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Fish Type: Cod (AYCE)     Price: $8.00

Overall, I would not recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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Comment: My freshman year at UW I lived in the dorms and we had the cafeteria across the street. You never really wanted to go to “Pop’s” but sometimes you just had to. It always seemed that no matter what you ate you always left feeling the same way - like there was a rock in your stomach. This led me to develop a theory about the food at Pop’s which I dubbed the grey powder theory. It was adapted from a book I once read and went something like this: everything at Pop’s was made from the same basic powder substance, but molded and flavored to look like varying foods. So, the burger you had for lunch and the spaghetti you had for dinner were all made from the same base substance and just shaped, colored, flavored, whatever, to look like what they wanted it to look like. When the food reached your stomach it turned back into the grey powder and thus left you with the same crappy feeling every time. While I was never able to prove my theory I recently had an experience that left me believing it was still a possibility. A grey powder Fish Fry…

Hy-vee is a grocery store (and what seems to be a nice one at that). Usually (and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this) when people want a Fish Fry their thoughts don’t automatically turn to carts and aisles. In fact, of our 720+ Fish Frys we’ve only been to one other grocery store Fish Fry. Apparently Hy-vee has a fairly substantial kitchen with a seating area and has special buffets throughout the week. Of course, in Wisconsin this means there is going to be a Friday Fish Fry.

While there is an AYCE option for a few dollars more I felt my decision to go for the $8.00 single trip was sage. One time through still allows you up to six pieces and while they are on the smallish side they do add up. There are a lot of options including a bunch of baked fish (haddock among them) as well as three fried varieties (cod, lake perch and catfish). The sides were also abundant and would turn out to be the highlight (midlight?) of the meal.

In classic buffet fashion the fish had been sitting for a while and was lukewarm and rubbery (this is the biggest problem with buffets and why I usually avoid them altogether). Both the cod and the lake perch were very bland and not flaky in the slightest – fish that sits around rarely is. In addition, the batter was too thick and didn’t offer much flavor. While it did appear to be hand-battered, the length of time that passed between frying and eating was clearly more than this fish could bear. Perhaps the freshly fried batch that appeared moments after we sat down was better? I don’t know, but I do know that what we ate didn’t do my gut any favors.

Easing the pain somewhat was the plethora of side options, some of which were actually appealing. The mac-n-cheese turned out to be delicious, as were the “party potatoes.” The largest potato wedges I have ever seen were also available, and while they tasted delicious, they certainly contributed heavily to the boulder-belly that ensued.

A super pungent, and very mass-produced tasting, tartar was off-putting to say the least. It was repugnant and didn’t help the already weak fish one iota. Likewise, the coleslaw was tasteless, adding little if anything to the meal, some gut-rot aside.

The fish was lumpy, and the sides were heavy in their own right, but the real anchor that drug us into the depths was the roll. While it was lush, and chewy, with a subtle sweetness, it was incredibly dense. It almost felt like easting a memory-foam mattress or something similarily unappetizing. It was a meal in and of itself and really snuck up on me to deliver the final belly blow.

While I wasn’t expecting the world from the Hy-vee Fish Fry I still probably had my expectations too high. The sides and such were all perfectly acceptable, but the fish was just not up to snuff, and that’s really what it’s about after all. Part of it is the buffet style, and part of it is just the quality of the product, but when all was said and done I had that same old feeling I had after eating at Pop’s back in college – a belly full of grey powder. Overall, I don’t recommend this Fish Fry and probably won’t be back any time soon. My belly hurts.
3801 E Washington Avenue
Madison, WI 53704

(608) 244-4696