Wisfoodtalk welcomes a special contributor, Tom Graber (“The Codfather”) creator of the Friday Fish Fry Guide which amazingly catalogs every known fish fry available in Southeast Wisconsin. He is far and away the expert on Wisconsin fish fries, and we are in awe of his knowledge.
If you are from Wisconsin you know what a fish fry is and what comes with one – usually cod, with a side of coleslaw, french fries or more traditionally a potato pancake, tartar sauce, rye bread and a wedge of lemon. But not every fish fry is traditional. Many times a pan fish, like perch or bluegill, is popular or walleye, since these are fish native to Wisconsin and enjoyed by sport fisherman’s family. No matter what the fish, it’s ALL about the breading, ‘bout the breading, but I digress. Salmon and tilapia are also found on quite a few menus and many offer baked or broiled as an option too for those that are counting calories. (Wisfoodtalk note: Tom lists every fish offered, along with sides and photos on his comprehensive website, fridayfishfryguide.com.)
The Codfather Tom Graber’s Unusual Fish Fries in SE Wisconsin
1. Bluegill and Eggs, Captain Missy’s, 8330 Fox River Road, Tichigan, Wisconsin
Captain Missy’s in the Waterford/Tichigan area in Northwestern Racine county serves an unusual combo of bluegill & eggs for $14.95. As a little girl, Missy’s grandfather would make bluegill that he caught with eggs for breakfast and she really loved that combination and decided to put it on her menu. The eggs are served either over easy or sunnyside up and the way to eat them is to dip the little bluegill fillets into the yolk first. This actually is a nice combination and works well.
Grouper is a fish native to the ocean around Florida but not that well known around here. The fish has a very mild flavor but it is still nice and meaty and is one of my favorites but not often available in Wisconsin. There are only three places in Milwaukee County where I know it’s available: McKiernan’s, 2066 S. 37th Street, Milwaukee, Barnacle Bud’s, 1955 S. Hilbert Street, Milwaukee and McBob’s 4919 W. North Ave, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The grouper holds up to grilling well and takes a nice flavor as with the blackened option at Barnacle Buds and McKiernan’s (both owned by same owner and have the identical fish fry options). (Wisfoodtalk note: dust off your GPS to get to Barnacle Bud’s because its hard to find but nothing beats it on a sunny, warmer day. Also if you have the room, don’t miss the Milwaukee Famous Corned Beef at McBob’s)
McBob’s Grouper for $12.25:
McKiernan’s Grouper for $7.95:
Smelt, you either love it or hate it. It too is a fish that people all over WI used to fish for usually at night when you’d shine a light on the water to attract and net them. Nowadays most people are not familiar with smelt, or if they are, the fishier flavor is a turn off. Smelt has a fishier flavor because it is an oilier fish like a sardine. Usually the fish is gutted, the head is removed and then it breaded or battered and fried, bones and all. Since the bones are so tiny it’s not a problem and, with the right breading or batter, a very nice finger food that goes especially well with a cold beer.
Nisleit’s Country Inn, 3704 Highland Drive in Port Washington is a fish fry that still serves smelt for $9.95 and it is pictured below.
American Legion Post 449 3245 N. 124th St. Brookfield, smelt is $10.95
Catfish is another one that many people either love or hate. Catfish are bottom feeders and will eat just about anything and this will give it a very strong unpleasant flavor. Nowadays, the fish is farm-raised and, if properly done, yields a very nice, sweet-tasting fish that is very firm in texture. It also seems to be made for cornmeal breading which is one of my favorites. Cornmeal seals very tight to the fish and doesn’t soak up any oil at all. It usually gives the catfish a very crispy crust and can be seasoned which gives it a lot of flavor often missing with other breadings. Here are some nice catfish options:
There are many more fish fry variations besides the variety fish, for example alternatives and variations to the typical coleslaw, potato, bread and tartar sauce. That will have to be another article. When looking for fish fry ideas every week, be sure to start on the Friday Fish Fry Guide. http://fridayfishfryguide.com/.