It was a last minute decision, really. Earlier in the day I had decided that I’ve had enough of the fish fry scene for one spring. It was over for me, at least for now. No more fish. But then later in the day my wife asked if we were going to fish fry somewhere and I couldn’t help but say yes. My only other option was to go home and scrounge around to find some random ingredients out of which I might make something resembling dinner. Every night is an episode of Chopped in my house. And so it would be fish, and when my wife and son jumped into the car we headed East, somewhere towards a plate of fried fish.
There was a chance we were going to go to Harpoon Willies, but the road construction that has made this section of Williams Bay sort of on and off again passable has ruined my life. So I drove around the Bay as has been my course all spring, and we headed to Lake Geneva. The restaurant at The Ridge Hotel was an option, but my wife and son said they didn’t like it. Tough critics. Anthony’s was next, but I keep hearing that Anthony’s has sold and is closing (rumor that I have not substantiated), so I skipped it. I’ve heard good things about the fish at Hawk’s View, so we drove through town and turned into the golf course. The wait would be somewhere between one hour and two hours, and even though the dining room looked to have ample seating we were turned away. I hate this sort of thing, but such is life. There were other options to ponder, but we drove north and east and ended up at Ye Olde Bar and Hotel to eat their fish.
I actually thought this place, located in Lyons, about 8 minutes from Lake Geneva, was called Ye Olde Inn. But apparently it’s not. It’s called Ye Olde Bar and Hotel. I don’t know about the hotel part, but when I walked into the dimly lit space I did see the bar. The wait would be 15 minutes, which was fine. They have some comfortable chairs out on the covered front porch, and we sat there a spell and watched over the quiet nothingness of Lyons.
When we were summoned to our table, we sat in the window on the east side of the bar. This is an old timey space, and it doesn’t much care that you might think it’s a bit old fashioned. Or maybe it’s olde fashioned, because it’s right there in the name. We ordered some cheese curds and jalapeño poppers and the waitress told us that they might not be able to serve those because the fryer was pretty busy with fish. I thought this rather strange, but let it slide. We nursed our waters and let the freezing cold air conditioning blast off any remaining warmth that we might have stored up from the sunniest of Fridays. The fish fry options here are myriad, with all sorts of things like cod and perch and smelt and bluegill and something called Swai, which I was told is a whitefish. The reason you tell people it’s a whitefish is because google says it’s some gross carp like thing akin to tilapia, or maybe the same as tilapia, which we now know is just something they grow in golf course ponds in Florida to feed the alligators. I ordered the combo plate because the only thing better than some of the fish is all of the fish, except I told them to skip the smelt. I’m not interested in whole little fish where I’m expected to eat the bones just because they’re small. This is like saying you might want to grind up glass and eat it because the pieces are small, as if that matters. It would be $18 for the combo plate. We ordered at approximately 6:10.
The cheese curds and poppers were able to be fried in the small fryer, which was nice and unnecessary. They arrived table side 17 minutes after we ordered them, and while the curds were decent the poppers were pretty lame. No worries, this is an expected hiccup when living that fried life. At 6:44 I wondered where our fish was. The ice cold air conditioning washed over me in a stiff breeze. I walked outside to warm up. When I walked back in, I expected to see some fish, but there was none. I wished I had a jacket with. I thought about asking them to turn down the air, but everyone at the bar seemed content, so I just endured. The minutes felt like hours. I stared out the window wondering if I was in hell. Lyons, Hell, perhaps one in the same.
66 minutes after we first sat down the waitress came back to tell us she was sorry for our wait. The fryer was small. There’s only so much the fryer can do. I was nice about it, but inside I was dying. Actually, literally, dying. This would be it. Death in Lyons. My last meal wouldn’t be a steak and lobster, no, it would be jalapeño poppers filled with a cheese whiz like substance. What a way to go, I thought. The air conditioning blew harder still. I didn’t even want the fish anymore. I wanted to leave. I thought about ditching, but that’s not the sort of guy I am. So I just mumbled and watched my wife watch me, her disgust in my antics growing with each passing minute. My hunger intensified, the gale of cold air blew, and time stood still. Was I still alive? The waitress said we’d get some free desserts, but I could barely hear her. The room was spinning now. The lights were dimming. This is what dying feels like, I told my wife. She nodded.
The fish came out sometime after this. But I’m not going to review it. The delay caused an automatic disqualification. Serve me fish with bones in it? DQ. Make me wait all night for fish? DQ. We ate the food and grabbed our free desserts and headed for the exit. The people here were nice. The waitress was concerned and I appreciated her attention and empathy. But on this night, the wait was just too long. I would tell you that Ye Old Bar and Hotel is worth a visit, but you best arrive very early in the evening so as to avoid my unfortunate fate.
Ye Old Bar and Hotel