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Fish Type: Cod     Price: $6.50

Overall, I would not recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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Comment: There is nothing worse than going into a situation with high hopes and having them dashed. Unfortunately, when you are trying to find the greatest in Fish Fry, this scenario plays out repeatedly. Someone will tell you, “you have gotta try such and such, they are the best,” then you go there only to find it to be not at all what you were expecting. While this is no one’s fault, it is an unavoidable consequence of personal taste. A little birdy told me that the Seafood Center is one of, if not THE, best Fish Fry in town. Grandiose claim, I know, but it seemed to be well supported by the online community. Armed with what I felt was reputable info, I proceeded to the Seafood Center to procure myself some takeout.

The Seafood Center on Whitney Way has been around forever, but fairly recently, spun off another location on Old Sauk Road. Since I assumed the locations to be identical, for all intents and purposes, I just picked one and headed out. Upon arriving at the Old Sauk location around 6pm and I was pleased to see that I would not be eating my takeout in the car as planned (they have a counter and some stools along the wall where 6 or so people can sit and eat). As soon as someone behind the main counter was ready, my order was taken: one $9.50 lake perch with an additional piece of cod (the SC lets you tack on as many pieces as you want at less than two bucks a pop). I paid, and then waited the 10 minutes, or so, until my order was ready.

I grabbed a stool and tore into my bag of fried goods. I went right for a piece of perch and plunged it into the huge cup of tartar. The perch was really quite good. The six, or so, small fillets were pretty firm, but maintained a flaky texture. They were covered in a light batter which clung to the fish well, but did not have a lot of flavor. Unfortunately, as I expected based on the numerous bottles for sale around the establishment, the tartar was straight-up Kraft, and was just horrible. It did not improve the taste of the fish one bit, and if fact, made it quite objectionable. The two massive cups went to waste as the bulk of my fish was consumed sans-tartar. Luckily for them, the perch and cod were good enough to stand on their own. Speaking of the cod, the flaky-white pieces were wafer thin and enjoyed the same batter as the perch. I actually think the batter worked a little bit better on the cod which seemed to be moister and more succulent than the perch. Overall, both were good, but damned by the Kraft.

Furthermore, the fish was steaming hot and must have come directly from the fryer while the French fries clearly did not. They were lukewarm by the time I got at them, but still tasted pretty darn good. They were thick cut and looked homemade, but all I could think was that they would be excellent if they were a little hotter.

Of course, even though we are in Wisconsin and Fish Fry is King, the Seafood Center bills their Friday fare as Fish-n-Chips, and lets the bread fall by the wayside. For shame. Although an abundant amount of slaw does come along for the ride, it in no way makes up for the lack of starch even if it is decent, as this stuff was.

Overall, I think this fish and fries at the Seafood Center are recommendable, but the commercial tartar and lack of bread make the total experience a bit of a downer. When you add in the fact that they mainly focus on takeout, it makes the dining experience even more lackluster to the point that I probably will not be back. It also turns out that $9.50 for lake perch sounds like a sweet deal, but when the portion is small, and no bread is included, it really isn’t a bargain. I do like the fact that you can add additional pieces, and assume that if I lived close enough I would just get takeout and use my own homemade tartar. As it stands, with no bread being served, and Kraft as the tartar of choice, this is just not the Fish Fry for me. Color my hopes dashed.

8452 Old Sauk Road
Middleton, WI 53562

(608) 836-5440