If you're one of the people who enjoys a Wisconsin fish fry every Friday night, thank Catholicism. Good Catholics know to refrain from eating meat -- which, seafood is apparently not considered meat -- on Fridays during Lent, though the tradition has even stuck around for Friday’s since. You don't have to be religious to appreciate a killer cod fry, you just have to visit one of these 10 MKE spots.
The Best Fish Fries in Milwaukee
This Serbian tavern has been around forever, thanks in large part to the fantastic food it serves. Almost everything on the plate of fish fry is homemade (potato wedges are the only exception), including the soft buttered rye bread and tangy secret recipe tartar sauce. The sibling owners are semi-retired now, so the tavern is only open on Friday and Saturday, allowing fans to still get their fix of one of the best fries in the city.
Menomonee River Valley
Locavore riffs on the fish fry tradition with its frito misto, a composed plate of tempura perch and broccolini, the slender, tender cousin of broccoli. Rye bread, cole slaw and remoulade are tucked in between the crisp tempura, just in case you might have forgotten that this is a Wisconsin fish fry.
There's a lot of fish fry options to choose from at this Riverwest sports bar. Battered cod, baked cod, perch and shrimp are all available in any combination, along with tilapia or shrimp Asian-inspired tacos with wasabi aioli and sweet chili sauce. They're all available on Wednesdays, too.
The usual fried cod and perch are offered at this 100-year-old German pub and restaurant, but you should order the whitefish. It's available broiled or fried, but broiled is the house speciality because it leaves the fish is tender and delicate. The lush patio makes this a great spot for summer fish fries.
Town of Lake
Fish fry is so popular at this supper club that they built a drive-up window just to dole out fish fries to the hungry masses on Fridays. That often leads to a backup of cars in a line on Layton Ave, but no one really seems to mind. Cod is breaded in a crunchy bread crumb crust and is served with the usual fixins, fries or potato pancakes and clam chowder.
What better place to enjoy a fish fry than a raucous beer hall, especially after a brewery tour? As large as it is, Lakefront gets crowded, so go early or be prepared to wait (live Polka helps with that). This is one of the few places around that still offers a smelt fry, so if you haven't tried those crunchy little fish, do it here.
This cozy pub in the heart of downtown serves up an incredible fish fry, giving you choice of cod, perch, shrimp, and bluegill, a small fish that's easy to catch and cook while camping but isn't seen on restaurant menus too often. Try the thinly sliced, lightly charred spicy vermouth carrots as your side.
Opened originally as a speakeasy during prohibition, Kegel's Inn used to offer fish fries free with a beer purchase once they turned into a full fledged bar. Of course they're not free anymore, but the hand breaded cod, perch, bluegill and pike are just as popular as ever. Though you get to choose your potato, don't even consider anything other than the dense potato pancakes.
The cod at Old German Beer Hall is beer battered, naturally. You get a half pound of it with fries, slaw, and rye, which makes a wonderful base in your stomach for that liter of beer. Plus there's a free keg tapped every Friday at 6pm, giving you even more incentive to get there early and start drinking.
Those with large appetites, take note: all you can eat cod is available at this pub on 1st St. if the four-piece dinner just isn't enough. If cod and perch aren't your thing, there's always the hand breaded fried shrimp, which are some of the best around.
1. Fritz's Pub3086 S 20th St, Milwaukee
2. Locavore, Milwaukee
3. The Tracks Tavern and Grill1020 E Locust St, Milwaukee
4. Jack Pandl's Whitefish Bay Inn1319 E Henry Clay St, Whitefish Bay
5. The Packing House900 E Layton Ave, Milwaukee
6. Lakefront Brewery1872 N Commerce St, Milwaukee
7. Swingin' Door Exchange219 E Michigan St, Milwaukee
8. Kegel's Inn5901 W National Ave, Milwaukee
9. Old German Beer Hall1009 N Old World 3rd St, Milwaukee
10. O'Lydias338 S 1st St, Milwaukee
This Milwaukee staple serves up quality Serbian food on Fridays and Saturdays (they're closed Sunday through Thursday). Definitely try Fritz's fish fry, one of the best in the city. All of the ingredients are home made, even the soft buttered rye bread and tangy secret recipe tartar sauce.
This trendy, New American spot in the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino serves organically sourced small plates inspired by the flavors of the Midwest. These farm fresh plates are perfect for brunch or late night, post high-rolling dining.
The relaxed vibe at The Tracks Tavern is so inviting, you'll never want to leave. Besides plenty of beer, liquor and sports options (they have multiple HDTV's for your football viewing pleasure), The Tracks serves up quality fish fries. Options like battered cod, baked cod, perch and shrimp are all available in any combination, along with tilapia or shrimp Asian-inspired tacos with wasabi aioli and sweet chili sauce.
Jack Pandl's has been serving up quality fish fries and German grub and beer in a warm, inviting atmosphere for over 100 years. On Fish Fry Friday's they do serve the traditional fried cod and perch, but the whitefish is not to be missed. It's available broiled or fried, but broiled is the house speciality, leaving the fish tender and delicate.
After over 30 years of supper club-ing, this spot has found its place again with a younger crowd. The classic menu includes stuffed mushrooms, shrimp cocktail, beef Wellington, prime rib, lobster thermidor, and steak au poivre.
The beers of Lakefront Brewery are a source of regional pride for Milwaukee, and it's easy to see why: in addition to being certified organic, they're also made with hops and barley sourced from the state of Wisconsin and made on-site at the historic Bernie Brewer's Chalet (pro tip: it's definitely worth a tour of the facilities, especially when you can taste the different beers at the end). The sprawling, brick-walled beer hall also features delicious culinary staples like fried cheese curds with garlic ranch dressing and beer-battered Polish sausage with sauerkraut, making it a popular destination for neighborhood regulars and tourists alike.
This downtown favorite serves up classic comfort food and cheap drinks in a cozy, old-timey saloon atmosphere. Definitely check out their fish fry, where you have your choice of cod, perch, shrimp and bluegill, a small fish that's easy to catch and cook while camping but isn't seen on restaurant menus too often. Try the thinly sliced, lightly charred spicy vermouth carrots as your side.
The Friday Fish Fry is a big deal here in MKE, and not just during Lent (though it does get even bigger then). Almost every restaurant, including the chains, offers fish fry. There's the option of German potato pancakes instead of fries at the best restaurants, like Kegel’s Inn in ‘Stallis. Cod and perch fried in crumb coating are the norm here, but you can get a very respectable baked fish too.
Old German Beer Hall is a wonderful place to kick back with a large beer and Bavarian festival food. The giant pretzels are imported from Munich and the bratwurst is really something special.
This Irish pub has a fully stocked liquor shelf, plenty of beer options and game day shuttles. If that doesn't sell you, O'Lydias also offers all you can eat cod if the two, three or four-piece dinner just isn't enough. Plus their hand breaded fried shrimp are some of the best around.