I am a creature of habit. This means I do certain things the same way, for better or for worse, with amazing consistency. Perhaps my most notorious habit is my repeated ordering of the Yacht Club Chicken Wrap. When at Gordy’s, this is what I order. It’s not because it’s the best chicken wrap I’ve ever had. It’s not because I think it’s healthy. It’s just because this is what I order, and this is likely what I always will order. With this in mind, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to tell the waitress that I’d be having the fish fry. Habits, they die hard.
When my son and I left his basketball game on Friday night, we didn’t intend to visit Gordy’s. We first drove to the Abbey to sample the fish fry at the Waterfront restaurant. We approached the hostess table with anticipation. The restaurant was buzzing, even if a quick scan proved around 30% of the tables were open. Two, for fish fry, I said. The hostess studied her book, as if looking for a loophole in the tax law, and told us that the wait would be around 30 minutes. She didn’t say it apologetically, but rather enthusiastically. I asked about all of the open tables, but she was unfazed. Thirty Minutes. Perplexed, we drove around the corner to an open parking spot near Gordy’s Boathouse.
Parking, as you’re aware, can be a trick at Gordy’s. Thankfully, on this cold evening there was a spot open in front of the pro shop, and we hastily walked through the biting wind into the restaurant. Inside was warm and appropriately lit. The bar had a few patrons, the front dining room was mostly full, and a few groups had settled into the hi-tops near the restrooms. There was a hot chocolate bar set up with various hot-chocolate toppers and add-ins. I’m not a monster, so I didn’t mix fish-fry with hot chocolate, but I thought the hot-chocolate bar looked nice and charming, and I applauded the wintery effort. Our table for two was near the bar, close enough to smell a bit of hot chocolate in the air, but not so close that the smell disrupted my fried dinner.
Our waitress quickly brought us waters. The fish fry, she said, was cod. Fried or broiled. There was a perch option, which came sautéed. She suggested the perch, so I followed her lead. Perch it would be, with an extra side of cod. The french fries at Gordy’s are among the best in the area, but I stuck to my guns and order the potato pancakes. I would soon be overcome with potato based regret.
We waited around 15 minutes for the fish to arrive table side, which was a fine wait and didn’t feel too long. The fish was presented, along with a dinner roll and a small plastic cup of coleslaw, tartar sauce, and applesauce. The little cups were tiny, maybe two spoonfuls, which was disappointing. I didn’t touch the coleslaw or tartar sauce, but I did eat the apple sauce. I prefer my applesauce like I prefer my silhouette: chunky. This was too smooth, too small, too sad. The dinner roll looked nice, wheat maybe. But it wasn’t wheat at all, it was rye. I feel that a rye roll should be offered with some warning. Like, “are you sure you want the dinner roll? It’s rye”. You can’t just pass off a rye roll and expect I won’t notice. I noticed, and I nibbled it only to find out of it was properly toasted and warm. It was moderately warm, but should have been toasted. The butter that I wouldn’t be eating with the roll that I didn’t eat was served Big Foot Inn style, in a small square, foiled wrapped. Like I was eating take-out on a park bench next to an airport. The butter and roll were a fail.
The perch filets were small, which I liked. Sometimes perch filets can be large, unnaturally so. These were appropriately sized, lightly dredged in flour or corn starch and then pan friend, which they called sautéed. The accompanying sauce was buttery, but I would have liked a bit of extra flavor with it. After my Pier 290 bluegill experience I was nervous to eat this perch, but my fear was quickly pushed aside in favor of delicious, tender bites of perch. They were skin on, but the skin was crisped and the fish tender. It was a nice variation on classic fish fry. I added a squeeze of lemon and greedily ate the filets.
The potato pancakes were large and looked the part. Sadly, they looked much better than they tasted. The filling was a bit too bread-like. As if the mixture called for one part potato to three parts cracker. Or one part potato and three parts sawdust. They were dry, unpleasant tasting, and easily the worst potato pancake of any potato pancake I’ve eaten. My son and I bemoaned the poor execution of this side, because we were prepared to crown Gordy’s the king of the fish fry and forgive the sin of the rye roll, but now we could do no such thing. If you’re going to unseat Anthony’s, you’re going to need to make a potato pancake worthy of the crown.
The waitress kept our water glasses full, and asked quickly if I wanted some more fish. I did, obviously. The cod this time, one piece fried and one piece broiled. After a few minutes I was served a new plate, with a couple of pieces of cod. The broiled was tender and tasty, eve if the filet was a bit odd. It was less a filet and more a collection of small bits and pieces. But it was delicate and nicely seasoned. The fried cod came in a fish-stick shape, which is an immediate downgrade from a natural looking section of fish. The breading was nicely browned, less a beer batter and more a panko crust. The shape aside, it was tender and nicely salted, though the stick was a bit greasy, even for my well-adjusted palate.
The dinner for two came to $27.90, pre-tip. $12.95 for the cod all you can eat, and $14.95 for the perch, which is offered fried or sautéed and is not an all you can eat option. The dinner was quite good, and I was happy to have eaten both delicious perch and cod. Gordy’s came close, but the fish was still a small step under Anthony’s, and the potato pancake was several escalators under every other potato pancake that has come before. The restaurant is charming and comfortable, and our service was outstanding. Next time I visit I’ll be sure to check on the potato pancake to see if they’ve fixed that poor recipe, and you can bet I’ll expect the rye roll to be replaced with a delicious, all-American, bleached flour roll served with a generous dish of softened butter.
Gordy’s Fish Fry 7/10
Cod, All you can eat $12.95. Perch, $14.95
Gordy’s Boat House
336 Lake Street, Fontana, WI 53125