It’s that time of year again. From Ash Wednesday all the way until Easter, the Midwest transforms into Fish Fry Central, where Catholics and non-Catholics alike come out every Friday night to dine on delicious fried fish, coleslaw, and french fries. Picking the perfect place to go can be very daunting, especially in an area as diverse as Milwaukee, so we (Katie Swick and Sydney Zahradka), set out on a journey to some local joints to bring you potential opportunities for future Friday nights to come! First up…
The Packing House (900 E. Layton Avenue)
Riding up to The Packing House (known as a casual supper club with one of the Best Fish Fry spots in Milwaukee) multi-colored fluorescent lights lit up the way. The service was super quick and efficient despite a line of cars all waiting for their own fish fry. What was great about the Packing House, located across from Mitchell Airport, was that the rye bread came pre-buttered! However, no lemon was included in our Styrofoam to-go box. This, however, was not a deal breaker as the fish fry itself was nice and flaky, but not beer battered. It’s a great place for something you can just get without having big expectations. For classic fish fry on the go, The Packing House is definitely the place to be.
Overall, The Packing House received a rating of 6.7/10.
St. Francis Brewery (3825 South Kinnickinnic Avenue)
After leaving The Packing House, we drove to the nearby St. Francis Brewer, in St. Francis, south of Milwaukee. Despite arriving around the busy hours of seven-to-seven-thirty and the large number of cars in the parking lot, it was not a long wait at all. After a few minutes, we were seated and our orders taken. The atmosphere of the brewery and restaurant is very nice, with mood lighting and spacious seating. One thing that stood out in terms of the menu was the option to substitute potato pancakes in exchange for fries. Wanting to get the full picture of this fish fry experience, we ordered both. The fish was battered and was incredibly crispy and warm. It had a great texture and tasted delicious. We remarked at how fresh it was. It also came with a lemon wedge, tartar sauce, french fries, and a dinner roll with butter. While very satisfied with our dining experience, it was noted that the fish is a little greasier than the one at Packing House, which yielded mixed results (half of our group didn’t mind the grease, while the rest wished there was less of it). For those looking for great fish and great atmosphere, St. Francis Brewery offers all that and more!
Overall, St. Francis Brewery received a rating of 8/10.
Café Hollander (2608 N Downer Avenue)
Café Hollander, located on the East Side just a few minutes south of UWM and a popular student hotspot, was the busiest of the three places we visited. Despite being seated around 9 PM, we were informed that all the fish had been eaten, so we could not sample any that night. I instead arrived a week later on a solo mission, rolling up at around 6:30 to a packed restaurant. However, because I was solo, I was able to be seated right away while pairs and groups were given wait times. Hollander’s fish is beer battered and very crispy. It was delicious, and unlike other locations, the taste of beer did not overwhelm the palate. I really enjoyed my meal at Hollander, and the service was efficient as well. If you are of legal drinking age, Hollander has a great deal of beers and ales that can pair nicely with their fry. If beer battered isn’t your thing either, they also have a potato crusted fish option as well that appeared to be just as popular as fried fish. Hollander is right near by the UWM area and has a lot of tasty options, but the big drawback is that they’re very popular, so if you do decide on Hollander, come early before they run out!
Overall, Café Hollander received a rating of 8.5/10.
This is not even remotely close to the amount of fish fry possibilities out there, but according to word of mouth, these were some of the best. Overall, a good time was had and the four of us ended the night very satisfied with full bellies. All of the places listed are encouraged for those who are looking for a good fry to go and try out. Happy eating!