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Fish Type: Smelt     Price: $9.00

Overall, I would not recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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Comment: Your grandma likes the DeForest Family Restaurant. And why wouldn’t she? The place is geared towards her - inoffensive grub at reasonable prices with very few surprises. It’s the kind of place for those who want comfort food, bottomless cups of coffee, and a counter where they can sit and BS with their friends all morning long. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. At least not yet.

I rolled into the DFR around noon after a failed attempt at Rude’s Lanes (not sure if Rude’s is closed for good or were just closed this Friday, but either way their awning was gone). Since it was noon there were plenty of open booths, but the counter was fairly busy which thwarted my attempt to eat up there. I took a quiet booth that was kind of out of the way, and had a waitress there to help me within a few seconds – she was great.

There are a few options on the special Friday section of the menu including: beer battered walleye or cod (the cod comes AYCE on Friday), and a Smelt Fry. While I was interested in the walleye (had it not been beer battered), when it’s billed as a “Smelt Fry” I just can resist it for some reason, so that’s where my $9 went. The smelt also comes with a soup/salad option (but no coleslaw) and since it was Friday I went for the clam chowder over a house salad.

The chowder came lickity-split and started the meal off well. It was on the creamy side, but had as much corn in it as clam, which seems to be a theme in DeForest (these folks love their corn). It went down quickly along with a couple stale-ish House Recipe crackers, and no sooner had I set the spoon down than the smelt showed up.

There were three dishes in all (besides the soup): a plate with the smelt and sauces, one with hash browns with cheese and onion ($0.99 extra for the cheese), and a little bowl of corn. There were a good 15 smelt on the plate and I wasted no time going after them. Each one was smothered in an abundant batter that really masked the fish. It was a little too thick for my tastes and accounted for at least 1/3 of each fish’s total mass. The batter also lacked any discernable seasoning which is sorta what you come to expect at family restaurant kind of places. The portion was ample and the fish was inoffensive, but when you’re talking Fish Fry unique batter is the name of the game and the DFR played it a little too safe. The smelt was also very fishy tasting which is what you expect so if you don’t like that essence you’d best just stay away altogether.

Diner-style places usually know what they are doing when it comes to hash browns and the DFR is no different. The cheddar-laden spuds were adequately fried and came in a big portion, but were nothing really special, although perfectly acceptable. The tartar was also acceptable, although about as basic as you are going to find. It had a nice consistency and visible relish, but not much zing. A side of cocktail sauce also came with the smelt, but keeping with the theme was kind of bland, and much more ketchup-y than horseradish-y. If nothing else it at least picked up the slack when the tartar ran out.

Not only was there no slaw with the Smelt Fry, but there was no bread either! While I like don’t mind a side of canned corn and some corny clam chowder it certainly isn’t a substitute for my bread and slaw. Add-ons are always welcome at a Fish Fry, but not in lieu of the staples, and bread and slaw are as stapled as you can get.

While I really wanted to like this Fish Fry I just can’t fully endorse it. The food was fine, but I can’t help but feel like this is really more of breakfast place than a fish place. Overall, we don’t recommend the Smelt Fry at the DeForest Family Restaurant and probably wouldn’t come back for it.
505 W North Street
DeForest, WI 53532

(608) 846-6910