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Fish Type: Cod     Price: $8.00

Overall, I would recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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Comment: When the going gets tough, the tough get going; likewise, when political unrest hits the streets of Madison, the citizens of our great state head to the gay bar. Wait, gay bar? Did I just hear that right? Yup, you did.

A reputable source recently informed us that the Shamrock had pulled a total one eighty with their Fish Fry; jumping ship on the frozen pre-battered junk, and reportedly landing in the more pleasant waters of hand battering. As droves of protestors flocked to the Capital to rally against the Budget Repair Bill, we braved the chaos in pursuit if a plate of fish. We waited for the noon hour to pass (figuring it would improve our odds), and skipped down West Main to see how credible our source really was. I arrived at 1pm, and found my companion, Jer, cozied up with a Spotted Cow, and waiting for me among one of the largest lunch crowds in Shamrock history.

Since I don’t frequent the ‘Rock I’m not sure if it was actually a record setting Friday crowd or not, but based on my knowledge of the place, I have to assume it was up there. They were swamped with alternative and non-alternative folks alike, but luckily for me, Jer arrived before the masses and treated us to one of the finest tables in the house. It took at least 15 minutes for me to get my hands on a beer, and another 45 before we had food, but spirits were so high in the bar it didn’t really even matter. There was a strange kind of camaraderie this Friday, and no, not that kind camaraderie either. Although, Jer was getting a few not-so-subtle glances from an interested onlooker at the bar…

Even though it took almost an hour for our food to arrive, it was freshly fried, and nice and hot when it did. At first glance it was clear that “deepthroat” had not led us astray. The cod was hand battered, as advertised, and downright delicious despite the fact that the batter was kind of dark (a sure sign that the oil in the fryer doesn’t get changed very often). Regardless, the batter was still very light, and had a good flavor which complimented the flaky fish quite well.

On our previous visit they had inexplicably run out of fries, but it appears that they are doing a better job of featuring their Fish Fry at this point and are making a concerted effort to keep their own potato products in stock. The “usual” fries we received this go-round were of the thick cut Julienne variety, and while some were undercooked, they were very good overall. The extra thick tartar was also right on the money, and while it could well have been the Sysco-standard, it did what it needed to do. The small cupful was nice and creamy with just the right hint of relish, and actually sufficed for the three pieces of fish.

Now, I know on our last visit some sort of bread came with the fish, but for whatever reason it was nowhere to be seen today. Perhaps they just forgot due to the rush, or maybe they phased it out to cut costs while raising the quality of the fish? Regardless, it wasn’t there and we were not the least bit pleased with that. Somewhat making up for the absent starch was a generous amount of homemade coleslaw, but while the cabbagy-y concoction eased the pain, it couldn’t dull it entirely.

Considering how busy the Shamrock was the two members of the wait staff did a marvelous job; they were running around, taking orders, slinging drinks, and doing it all without the slightest hint of resentment. It was sort of remarkable, because with the influx of out-of-towners they easily could have been overwhelmed and thrown their hands up, but they didn’t. They stuck it out and served every one of those customers as best they could.

It is a beautiful thing when bears, twinks, queens and Fish Fry geeks can all frolic side by side in peace and harmony. While you might think a place like the Shamrock wouldn’t have a clue when it comes to satisfying the Fish Fry contingent of that group, you’d be wrong. They have stepped their game up, and are now pimping fresh fish, funky fries and a tangy tartar which are all very good. They are so good in fact, that even without some sort of bread this is still a recommendable Fish Fry. The Shamrock has always billed itself as a place for all people, and now I can safely say that includes those whose love their fish, fried.
117 W. Main Street
Madison, WI 53703

(608) 255-5029