best fish fry milwaukee

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Fish Fry in Milwaukee

Exploring the Elements of a Great Fish Fry

Fish Fry Milwaukee

For many Milwaukee residents and visitors, a Friday night tradition is heading out to indulge in the city’s iconic fish fry. But what makes a great fish fry? It’s not just about the fish itself, but rather a combination of elements that make the experience truly unforgettable.

First and foremost is the fish. In Milwaukee, the standard is cod, but other popular options include perch and walleye. The fish should be fresh, firm, and flaky, with a crispy and golden brown exterior that is achieved through a perfectly executed batter or breading.

Next comes the sides. Traditional fish fry sides include coleslaw, tartar sauce, and french fries; however, some establishments go above and beyond with options like mac and cheese, potato pancakes, and baked beans. In Milwaukee, it’s common to see rye bread and butter served alongside a fish fry, providing a perfect complement to the meal.

The atmosphere is also a crucial component to a great fish fry experience. For many Milwaukeeans, a fish fry is a social event, where friends and family gather to catch up and enjoy a meal together. The best fish fry spots in the city often have a lively and welcoming atmosphere, complete with communal seating, friendly staff, and sometimes even live music.

Finally, let’s not forget about the beverage selection. A cold beer or cocktail can perfectly complement a fish fry, and many Milwaukee establishments offer a great selection of local brews and creative libations.

In summary, a great fish fry in Milwaukee is more than just a meal. It’s about the perfect combination of fresh fish, delicious sides, welcoming atmosphere, and refreshing drinks that come together to create a truly memorable experience.

Classic Fish Fry Spots in Milwaukee

Lakefront Brewery

If you are in Milwaukee and looking for a fish fry, chances are that you will not be disappointed. The city is home to some of the best fish fry restaurants and bars in the country. Milwaukee is, after all, located in the heart of the Midwest, where fish fry Fridays are a long-standing tradition. Here is a list of some of the classic fish fry spots in Milwaukee that you need to try out.

The Packing House

The Packing House

Located in the heart of Milwaukee, The Packing House is a popular restaurant that offers one of the best fish fry experiences in the city. The restaurant is well known for its classic Wisconsin-style Friday fish fry, which includes a three-piece cod or perch platter served with a host of sides and homemade tartar sauce. The restaurant is open for dine-in and take-out, and reservations are highly recommended.

American Serb Hall

American Serb Hall

American Serb Hall is a Milwaukee institution that has been serving up some of the best fish fry in the city for over 50 years. The restaurant is well known for its classic Wisconsin-style fish fry, which features a choice of cod, haddock, or perch. The platter is served with coleslaw, tartar sauce, and rye bread. American Serb Hall also offers a full bar, making it a great place to have a drink and catch up with friends.

Lakefront Brewery

Lakefront Brewery

The Lakefront Brewery is not just a great place for beer lovers. It also offers one of the best fish fry experiences in the city. The brewery features a Friday fish fry that includes a beer-battered cod or perch served with fries, coleslaw, and rye bread. The brewery is a great place to relax and enjoy a cold beer after a long week.


If you are in Milwaukee and looking for a fish fry, you can’t go wrong with these classic spots. The Packing House, American Serb Hall, and Lakefront Brewery all offer a unique fish fry experience that is worth trying out. Make sure to arrive early or make reservations since these spots are popular and can get crowded on Friday nights.

Hidden Gem Fish Fry Finds

Fish Fry Milwaukee

If you’re a fan of fish fry, Milwaukee is a great place to be. The city is filled with restaurants and bars that serve this classic dish, each with their own unique take on the meal. While many of these places are well-known and popular, there are a few hidden gems that are definitely worth checking out. Here are three spots that you may not have heard of, but that locals rave about.

Barnacle Bud’s

Barnacle Bud's fried fish

Located right on the Milwaukee River, this seafood joint is a favorite among fishermen, boaters, and locals in the know. The atmosphere is casual and laid-back, with picnic tables and a tiki bar outside, and a cozy interior with a fireplace and wood-paneling. The star of the show is, of course, the fish fry, which is made with cod and served with fries, coleslaw, rye bread, and tartar sauce. Guests can also order a fish sandwich or a shrimp basket, or try one of the other seafood dishes on the menu, such as crab cakes, scallops, or fish tacos.

The Eatery on Farwell

The Eatery on Farwell Fried Fish

This cozy restaurant on the East Side is known for its “New American” cuisine, but also serves up a mean fish fry on Fridays. The meal features beer-battered cod, served with house-made tartar sauce, rye bread, and a choice of sides, such as fries, coleslaw, or mac and cheese. The restaurant also has a full bar, a seasonal outdoor patio, and a tempting dessert menu that includes bourbon pecan pie and chocolate peanut butter cheesecake.

