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Fish Type: Walleye     Price: $20.00

Overall, I would highly recommend this Fish Fry.

Fish Score: Excellent
Potato Score: Good
Tartar Score: Good
Bread Score: Good
Miscellaneous Score: Good

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Comment: Take-out is never the best option when you are talking about a Fish Fry. First off, a big part of any Fish Fry is ambiance - getting out of the house and welcoming the weekend with some drinks and camaraderie. Second, and most importantly, fried food (especially fish) doesn't travel well, and when it's trapped in a Styrofoam container it essentially gets steamed leading to soggy, mushy, and generally unappealing fish. For these reasons and more it's best to eat your as fish as soon after it's fried as possible which means sitting down at your favorite restaurant or bar for an hour or so and making an event out of it. Take-out should really only be thought of as a last resort, but it's the path we had to take this Friday.

I was only a week and a half removed from arthroscopic knee surgery and since there was no real way to go out to a sit down restaurant comfortably I had to take my medicine. I knew I'd be relegated to take-out so I took everything into consideration and decided that walleye and fries from Mariner's Inn was the best choice. MI is only about 3 minutes from our house so I knew travel time would be minimized, and I knew that the walleye would be breaded rather than battered and likely not soften up as much on the short journey. We also had some friends coming over and I figured the kitchen would be doing some order juggling so I wanted to be sure my fish had as much wiggle room as possible.

Clearly coordinating 6 meals in a to-go order is going to take some effort, but in general things arrived in fine shape. The walleye was a real deal, big-old fillet that looked superb despite the few minutes it spent in transit. The fat side of the fillet was a good inch and a half thick and home to the perfect walleye flavor. It seems like forever since I've had a genuine piece of walleye and I really missed that taste especially when it's paired with the exceptionally crispy and well-seasoned breading Mariner's applies to it. I was ripping seems, tearing planks apart, and loving every sticky, finger-licking bite. While it was though to do, I shared some with my fellow diners, and they agreed - this is the good stuff. I also dipped into the haddock and thought it was good but not quite as alluring as the walleye. The "fingers" were on the thin side, and cloaked by a pale batter that had a pleasant flavor. Four come to an order, and while they are significantly cheaper than either the walleye or lake perch at $14, I'd still splurge on either freshwater fish at $20.

Whereas everyone took a liking to their respective fish, the reviews on the tartar were mixed. Some thought it to be a bit boring, but I for one like a mayo dominated combo. I will concede an up-tick in the relish contingent of 10% or so would liven things up a bit and add little variety, but the walleye was so good on its own that the basic sauce served as a fine accompaniment. Since the haddock was a little more plain, I can see where a more diverse sauce would really perk it up so this is essentially a case of using the right sauce for the right fish, I guess.

My order of steak fries were battered and likely crispy when they came out of the fryer but I'd guess they were one of the first things fried because the small handful was lukewarm upon arrival and had lost its edge. Other's orders apparently still had the crunch so they must have been fried and boxed after mine. Oh well, it was no fault of their own and still a nice rendition which was much better than the standard fat supper club Julienne cuts.

Putting an exclamation point on the meal was a banger of a slaw that was ultra zippy but not overwhelming. It wasn't creamy, but not really vinegary either. It wasn't crunchy, but far from soupy. It was just seriously tasty, balanced, and literally some of the best slaw I can remember having recently. A selection of white and pumpernickel rolls were there to pick through as well, and made an impression on everyone..."They even sent the bread!?"

All things considered this was an amazing take-out experience. Fried food typically doesn't travel well, so we are really lucky to have a place like Mariner's so close to our home. Sure $20 is a lot for a Fish Fry, but under these circumstances I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Overall, we highly recommend this Fish Fry and will think of Mariner's more often when we want to stay close to home.
5339 Lighthouse Bay Drive
Madison, WI 53704

(608) 246-3120