Mill in Mazomanie, a 19th-century flour mill that has been restored into a restaurant that delivers hearty food in an historic ambiance.
For more information about the cuisine from our local scene, visit our Restaurants page.