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Fish Type: Haddock     Price: $14.00

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: By now we all have a pretty good idea of what Coopers Tavern has to offer. Coopers is a Food Fight place so you know everything is going to be well thought out, but a little sterile at the same time. Since it’s owned by a “restaurant group” and not an individual family things are a little more hands-off and managed rather than loved. That said, all the establishments are well coordinated and have been wildly successful so it’s hard to hold it against them. They are clearly doing something right.

Since it’s not family-owned and operated the idea of a Friday special goes right out the window and the best thing you can hope for in terms a Fish Fry is the $14 for Fish-n-Chips on the regular menu. The management at Coopers knows what they are doing and A) have a very impressive beer selection, and B) make sure the food comes quickly, and ours certainly did. The fish in this case is haddock which is encased in a very thick batter. Despite the abundant coating (which we usually loathe) the fish was still really tasty. The batter had lots of flavor which surprisingly complemented the smooth haddock rather than overwhelming it. An unexpected balance was struck and even though we wouldn’t go out of our way for this fish, we’d definitely get it again.

Like the fish, the skin-on, Julienne-cut fries were also good, but not great. The portion was adequate and the spuds were well fried so there’s nothing to complain about, but not a lot to rave about either.

We have come to expect consistency from the Food Fight folks which usually means there won’t be any surprises. When it comes to Fish Fry anything out of the ordinary is often unwelcome, but in the case of Coopers’ tartar we were surprised in the best of ways. The “shot glass” of anchovy infused sauce was incredibly zesty and flavorful, and really put the haddock in its place despite the bountiful better. There were clearly some mustard seeds in it which really perked things up and helped the creamy concoction last until the very end. Well played, management.

A little bit of house-made slaw came along for the ride, and like the tartar carried a surprise, but unlike the tartar this wasn’t a welcomed one. It was an incredibly sweet vinegar-based slaw that had a pear essence that we could have done without.

Since this was a Fish-n-Chips affair no bread was expected and sure enough none came.

While Fish Fry isn’t unique to family-run operations it certainly seems to thrive at them. We’ve had fish at several Food Fight restaurants including: Coopers, Craftsman, Monty’s, and Hubbard Avenue, to name a few, and not one has bowled us over even though all have been decent. There just seems to be a slight disconnect between making good food, and something uniquely special. Overall, we recommend the Fish-n-Chips at Coopers Tavern, but think there are plenty of better places to get your Fish Fry fix.
20 West Mifflin Street
Madison, WI

(608) 256-1600