Steny’s Tavern & Grill

Steny's Tavern & Grill fried fish

This classic Milwaukee bar may not seem like a seafood hotspot, but it’s actually famous for its Friday fish fry. The dish features breaded or beer-battered cod or perch, served with fries, rye bread, and coleslaw. Guests can dine in the cozy dining room, or head to the sports bar area to catch a game on one of the many TVs. The menu also includes burgers, sandwiches, salads, and other pub grub favorites.

These three hidden gem fish fry spots in Milwaukee are definitely worth a visit. Whether you’re looking for a waterfront dining experience, a cozy East Side restaurant, or a classic neighborhood bar, you’re sure to find a meal that satisfies your craving for delicious fried fish.

Chains vs. Independents: The Fish Fry Debate

Fish Fry in Milwaukee

When it comes to satisfying your hunger for fish fry in Milwaukee, you can satisfy it in two ways. You can go to a local, independent joint or opt for a fast-food chain. Both have their pros and cons, and it’s not easy to pick sides. That’s why we’ve decided to help you make the right choice.

If you’re looking for an easy, no-fuss fish fry experience, then the chains might be the best option for you. Long John Silver’s is a popular chain that serves battered fish and seafood dishes. You can easily find one of their outlets in the Milwaukee area, and it’s a great option if you’re in a hurry.

Another popular chain that you might want to check out is Culver’s. Although mainly known for their butter burgers, their fish fry is also a hit among the locals. Their cod, perch, and walleye options are all great, and they offer a variety of sides to choose from.

Local Fish Fry in Milwaukee

However, if you’re looking for a more authentic fish fry experience, then supporting a local, independent spot is the way to go. We have a plethora of fish fry restaurants in Milwaukee that have been in business for decades and are committed to serving fresh and delicious fish delicacies.

One of the best places to check out is The Packing House, which has been a staple in Milwaukee since 1974. It’s known for its classic Wisconsin-style fish fry, which features Alaskan cod, homemade potato pancakes, and coleslaw.

If you’re in the mood for perch or bluegill, then Kegel’s Inn is the place to be. They have been serving fish fry since the 1920s, and their older-than-dirt batter recipe is what sets them apart from other restaurants. Their sides, including potato salad and German-style green beans, are also highly recommended.

The Bay View area is also home to some of the best independent fish fry spots in Milwaukee. Tenuta’s Italian Restaurant is renowned for its breaded perch, which is perfectly cooked to crispy perfection. Their pasta and pizza dishes are also worth trying out.

The bottom line is that both chains and independent restaurants have something unique to offer. Ultimately, it all boils down to your personal preferences. Whether you’re in the mood for fast food or a more authentic dining experience, Milwaukee has you covered.

Vegetarian and Freshwater Fish Options

Beans & Barley

If you’re looking for a break from the classic cod or perch options, Milwaukee offers a range of vegetarian and freshwater fish options that are just as satisfying. One of the most popular spots for vegetarian fare is Beans & Barley, an East Side staple that offers a range of vegetarian and vegan options. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on seafood – they also offer a delicious seared trout dish that’s not to be missed.

If you’re looking for more traditional seafood options but still want to try something new, check out The Trout House at Rushing Waters. This farm-to-table restaurant sources their trout directly from their own fish farm in Palmyra, Wisconsin, ensuring the freshest and most sustainable options around. Their menu features a range of trout dishes, including grilled, smoked, and even trout tacos.

Another great spot for freshwater fish is Lakefront Brewery. Located on the Milwaukee River, this brewery offers a range of classic Milwaukee dishes, including their famous beer-battered fish fry. But if you’re in the mood for something a little different, try their grilled salmon or trout sandwich.

For a truly unique experience, head to The Explorium Brewpub in Greendale. This brewery offers a range of craft beers, but their food menu is just as impressive. Their trout ravioli dish is a must-try – the homemade pasta is stuffed with delicious Rushing Waters trout and served with a creamy dill sauce.

Finally, if you’re looking for a more upscale experience, check out Harbor House. This Milwaukee staple offers a range of seafood options, including a delicious grilled lake trout dish served with roasted brussels sprouts and bacon.

Whether you’re a vegetarian or just looking for a break from the traditional fish fry, Milwaukee offers plenty of delicious freshwater fish options worth trying. From seared trout to trout ravioli, there’s something for every palate.

Fish Fry Dos and Don’ts

Fish Fry Dos and Don'ts

Going out for a fish fry in Milwaukee is a tradition that can be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. However, to get the most out of your experience, it’s essential to understand the dos and don’ts associated with this beloved meal. Here are some tips to help you out:

1. Know Your Fish:

Fried Cod Fish

Before heading out for the fish fry, it’s essential to know what type of fish you want to eat. Cod, perch, and walleye are popular fish options, and each has a unique flavor and texture. Make sure to ask the server what the restaurant’s specialty is and order accordingly.

