The Best Fish Fry in Madison: Our Top Picks for Fried Fish Fans
The Fish Fry Tradition in Madison
Fish fry has been a tradition in Madison for many years. Originally, it was a Catholic tradition of abstaining from meat during Lent, which led to fish being the next best alternative. This tradition evolved into a weekly Friday evening staple for many Wisconsinites who would gather at local restaurants and bars to enjoy a crispy, golden fish dinner with all the sides.
Today, the fish fry in Madison has become a cultural phenomenon that blends food, family, and fun. It’s a great opportunity for locals and tourists alike to sample the flavors of Wisconsin cuisine while experiencing the warmth and camaraderie of Midwestern hospitality.
The Best Fish Fry in Madison: Our Top Picks
Finding the perfect fish fry can be an overwhelming task, given the abundance of choices in Madison. However, after rigorous research and taste testing, we’ve narrowed down the list to three exceptional establishments that guarantee an unforgettable fish fry experience.
1. The Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned is a classic Wisconsin tavern that celebrates the state’s history and traditions through its menu. Their fish fry is a must-try, featuring thick-cut, beer-battered cod served with homemade tartar sauce. The sides are just as impressive, with house-made potato pancakes, coleslaw, and rye bread.
2. Jordan’s Big 10 Pub
Jordan’s Big 10 Pub is a local favorite that’s been around for decades. Their Friday fish fry is some of the best in town, featuring crispy, beer-battered cod and haddock, along with a variety of sides like mac and cheese, potato salad, and baked beans.
3. The Avenue Bar
The Avenue Bar has been serving up fish fry since the 1940s and has become a Madison institution. Their fish fry is some of the best in town, featuring light and crispy beer-battered cod and haddock, along with traditional sides like French fries, coleslaw, and rye bread.
Few things embody Wisconsin’s culinary traditions better than a good old-fashioned fish fry. Madison’s culinary scene is blessed with a variety of establishments that serve up this classic dish, but these three places stand out from the rest. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, be sure to add them to your list of must-visit places in Madison. You won’t regret it!
How Did Fish Fry Become So Popular in Madison?
The fish fry tradition has been around for over a century in Madison, and it has become a quintessential part of the city’s culture. For many, fish fry Fridays are more than just a meal – they are a weekly tradition that is deeply ingrained in the city’s identity.
The popularity of fish fry in Madison can be traced back to the city’s large Catholic population. In the 1800s, Catholics would abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, and fish became a popular substitute. This tradition continued throughout the years, and even those who are not Catholic, still enjoy fish fry Fridays.
Madison’s proximity to freshwater lakes, including Lake Mendota, Lake Monona, and Lake Waubesa, has also played a significant role in the popularity of fish fry in the city. The abundance of fish makes it easy for restaurants to source fresh ingredients, and for locals to indulge in delicious and sustainable seafood.
However, the real reason why fish fry Fridays have become so popular in Madison is because of the community’s love for food, fun, and the company of friends and family. Fish fry Fridays are more than just a meal – they are an opportunity to socialize, connect with others, and have a good time.
So whether you’re a resident of Madison or just visiting, be sure to join in on the fun and experience the city’s famous fish fry tradition.
The Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned, located on the Capitol Square, is one of Madison’s most popular restaurants, boasting some of the best fish fry in town. The restaurant is known for its classic Wisconsin fare, including cheese curds, beer, and of course, fish fry. The Old Fashioned offers a traditional Wisconsin-style fish fry, with your choice of cod or perch, served with coleslaw, rye bread, and tartar sauce. The restaurant also offers a gluten-free option for those with dietary restrictions. The Old Fashioned is a must-visit for anyone looking for a classic Wisconsin dining experience.
The Avenue Club & Bubble Up Bar
The Avenue Club & Bubble Up Bar is a longstanding Madison staple known for its high-end dining experience and excellent seafood options. The restaurant’s fish fry is no exception, with a variety of seafood options available, including cod, perch, and walleye. The Avenue Club & Bubble Up Bar also offers a gluten-free option for those with dietary restrictions. In addition to its exceptional seafood options, the restaurant offers a range of other dishes, including steak, burgers, and pasta, making it a great choice for groups with varying tastes.
