Blog : Lake Geneva Fish Fry

Jonathan’s Fish Fry Review

Jonathan’s Fish Fry Review

In January of 2018 I started my Fish Fry Review series. It was a nice little series, full of fish and potatoes and repulsive slices of rye bread. The review series was fun for me, and after some time of eating fish on Friday it became habit. At some point during the day on those Fridays my thoughts would turn to fish and to potato pancakes. With each week the habit intensified. At some point, there was no longer a question as to if I’d go eat fish, but only where. I was hooked.

But then, when the review series was over, the habit was broken rather easily. This was not, for me, a life long habit. This was a winter-long habit, one that I could break without effort. As such, between the last review series and a week ago last Friday night, I had maybe gone out for fish on a Friday twice. Perhaps three times, but no more than four. When I rolled up to the newish restaurant in Delavan, my palette was cleansed, my motivation high, my craving for fish not so much overwhelming as present. It was time to check out a new restaurant, and time to judge their fish.

I had heard over the course of last summer that this new restaurant in Delavan was good. It had taken the place of the Trout House, which had taken the place of Brick Street Market, which had taken the place of something else. Some friends had sworn by Jonathan’s fish fry, so we met them streetside and walked into the restaurant for our 5:45 pm reservation. The restaurant was filling, but not full. Loud, but not buzzing.

The space here is large. Two separate areas, one with a bar, one with only dining tables. It’s neither fancy or dull. It’s a nice enough space, but the cavernous size makes it feel awkward when it’s only half full. We were seated at a four top near the window, with a nice view of a large elephant, and in the distance, the very stylish Curate shop. Our waters were quickly poured and everything seemed fine. My friend wore a green t-shirt and that bothered me, but everything else was going as planned.

That friend, I should say, told me to get the Bluegill. The fish fry menu has a fried cod option, a baked cod option (oddly named the “Poor Man’s Cod, which made little sense to me since the baked option was the same price as the fried. Perhaps they meant to say Poor Man’s Lobster?), and the fried Bluegill option. I had encountered fried Bluegill at several restaurants during my review series, notably at Pier 290, where I found the fish to be decent but fishy, in a bad way. Because of this I was afraid of the Bluegill, and opted instead for the three piece fried cod dinner, which I recall was $14.50. I have to say “recall” as I don’t have the receipt, due to a credit card read malfunction that extended our evening and erased my paper trail, but more on that later. My friend opted for the fried Bluegill, our wives ate salads. As an appetizer, I requested the Clam Chowder, and a table-mate ordered the French Onion.

He told me the French Onion was the way to go. That the soup was amazing. But I, having grown up in the kitchen of Charley-O’s, decline french onion soup that isn’t his. Today, that famous soup is available at Anthony’s, and it’s as good as ever. I find that a typical french onion soup is too thin for my liking, too watery. Too bland. When our respective soups arrived, I tasted the french onion, and I was surprised to find that it closely resembled Charley O’s, which is an incredible honor. My chowder was good, if a bit heavy on the bacon. No table bread was brought, which was fine, since I’ve been indulging in a rather heavy bread intake since birth.

While we waited for the fish, our waitress was attentive to our water glasses, and she was pleasant if not uniquely service oriented. When the fish arrived, my plate looked the part. Three chunks of battered cod, two potato pancakes, a small container of coleslaw, and two slices of abhorrent rye bread. The waitress needed to be reminded to bring our applesauce. I was happy to see this plate of fish in front of me, and was quickly reminded of how much I do enjoy the Wisconsin institution that is a Friday night fish fry.

The batter on my cod was not too heavy, nicely crisped, and a perfect shade of not-quite-brown. The fish itself was decently seasoned, but I found the flesh to be a bit dry. My friend shared his Bluegill, and he was right. The Bluegill was superior here. Sweet, well seasoned flesh, a light batter, and just the slightest hint of the fishiness that can spoil a Bluegill dinner. The potato pancakes were dry, too small, and overly darkened. But I didn’t let that ruin my dinner. The coleslaw went untouched, as is my way, and the tarter sauce was barely sampled–it was acceptable. The applesauce was smooth and as expected. The dinner, all in all, was a respectable version of what a fish dinner should be.

After dinner, we ordered a few bits of dessert and coffee, and both the coffee and desserts were pretty good. The creamer was served in little plastic thimbles, which I always, always hate. Aside from that, everything was going swimmingly when we asked the waitress for our check. She took our credit cards and left for the back of the house. We waited. Then we waited some more. I walked outside to show my friend a rather funny clip of Kevin Hart showcasing his Gun Compartments, and when we returned we waited a bit more. The waitress was back to our table, flustered, to explain that the credit card machine was not working because the internet was down. No matter, we could walk to an ATM or just wait. We waited. When it was apparent that this internet issue would not be fixed quickly, we left our credit card numbers with the owner and headed home.

