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Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008

World-Wide Fish Fry

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It’s a beautiful coupling really: Milwaukee’s ethnic diversity combined with our cherished Wisconsin fish fry. Just to get a grasp on our reverence for the almighty fish fry, know that restaurants in other parts of the country, if they offer them at all, often relegate their fish fries to Fridays during Lent, a mere 40 days, mind you. Here in Wisconsin, it’s a year-round practice.

Listed are some of the area’s most celebrated ethnic fish fries, which include those that (gasp!) don’t fry the fish at all:

The Britinn
4473 N. Oakland Ave. Shorewood (414) 755-2357

Shhhhh—don’t tell an Englishman this, but what those across the pond call “fish and chips,” is actually a fish fry. Regardless of the semantic confusion, the Brits really know how to prepare this time-honored dish. Britinn owner Tony Wright is no exception. Three lightly battered and crispy pieces of tender Icelandic cod are sided with a generous portion of flavorful chips (American translation: fries) filling out the plate. The meal is well-rounded with marble rye, homemade tar tar sauce and coleslaw. The pub’s impressive selection of draught beers may have you saying “fish and chips” before the night is through.

Cafe El Sol
1028 S. 9th St. Milwaukee (414) 384-3100 www.unitedcc.org

“If anything, we try to make our fish fry totally different,” explains Chef Arturo Napoles of Cafe El Sol. Rather than a heavy beer-battered crust, his three to four ounce cod fillets are dipped in a delicate mixture of flour, eggs and spices. To give the fish a Latin kick, Napoles uses ingredients like achiote, which is made from colorful and pungent annatto seeds. On Fridays, Cafe El Sol offers their fish fry during the lunch hour, and as a buffet for dinner. The $11.95 all-you-can-eat fish fry includes broiled fish in a butter sauce, two Puerto Rican or Mexican entrees and sides like salad, beans and rice. Each Friday evening buffet also includes "La Pea" performances, live Latin entertainment named for an old Spanish tradition of gathering around bonfires to share experiences through music, dance and stories.

Grecian Inn
14375 W. Capitol Drive Brookfield (262) 781-6333

One thing and one thing only is served as a daily special on Fridays at the Grecian Inn: fish. Fortunately, dinners aren’t restricted to just one style. Owner George Dimitropoulos offers an all-American fish fry that shares a plate with the usual suspects: choice of potato, soup or salad and dessert; but then he also serves a baked cod in a lemon butter sauce, as well as breaded lake perch. His Greek roots are really revealed, however, in the form of bakalao a la skordalia (salt cod with garlic mashed potatoes) and plaki, a meticulously pre pared dish of baked cod topped with a “light, tomato based sauce made with fried onions, celery, garlic, olive oil and parsley,” explains Dimitropoulos. “It’s a lot of work.” But well worth it.

Polonez Restaurant
4016 S. Packard Ave. St. Francis (414) 482-0080 www.foodspot.com/polonez

At Polonez on the South Side, the reassuring presence of owners George and Aleksandra Burzynski ensure service with old-fashioned courtesy and authentic dish es prepared just like George’s grandma would make in the Old Country. Door County lake perch (okon in Polish) and cod (dorsz) are hand-breaded and deep fried.

Baked cod is topped with a red sauce made with sauteed vegetables, appropriately called a Greek sauce (see Grecian Inn above). The most popular sauce to adorn the baked fish is a sinfully creamy dill sauce. Ideal complements to the entrees include homemade potato pancakes and coleslaw made from scratch.

Serb Hall
5101 W. Oklahoma Ave. Milwaukee (414) 545-6030 www.serbhall.com

It’s hard to argue when Serb Hall claims the title of “World’s Largest Fish Fry.” On any given Friday, the Hall serves 1,500 to 2,000 plates of fish, which includes Icelandic cod, fresh water lake perch, Alaskan Pollock, walleye and haddock. While the deep fryer has its way with most of them, the cod has the choice of being baked to moist completion. When asked about the Serbian-style baked cod topped with special sauce and Serbian spices, the Hall is tight-lipped. Looks like we’ll just have to keep ordering and sampling the Eastern European dish until the recipe is cracked. Lucky us!

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