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Fish Type: Ocean Perch (AYCE)     Price: $11.50

Overall, I would not recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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Comment: Remember Spuds MacKenzie? We all loved Spuds when we were younger, and thought that nothing could be cooler than the Budweiser mascot. Most of us figured that if, and when, we grew up we would be Bud drinkers based on our love for this hot dog. As adults, we look back on the pompous pooch with fond memories and think back to how loose and carefree our childhood days were. Our first couple trips to Talula were kind of like Spuds MacKenzie. We had a good time and it seemed like everything was cool. The fish was plentiful and the sides helped to make for a great meal. Well, we recently revisited Talula with some friends and found that like Spuds MacKenzie, our memories were better than the actual experience.

By the time we got to Talula, around 7:30, our friends were already seated in the dining room waiting for us. We took our seats and figured the sluggish looking waiter would be over shortly. About 5 minutes later he moseyed on by and began to take our orders. Apparently Talula has decided to kick their Friday special into high gear by offing a whole bunch of new fish options. In addition to the once proud AYCE ocean perch and haddock, they have added beer battered cod, lake perch, and walleye. Since I am always willing to branch out, I inquired into the availability of the lake perch. Apparently, wasted waiter forgot to query the kitchen as to which fish were still in stock before coming by, and had to make this trip after the fact. He came back in short order, and reported that the lake perch and walleye were long gone, leaving the untested cod along side the ocean perch and the haddock. Even with this change in options we were ready to order on the spot, but for some reason he wanted to give us some time to think about it. When he finally came back, over 10 minutes later, we were more than ready and getting a little PO’d with his serving sloppiness.

Of the fish eaters, we had one each of: cod, haddock and ocean perch. Soon after the order went in the rolls and the soup/salad hit the table. Talula is known to have some excellent ciabatta bread, but unfortunately they have strayed away from offering it (at least on Friday nights). The warm dinner rolls that have been substituted, while good, can’t hold a candle to the ciabatta. In addition the once proud clam chowder also seems to have regressed to a creamy potato mix, which, while tasty, was nearly devoid of any actual clam.

After polishing off the chowder and a couple buns the fish was rolled out. I jumped right on it and introduced the fish and tartar to my gullet. The ocean perch was okay, but certainly not as good as it used to be. The fillets were long and pretty meaty; however the “fishy” taste I have come to expect from ocean perch was replaced with more of a “fish stick” taste. The texture of the fish fell in line, and the once tender and flaky chunks were kind of grainy and certainly didn’t do it for me. It did have a light batter, but even this coating lacked falvor. When all was said and done, and server boy finally came back around to ask about AYCE, I couldn’t even handle any more. The reports around the table were that the cod and haddock were both good, but it sounded like the new stars of Talula Fish Fry were probably the sold out walleye and lake perch. So much for the AYCE.

Like the fish, the French fries seem to have regressed. The Julienne style potatoes were fried to a crisp and while I found them acceptable, others were less pleased. Luckily, the tartar was a nice blend with a thick consistency that improved fish and fries dramatically. We didn’t get any slaw with our Fish Frys, but I certainly think a small scoop is in order especially since none of the fish is less than $11.

Overall, I don't think I can still recommend this Fish Fry, especially not as highly as I once did. This visit was just a weird experience, partially thanks to our crazy waiter who just didn’t have it all together. Obviously the service was a little off, but so were the fish, fries and the rolls. One of Talula’s biggest selling points was their awesome bread and AYCE fish. Once this bread is gone, and all I can eat is one serving, the whole deal kind of loses its luster. Clearly everything has degenerated and the patronage of the place shows it. Let’s just say, they are no longer packed to the gills on Friday nights.

Much like Spuds MacKenzie in the late 80s, Lent 2010 went out with a thud. The cool, new place, with the funky AYCE Fish Fry seems to have devolved into the corner cutting, stoner hiring, out of lake perch by 7:30, kind of place. In our opinion, the pink cube is on a downward spiral. By trying to run the gamut, they have caused their bread and butter to suffer, which leaves them with a bunch of mediocre options instead of one great one. Their simple AYCE OP, coupled with some great sides had a niche, whereas this new amalgamation of choices falls just above the Mendoza line.
802 Atlas Avenue
Madison, WI 53704

(608) 441-1977