Living to Ride… Riding to Eat

RAG logoThe Friday Night Fish Fry  in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin

by Robin “Rockin Robin” Bertucci

Growing up in Louisville, KY and then moving to the Chicago Suburbs in my early teens, I have come to realize that I lead a sheltered life.  Moving over the Cheddar Curtain to Southeastern WI 15 years ago, I was soon introduced to the Friday Night Fish Fry, a tradition in Wisconsin, with a history dating back to the 1800’s.  Baked, broiled, and deep-fried, the Friday night fish fry is ubiquitous Wisconsin cuisine. RAG Fish Fry The strong German-Catholic heritage in the state and the connection with meatless Fridays, along with the proximity to the Great Lakes fresh fish supply, and the “German imbibement factor”, (Wisconsin families frequently take their children to the taverns on Fridays to have fish and eat drink and be merry) began what has become a Friday night ritual. I’ve researched the history and there are conflicting opinions as to the origins.  One being that the large Breweries of the era owned many of the taverns and restaurants in Milwaukee and soon saw the opportunity to offer the fish fry as bait to sell more beer. (Like they needed a reason in Wisconsin).  The fish fry gained steam during the Prohibition era as a way to lure customers in when alcohol sales were forbidden.  Fish Fry menu on Friday nights was an affordable activity that entire families could participate in and became a widely recognized family tradition through out the state.  Another researcher explains that many men were paid on Fridays so they would take their wives out for fish dinner and relaxation, hence their popularity.  Personally, I’m leaning towards the explanation of the great marketing minds of the major breweries. I find the menu at most fish fries are similar, but preparation and pricing can vary… My first experience, which has become my old stand by, is served up at the Twin Lakes Country Club.  They offer “Beat the Clock” pricing.  From 4:30pm – 6:00 pm you pay only $7.77 for all you can eat (moving forward known as AYCE)  deep fried Pollack and/or broiled Cod, choice of potato pancakes or French fries, cole slaw, applesauce and rye bread with butter.  From 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm the price rises to $ 8.88 and after 7:00 pm you’ll pay $9.99 for AYCE.  They also allow you to order a half broiled and half fried plate.  Fun times at TLCC include the Winter Bed Races on an oval snow packed track, this year Jan. 27, 2013 at 1:00pm.  Call for details if you’d like to participate or just come out and root for your favorite team!   Twin Lakes Country Club – 1230 Legion Dr.  Twin Lakes, WI  53181 (262) 877-2500   http://www.tlccgolf.com For the best Friday Night ride, check out the Palmyra Bowl Fish Fry in the quaint town of Palmyra WI,  just a few miles south of Eagle, WI….The main floor, known as the Cornerstone Level and an old fashioned bowling alley downstairs can accommodate up to 150 guests. Their unique approach to dining there is that you place your dinner order with the hostess and then head to the bar until your table is ready…Promptly upon seating your food arrives, piping hot.  They too offer an AYCE option of baked or fried Cod or if you’re not feeling gluttonous, you can order a 2 or 3 piece fish dinner.  All FF Dinners are served with homemade potato pancakes, fries or baked potato, coleslaw, applesauce and rye bread.   I highly recommend taking a ride there on a summer evening.  After dinner, head downstairs for a game of bowling.  Palmyra Bowl – 300 W. Main Street Palmyra, WI 53156. (262)-485-2071  https://www.facebook.com/thepalmyrabowl Freddie’s West End on the shores of Lake Como is another hot spot for Friday Night Fish Fry.  It’s a bit hard to find, but the small neighborhood bar with a homespun feel serves up several varieties of fish. Although not an AYCE dinner, the portions are ample and choices for $11 include: Walleye Pike, Blue Gill, Fried Shrimp, Shrimp DeJonge or Poor Man’s Lobster (baked White Fish served with drawn butter).  All dinner include homemade cole slaw, salted rye bread, potato pancakes, French fries or baby baked potatoes.  Baby chocolate éclairs are a complimentary finish to your meal.  Freddie’s West End– W4118 Lake Shore Dr. on the north side of Lake Como, the official address lists as Lake Geneva, WI.  262-248-6183. Local Folks in Slades Corners, WI.  just down the street from the infamous Mushroom Farm on Highway 50, is another great home-style eatery. Reasonably priced at $9.99 for AYCE beer battered or baked Cod and the traditional sides; cole slaw and choice of potato pancakes, French fries or baked potato.  Service was swift and very friendly.  They serve a mean breakfast too, but I’ll save that for the next review.  Local Folks – 39601 60th Street.  Slades Corners (Burlington mailing address) WI 53105  – (262) 539-3200 I’ve saved the best for last….Doyle’s Pub in Richmond, IL (close enough to the Wisconsin border to be considered) serves up my top rating for Friday Night Fish Fry.  Not AYCE, but portions grand enough to take home for a second meal. The lightly fried Beer Battered Icelandic Cod, melted in my mouth.  Served with a unique tarter sauce (tasted a bit of dill), homemade tangy coleslaw, hush puppies and crispy potato pancakes (or baked sweet potato), the close attention to preparation and generous portions, along with a great pub atmosphere, lead to my top honors. Don’t miss Doyle’s Pub annual Wing Eating Contest to support St. Baldrick’s Foundation on Sunday March 3, 2013.   Doyle’s  Pub – 5604 Mill Street Richmond, IL  60071 (815) 678-3623  www.doylespubrocks.com I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of Wisconsin (and some northern IL) Friday Night Fish Fries, each with their own unique flair, and there’s always the hard to find Fish Bowl…..best one around is Fitzgeralds in Genoa City, WI.  It starts with boiling fresh potatoes and whole onions, outdoors over a wood fire. Then fresh cod is added to each batch – served along locally famous BBQ chicken and BBQ ribs. The honey barbeque sauce is a well kept family secret with a sweet whiskey base. Unlike other fish boils that use trout or whitefish, the cod that is served is completely free of skin and bones. Served with drawn butter, the sweet taste of the boiled cod is very close to that of lobster. Yummy!   Fitzgerald’s Genoa Junction Restaurant & Gift Shop 727 Main Street (Hwy B), Genoa City, WI 53128  – (2 miles NW of Richmond, IL) Phone: 262-279-5200  |  Email: info@fitzgeraldsfishboil.com And if you’re looking for more FNFF locations check out:  www.fridayfishfryguide.com Remember, bikes parked outside mean good food inside Next up: Best Biker Breakfasts Comment on this article below, submit your suggestions of locations we should feature or send me your suggestions to Email: RockinRobin@mc-rag.com   
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