2. Get There Early:

Fish fry service

The fish fry is a popular meal, especially on Fridays during Lent, and restaurants can fill up quickly. To avoid long wait times, try to get to the restaurant early.

3. Cash is King:

Cash Payment

Many fish fry restaurants in Milwaukee only accept cash, so make sure you have enough on hand before you head out for dinner. Some restaurants do offer credit and debit card payment options, but it’s always a good idea to have cash on hand just in case.

4. Mind Your Table:

Fish Fry dining table

When dining in a group, it’s vital to be polite and courteous to those around you. Make sure to keep your voice down, keep your elbows off the table, and be mindful of your surroundings. Additionally, it’s essential to clean up after yourself when finished eating, especially if you’re dining in a communal seating area.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask:

Question Mark

If you’re unsure about anything on the menu, don’t be afraid to ask the server for clarification. Additionally, if you have a food allergy or dietary restriction, make sure to let the restaurant staff know before ordering.

6. Tip Generously:


When visiting a restaurant, it’s essential to tip your server generously. In Milwaukee, it’s customary to tip 15-20% of the total bill, including tax. However, if you had an exceptional experience, it’s always appreciated to leave a little extra for the server.

Following these dos and don’ts can make a significant difference in your fish fry experience in Milwaukee. With a little preparation and a positive attitude, you can enjoy this local tradition to the fullest.

1. Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall

Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall

The Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall is one of the most popular spots in Milwaukee for Friday fish fry. It is located in the Riverwest neighborhood and serves up a classic Wisconsin-style fish fry. The beer-battered cod is juicy and perfectly seasoned. It is served with potato pancakes, coleslaw, and rye bread. One of the main attractions is the atmosphere – the beer hall is located inside the brewery, making it a fun and lively spot to enjoy dinner.

2. St. Paul Fish Company

St. Paul Fish Company

The St. Paul Fish Company is located in the Milwaukee Public Market and offers a unique twist on the traditional fish fry. They serve up a variety of fish dishes, including sandwiches, tacos, and even sushi. However, their classic Friday fish fry is not to be missed. They offer three types of fish: cod, perch, and walleye. All of their fish is sourced from the Great Lakes region. Their batter is light and crispy, and they serve up generous portions. It’s the perfect spot for fish lovers who want some variety in their meal.

3. Kegel’s Inn

Kegel's Inn

Kegel’s Inn is one of the oldest German restaurants in Milwaukee. It was founded in 1924 and has been family-owned and operated ever since. While they serve up classic German dishes, they are also known for their fish fry. They offer both cod and perch, and their batter is made with their own secret family recipe. They serve up their fish with potato pancakes, applesauce, and rye bread. The atmosphere is cozy and warm, making it a great spot for a cold winter night.

4. The Packing House

The Packing House

The Packing House has been a classic supper club in Milwaukee since 1974. They serve up a Friday fish fry that is not to be missed. They offer cod, perch, and bluegill, all of which are battered and fried to perfection. They serve up their fish with coleslaw, rye bread, and French fries or potato pancakes. One of the main attractions of The Packing House is the live music they offer on Friday nights. It’s the perfect spot for a fun and lively night out.

5. Barnacle Bud’s

Barnacle Bud's

Barnacle Bud’s is a hidden gem located on the Kinnickinnic River in Milwaukee. It has a laid-back atmosphere and is the perfect spot to enjoy a fish fry on a nice summer evening. They offer cod, perch, and shrimp, all of which are lightly battered and perfectly cooked. They serve up their fish with coleslaw, tartar sauce, and rye bread. However, the real attraction of Barnacle Bud’s is the outdoor seating. They have a large patio with great views of the river, making it a great spot for a relaxing evening out.

6. Real Chili

Real Chili

Real Chili is a Milwaukee institution. They have been serving up their famous chili for over 80 years. However, they also offer a killer fish fry on Fridays. They offer cod, perch, and bluegill, all of which are served with their signature chili on top. It may sound unusual, but it is actually quite delicious. They also serve up their fish with rye bread, coleslaw, and French fries. It’s a unique take on the classic fish fry that is not to be missed.

7. The Chancery

The Chancery

The Chancery is a family-friendly restaurant located in Mequon, just outside of Milwaukee. They offer a fantastic fish fry that is perfect for families with kids. They offer cod, haddock, and shrimp, all of which are battered and fried to perfection. They serve up their fish with coleslaw, rye bread, and your choice of French fries or potato pancakes. The atmosphere is casual and laid-back, making it a great spot for a fun Friday night out with the family.

Conclusion: Which Fish Fry Will You Try First?

Milwaukee is known for its fantastic fish fry, and these are just a few of the top spots to try. Whether you’re looking for a classic Wisconsin-style fry, a unique twist on the traditional dish, or a family-friendly spot, there is something for everyone. Make sure to try one (or all!) of these fantastic restaurants next time you’re in Milwaukee. And if you have a favorite spot that we didn’t mention, let us know in the comments below!

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