Travel down any of these wide roads that lead to other towns and other states, and you’ll likely find something from here, there. There’s a nice parcel of land north of Elkhorn that was blessed with an abundance of cold water springs, the sort that are perfect for raising rainbow trout. Those ponds have tens of thousands of trout owned by Rushing Waters, and those trout find their way from this little spot in Wisconsin to some of the finest restaurants and grocery stores in the country.
A few years ago, Rushing Waters decided to try its hand at a restaurant, so they built out a nice space adjacent the building that houses their operations. The restaurant there is very nice, a wonderful addition to the sparse restaurant scene that the Lauderdale folks must abide. I ate at that restaurant a few times and generally enjoyed my meals. Last year Rushing Waters and their Trout House branded restaurant expanded into the Lake Geneva market, albeit by way of Delavan. That’s where I went to eat last Friday night, because who better to serve me fish than an operation that understand fish from egg to table?
The space that the Trout House Delavan now operates from was most recently a large expansion undertaken by the cheese and sandwich shop known as Brick Street Market. The name comes from the brick streets in Delavan, in case you haven’t been to Delavan, ever. The cheese shop first occupied a smaller area to the West of this one, and then upgraded to this cavernous expanse of square footage and tables. Brick Street Market didn’t last, sadly, and the Trout House took over the space. The issue with this particular location remains one of some trouble. On one hand, it’s Delavan, which struggles to pull from the Lake Geneva market. On the other hand, that space is so large that it’s nearly impossible to feel as though you aren’t eating a hot lunch in a school cafeteria on a Saturday, when just you and the other few kids in detention are in the building.
I tried to go to the Trout House twice before, both times being turned away. So last Friday I went early, arriving at 5:30, and found immediate seating near the front window. The space, as described above, is nice and new, with some generic updated finishes, but the space remains so large that I cannot imagine it feeling lively or cozy under any circumstance. Still, the restaurant is clean and bright and there’s some exposed brick on the walls. Once seated, we perused the menu. No mention of a fish fry. Some rainbow trout dishes, of course, but where was my cod?
I inquired of the waitress, and she told me of the fish fry. It’s two or three piece fried cod, or a single piece broiled cod, served with choice of potato and the typical sides. I ordered the three piece fried, as I need to keep up my weight in the event that I am ever called upon to hold onto a hot air balloon that has blown dangerously close to power lines. My wife ordered the one piece broiled. We drank our water and waited.
The wait wasn’t long, which was nice. My fried looked crunchy and sublime, my wife’s broiled appeared to be a hefty portion. Hers was served with drawn butter, which immediately captured by attention. There was no table bread or butter, which I thought odd for a restaurant like this. The potato pancakes were served two to an order, and the accompaniments of applesauce, tartar sauce, and coleslaw were offered up in small plastic tubs. How I longed for the sophistication of a ceramic or metal dish.
The potato pancake was up first. Nicely crisped, smallish in size, overwhelmingly bland. It had some green flecks in it that I initially thought might represent flavor, but those flecks turned out to be parsley, which is the anti-flavor. The pancakes lacked salt and needed a bit more panache. The fried cod was appropriately crunchy and sported a very nice battered exterior. The interior was white and flaky, well seasoned. The fried fish was a delight, and after two weeks off from the Friday Fish Tour, I enjoyed my three pieces rather quickly. My wife’s broiled cod was dry, and needed some salt.
The applesauce, all two spoonfuls of it, was righteously chunky, which was also the name of my childhood praise and worship band. But it was a bit warm, which detracted from the otherwise wonderful sauce. The coleslaw was ok, and my wife liked the tartar sauce. When I pressed her for the reasons why the tartar sauce was good, she declined to comment further. The dinner was over shortly after it began, and left me with a general feeling of meh.
Having spent that vacation in France last month, we decided that dessert would be nice. We ordered the chocolate torte at the waitress’s recommendation, along with two coffees. The torte was divine, deep and rich, not too sweet, but dense and more closely aligned with fudge than anything else. The coffee was acceptable, but would it kill local restaurants to indulge in an espresso machine? I have one that cost $599 and it works perfectly. Please, local restaurants, I’m begging for something other than drip coffee. Worse yet, we were served cream in single serve take-out plastic teaspoon size tubs. The sort you’d find at a rest stop somewhere between Lodi and Necedah. What a terrible miss this is for any restaurant, and what an easy miss this is to fix. Please serve cream with your coffee. It’s so easy. Painfully easy.
The dinner tab with tip came to $53. The fish dinners were $15 each, which is in line with expectations. Sadly, on this night, the Trout House failed to impress me. I love what it is that Rushing Waters does. I love their business, and their impact on this local economy. But a fish business should serve me a better fish fry. If not them, who? It shouldn’t be so hard to dial in the details of a proper Friday Night Fish Fry, but I’m finding that somehow it is. I’d give the Trout House a visit, either in their Delavan location or the Palmyra one (north of Elkhorn). But don’t expect to be dazzled, just expect to be fed.
Trout House at Delavan 6/10
118 East Walworth Avenue, Delavan, WI
$15 Fried or Broiled Cod