It wasn’t their fault that the internet was down, but I’d be lying if I told you that the 30 minimum addendum to our dinner wasn’t annoying. Even so, in hindsight I was pleased to once again indulge in a typical Wisconsin Friday Night Fish Fry. The Cod here was fine, comfortably average when measured against the fish fries that I’ve sampled, but I would recommend the Bluegill over the Cod, as I had previously been told. Order a soup, but opt for the French Onion. In other words, if your friends have been to a restaurant that you’ve never been to, just listen to their advice.

Jonathan’s On Brick Street

116 East Walworth, Delavan

7.0/10

$14.50 For The Three Piece Cod

I forgot to take a picture of the fish, so enjoy this random photo instead.

Fish Fry Problems

Fish Fry Problems

I might eat a fish dinner on a Friday. That fish dinner might be amazing. Tender, white fleshed fish, crisp, moist potato pancakes. Maybe even some chunky, cold applesauce. That dinner might be so good that I return to this computer a few days later and tell you just how good it was. Amazing, really. Go there, I’ll say.

And you might. The next Friday, because you were hoping to find someplace that might cure you of your bad run of fish-fry-luck.  And so you drive, to the place I went, order the things I ordered. The flaky fish and the crunchy batter, the crisped pancake and that perfect applesauce. You order and wait with anxious anticipation.  The fish is brought out. The pancakes, too. The applesauce is served.  But then something happens.

The batter isn’t crunchy at all. The fish is gray. There’s a bone in your broiled piece. The pancake is greasy and limp. The applesauce is warm.  Your waitress is rude and the ripped vinyl bench irritates your skin. You shouldn’t have worn shorts. Everything is terrible. David Curry was wrong.

Last Friday, I wanted to eat some fish. I had appointments that pushed my typical dining time to a later, more normal time. But it’s Fourth of July week, and restaurants are filled to overflowing. I called around to find a reservation. No luck. Our party of 10 would need special consideration, I figured, but no restaurant felt like confirming a table for me. Perhaps the knew the sound of my voice and knew to avoid me.  After some calling, we decided that the Abbey Waterfront should have availability because it is, indeed, a large space. We drove. We waited a few minutes. We were seated.

I didn’t really want to go back to one of my prior favorites, but with friends in tow I decided it would be good to stop the exploration and go somewhere I know to be good. The last time I went to the Abbey’s Waterfront restaurant I wrote a nice review. It was a good dinner. On this Friday I expected a repeat performance.

We ordered our various pieces of fish and potato and waited. The lakeside dining room was a bit warm on this sultry evening, but I gave it a pass as I guessed their air conditioning units were trying their best.  The restaurant was busy, so the 30 minute wait from ordering to eating wasn’t a surprise, though it was a touch annoying. Nevermind, I’d be more annoyed shortly, anyway.

The fish arrived and I knew it was off. The broiled cod wasn’t white like it should be, it was a bit gray, like it shouldn’t be. There was water pooled in the opened cracks of the fish, not drawn butter like any respectable fish would prefer to be baptized in.  The fried piece was still crunchy, but the batter was bland and the fish hidden inside was also gray. The potato pancake was fine, but dry, the applesauce was blah. The first order was cod, so I made the second order walleye. I waited for just shy of eternity, and when the fish came out the fried was just marginal and the broiled walleye was riddled with bones. I left, exceptionally disappointed.

And that’s the problem with fish fry in this area. It isn’t consistent. That’s why people drop anchor at their favorite and enjoy the experience for many reasons that have nothing to do with inconsistent fish and possibly dry pancakes. A friend of mine sent me a text on Friday night, just as I finished my gray dinner. He said, with more colorful adjectives, that the Evergreen Golf Course fish fry was terrible. The worst he’s ever had. An abomination, really. I took that to note and figured that based on his commentary I would be skipping Evergreen in future visits.

But I also sat back and thought that someone just left Evergreen the week before and told their friends it was the best fish they had ever eaten. Someone will leave the Waterfront this coming Friday and extol its impeccable delivery and marvel at the white, flaky flesh of both its cod and walleye. The problem with a fish fry is that for everything to go right there are too many factors. Too many nuances. Too many chances to serve me gray overcooked cod when all I really wanted was a nice little fish dinner.