Toby’s Supper Club
Toby’s Supper Club, located on Lake Mendota, is known for its classic Wisconsin supper club experience and its delectable fish fry. The restaurant offers a traditional Wisconsin-style fish fry, with your choice of cod or perch, served with coleslaw, rye bread, and tartar sauce. In addition to its fish fry, Toby’s Supper Club offers a range of other seafood options, including shrimp and lobster tail. The restaurant also offers live music on Saturday nights, making it a great spot for a night out with friends or family.
Variety of Fish Available
The variety of fish available is an important factor when choosing the best fish fry in Madison. Some restaurants offer only one type of fish, while others offer a variety of options. The best restaurants will have a range of fish on the menu, such as cod, tilapia, perch, and bluegill.
The quality of the fish is also important. The fish should be fresh, and it should be cooked to perfection. Overcooked fish can be dry and tough, while undercooked fish can be slimy and raw-tasting. The best fish fry restaurants in Madison know how to cook fish to just the right temperature and texture.
Another important consideration is the sourcing of the fish. The best restaurants will use sustainable fishing practices and source their fish from local, reputable suppliers. This not only ensures the quality of the fish but also supports local businesses and helps to protect the environment.
The Taste and Texture of the Batter
The batter is a crucial element of any good fish fry. The best batter is crispy, not too thick, and perfectly seasoned. The batter should complement the fish, not overpower it. The best restaurants in Madison use their own unique blend of batter that is specific to their establishment.
When it comes to the texture of the batter, the best fish fry in Madison strikes a balance between crispiness and flakiness. A good batter should also be able to hold up against the sauce that comes with the fish,
The sauce should not be an afterthought, but rather an integral part of the dish. Tartar sauce is the classic accompaniment, but some restaurants offer more unique sauces that perfectly complement the fish, such as dill aioli, mango salsa, or chipotle-lime mayo.
Overall Atmosphere of the Restaurant
The overall atmosphere of the restaurant is another important factor to consider when choosing the best fish fry in Madison. A good fish fry restaurant should have a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere that makes diners feel right at home.
The dining room should be clean and well-lit, with comfortable seating and tasteful decor. Some restaurants in Madison go the extra mile to create a unique and memorable experience for their patrons, such as decorating the walls with vintage fishing gear or hosting live music events.
Another important aspect of the atmosphere is the service. The best fish fry restaurants will have friendly and attentive staff who are knowledgeable about the menu and able to make recommendations. Good service can make all the difference in a dining experience.
Value for Money
Value for money is an essential factor to consider when choosing the best fish fry in Madison. While it may be tempting to choose the cheapest option, the best value is found in a restaurant that provides high-quality fish and batter at a reasonable price.
Some restaurants offer specials or discounts, such as all-you-can-eat fish fry on certain days of the week. Others offer a variety of side dishes that can be added to the meal to create a more substantial and satisfying dining experience.
The best fish fry in Madison will strike the perfect balance between quality, quantity, and price. It should be a satisfying meal that does not break the bank.
What Makes The Old Fashioned Fish Fry So Special?
The Old Fashioned Fish Fry has been a staple in the Madison community for years, and for good reason. Their classic Wisconsin fish fry features locally sourced, hand-breaded fish that is fried to a perfect golden-brown crispiness.
But it’s not just the fish that makes The Old Fashioned stand out. The sides are just as impressive, with options like homemade coleslaw, cheesy potatoes, and rye bread with butter. They also offer a variety of dipping sauces, including tartar sauce and hot sauce, to perfectly complement your meal.
The Old Fashioned’s Atmosphere
The Old Fashioned is not just a great place for delicious food, but also for a fun and friendly atmosphere. The restaurant is decorated with vintage Wisconsin memorabilia, creating a cozy and nostalgic ambiance.
The staff is also known for their warm hospitality, welcoming customers with a smile and providing excellent service throughout the meal. The restaurant has a casual dress code, making it a comfortable spot for any occasion, from dinner with friends to a family gathering.
