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Fish Type: Cod     Price: $14.00

Overall, I would highly recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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Comment: A city does not a Fish Fry make. Sure, Madison has its share of top notch Fish Frys, and we obviously love them, but just because we have come to know and love our city doesn’t mean that other places don’t have their own great Fish Fry joints to choose from. For once we happened to have plans on a Friday (other than just eating fish), and since we were going to be in Milwaukee anyway we decided that a visit to the Lakefront Brewery made perfect sense. In a few short years, the Palm Garden has become known as one of the best Frys in the Milwaukee area and when you are presented with an opportunity to try an award winner it is your duty to take it, so we did.

We showed up at the riverfront establishment just after 6pm and were relieved to see that a line had not yet formed. We strode right up the hostess desk, ran into the folks we were meeting, grabbed a beer, and were shown to our table all within a few minutes. It would prove to be an auspicious beginning to a great meal. The Lakefront Fish Fry is basically a family style affair in that you are supposed to share a table with a bunch of randoms, but since our group was so large we were allotted a table all to ourselves. We sat for a bit and waited for Megan (our waitress according to the placard that decorated the table) to come over. Eventually she did and we were ready for her with dinner orders on the tip of our tongues.

Being that they are only open on Friday, you know that Fish Fry is the name of the game, and to that end they played the game well, offering up: cod, lake perch and bluegill for between $10 and $14. Since I had never been to there, and really didn’t want to miss out on any of the options I went for the $14 combo platter which housed each of the fish varieties as well as a couple of fried shrimp. The food came about 15 minutes or so after Megan got around to dropping the order by the kitchen and varied in temperature from piece to piece.

For starters I tried a piece of the bluegill which had a nice light breading and a good texture but was lukewarm at best. I quickly polished it off and stepped over to the cod, which was more enticing since it was steaming hot. The cod was much better than the cool-‘gill, as it had a flaky breading with some nice spice over pure white flaky bits of fish. After the drastic improvement from bluegill to cod I was sure the perch would be somewhat of a regression, but I was totally wrong. The singular butterfly of perch was as hot as the cod, but tasted even better. A similar (if not exactly the same) spicy breading complimented the perch perfectly and made for an idyllic taste sensation. The only downfall was that with the combo platter you only receive the one butterfly, which left me longing for more once it was expended.

Potato pancakes are a big deal when you see them in the Madison area due to the fact that most places just don’t serve them. Well, in Milwaukee it seems to be a bit of a different story and pretty much everywhere has them as the side of choice; the Lakefront is no exception. Unfortunately, like my bluegill, the pancakes tasted really good, but could/should have been much hotter. They were still nice and onion-y and clearly homemade, but unfortunately it seems like they came from a pancake assembly line where they make a bunch at a time then let them sit as they fill orders. I ‘spose this is how you have to do it when you serve this many people, but it still would be nice if they were fresher. One of our non-fish eaters got French fries which were also good, but not excellent. The Julienne cut tubers tasted good, but suffered from not have enough time in the fryer to get nice and crispy.

The perfect complement to a great Fish Fry is a great tartar, and Lakefront has it down. The thick, creamy sauce was about as close as perfect as you can get and reminded me so much of Wilson’s it was scary. The only drawback to it was the tiny portion, but since the fish portion was also kinda tiny I actually didn’t run out, which was a small miracle in and of itself.

Putting near-perfect finishing touches on this Fish Fry were a classic homemade slaw, and a classic basket of marble-rye bread (there was also some white bread present, but when you can get your hands on the real stuff, you just gotta go for it). The slaw was incredibly edible as was the traditional bread, their “stankiness” balanced the spicy breading and onion rich pancakes to a T.

Overall, this is simply a great fish fry, and an event the whole family can definitely enjoy. If there is one quibble I have it is that the portion size is less than impressive, but even that is fairly minor when you consider that everything you do get is top notch. After all, this is really what a great Fish Fry is all about - bringing together great food in a great atmosphere with lots of friends and family. Furthermore, the service was quick and friendly, and the Lakefront beer was actually decent (the Wheat Monkey definitely surprised me a little). In addition, there is a live polka band, with plenty of kid friendly tunes and a full-blown dance floor where kids and adults alike can cut loose after filling up on fried fish. If that don’t say Wisconsin, I don’t know what does. We loved the Lakefront, and think you will too.
2730 N Humboldt Blvd
Milwaukee, WI 53212

(414) 273-8300