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Fish Type: Bluegill     Price: $15.00

Overall, I would recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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Comment: Madison Fish Fry grew up with the Minnesota State Golden Eagles football team well before there was a real Minnesota State University. Hayden Fox was the Coach of this squad and his show brought its 90s style of humor into our living rooms on a weekly basis. Eventually the program ran its course and gave way to other, less football related, TV shows. Luckily for fans of all thing coaching related, a new bar and grill has opened in Cross Plains, in the space once occupied by PJ Mueller’s. Back in our pre-Fish Fry review days, MFF visited PJ’s and was not really impressed; therefore we weren’t all that surprised when the place closed its doors. Fortunately for us, and the citizens of The Plains, the place wasn’t closed forever, and recently reopened as Coach’s Club: Sports Bar and Steakhouse.

On any given Friday the area surrounding Coach’s Club and The Monk’s Retreat is a hub of activity. Vehicles overflow the tiny parking lots and are forced into whatever open space happens to be on the street or in the neighboring business’ lots. We somehow finagled a spot across the road and made the short jaunt to the restaurant around 7:30 PM. We were greeted by a friendly bartender who pointed us towards the hostess station after we grabbed a drink, and inquired about a table. As soon as the hostess returned to her roost she ushered us to an open spot on the upper level of the restaurant. Our waiter (who was reminiscent of a slightly younger Luther Van Dam) came by a few minutes later, dropped some water, and told us that the cod was sold out. Really? The cod was sold out before 8 PM on Friday night? Not good, I thought. Luckily (for them) I was here for some freshwater fish action and the lack of cod played not into my decision, although it was a bit alarming, and clearly noted. If you want cod, you should apparently get to Coach’s really early.

When “Luther” came back a few minutes later I put in for one $15 plate of bluegill while the little lady concocted a specialty veggie sandwich which was not on the menu, but do-able according to Luth. 10-15 minutes later our plates appeared and were hot, but not scalding, as I presume Luther’s general sluggishness prevented a timely delivery. As soon as I could get my hands on one of the 11 bluegill fillets I seized the opportunity and went to town. The fish looked great and had a delicious flavor to match. The batter was nice and light and complimented the slightly fishy bluegill perfectly. Much like the Coach’s girl Christine, it was the total package. Not only did it look appealing, but its beauty went beyond its exterior and revealed a true down to earth goodness. Great fish all around.

Hayden’s secondary sidekick, Dauber, was a heck of a nice fella, but was definitely a few bricks shy of a load. The Club’s waffle fries were somewhat reminiscent of his youthful ignorance and while they tasted just fine, they were lukewarm when they came and in a very small portion. I ate them all, but how could I not? There were hardly any of them and I ran out way before I exhausted my 11 fish fillets. Like Daub, those that were present had a simple, genuine goodness even if they weren’t plentiful.

If there is one thing Hayden Fox knew how to do it was coach ‘em up. He got his kids ready for every game and I think he would have been more than pleased with his team if it performed as well as the tartar did. This was definitely a saucy sauce. It was comprised mostly of mayo, but had enough relish, to keep it interesting. When combined with what appeared to be a hint of pimiento, the tartar made its case for player of the game by improving each and every bite of the bluegill. In the end, the fish was the star of the show, and took home the MVP honors, but the tartar was clutch.

When Luther initially dropped our food I noticed that my plate was lacking a certain semolina (and somethingerother) bread. I immediately inquired as to where it was (it was listed on the menu) and he trotted off to retrieve it. As it turns out, I am glad I said something because the homemade-looking bread was warm and tasty. I would likely have given it an excellent if it had come straight away, but since I had to remind them I have to dial it down a notch and give them a good. I think this is more than generous due to the fact that if I would have gotten stiffed their score would have suffered even more.

One of the more interesting ancillary characters on Coach was Hayden’s daughter Kelly. She was a sweet girl who didn’t share her father’s passion, but had many interests all her own. Coach’s coleslaw apparently took a few lessons from her. It was clearly homemade and boasted a lovely apple cider vinegar taste. It was cool and sweet and had just enough flavor to keep you coming back for more. While it wasn’t a traditional Fish Fry slaw, it really worked well, much like the dynamic between the TV father and daughter.

Coach enjoyed a long run of nine great seasons and I see comparable longevity in Cross Plains’ similarly named establishment. The Fish Fry was really good and I have no problem recommending it, even at $15. The portion of bluegill was enough to make up for the fairly high price, even if the fries were somewhat lacking. The tasty tartar added a lot to the meal and the extras all played their parts perfectly. In addition, the place is practically brand new and has a real nice low-end steakhouse look and feel to it. Maybe the best thing about Coach is that it will live forever in reruns, and it makes me think that it won’t be too long before we give the Fish Fry at Coach’s Club a rerun of its own. Next time maybe I’ll try the cod? I haven’t caught that episode, yet…
1200 Main Street
Cross Plains, WI 53528

(608) 413-0400