The Old Fashioned’s Specials and Events
The Old Fashioned is not just a great spot for a delicious fish fry, but also for their special events and live music. On Mondays, they offer a $10 burger and beer special, and on Tuesdays, they have a special vegan menu. They also have a rotating list of weekly specials, including pork chops and fried chicken.
The Old Fashioned also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including an annual charity picnic and a holiday market. They also have live music on most weekends, featuring a range of local musicians and bands.
The Old Fashioned’s History
The Old Fashioned has been serving up delicious food and creating memories in Madison since 2005. The restaurant is located in the heart of downtown, in a historic building that dates back to the 1800s.
The owner, Marcia Ballinger, was inspired to open The Old Fashioned after a trip to Scotland, where she fell in love with the cultural tradition of the local pub. She wanted to bring that same sense of community and hospitality to her hometown of Madison.
The Old Fashioned Fish Fry truly is the best in Madison, offering a delicious and authentic Wisconsin dining experience. Whether you’re a local looking for a regular spot to gather with friends or a visitor seeking the perfect Madison meal, The Old Fashioned is the perfect choice.
With its amazing food, cozy atmosphere, and exciting events, The Old Fashioned has earned its rightful place as a beloved staple in the Madison community.
The Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned is a classic Wisconsin tavern that is famous for its fish fry. This restaurant has a cozy atmosphere that attracts both locals and tourists. The Old Fashioned’s fish fry is served every Friday from 4 pm to 9:30 pm and includes a choice of either cod or perch. The fish is lightly breaded and cooked to perfection. If you’re a fan of the traditional Wisconsin-style fish fry, then The Old Fashioned is the place to go.
AJ Bombers is a burger joint that also serves some of the best fish fry in Madison. Their fish fry is only available on Fridays, but it’s definitely worth the wait. AJ Bombers offers both cod and perch with their fish fry. The fish is light and crispy, and the portion size is generous. If you’re looking for a laid-back atmosphere with great food, AJ Bombers is the place to go.
The Avenue Club and the Bubble Up Bar
The Avenue Club and the Bubble Up Bar is a classic supper club that serves high-quality food, including their famous fish fry. Their fish fry is served every Friday and Saturday and includes both cod and perch. The fish is lightly breaded and served with coleslaw, rye bread, and tartar sauce. The Avenue Club and the Bubble Up Bar is perfect for those looking for a more upscale fish fry experience.
Toby’s Supper Club
Toby’s Supper Club is a traditional Wisconsin supper club that serves great fish fry. Their fish fry is served every Friday and Saturday and includes both cod and perch. The fish is lightly battered and cooked to perfection. What sets Toby’s Supper Club apart is their homemade tartar sauce, which is a perfect complement to the fish. If you’re looking for a classic Wisconsin supper club experience, Toby’s Supper Club is the place to go.
Nitty Gritty is a popular college bar that serves fantastic fish fry. Their fish fry is available every Friday and includes both cod and perch. The fish is lightly battered and cooked to perfection. Nitty Gritty also offers a gluten-free option, making it an excellent option for those with dietary restrictions. If you’re looking for a fun atmosphere with great food, Nitty Gritty is the place to go.
Jordandal Cookhouse is a farm-to-table restaurant that sources its fish from local Wisconsin lakes. Their fish fry is available every Friday and includes both cod and perch. The fish is lightly battered and cooked to perfection, and Jordandal Cookhouse offers a gluten-free option. If you’re looking for a high-quality fish fry made with locally sourced ingredients, Jordandal Cookhouse is the place to go.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for the best fish fry in Madison, there are many fantastic options to choose from. Whether you’re a fan of traditional Wisconsin taverns or restaurants with a more upscale atmosphere, there’s a place for you to enjoy this classic Wisconsin tradition. However, if you only have time to visit one restaurant, we recommend The Old Fashioned. With its cozy atmosphere and delicious fish fry, The Old Fashioned is the perfect place to experience the best of Wisconsin cuisine.