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Fish Type: Cod     Price: $8.00

Overall, I would barely recommend this Fish Fry.

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

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Comment: There is something special about JJ’s Top of the Swamp. Maybe it’s the unique location? JJ’s is the only building on that stretch of 113 and is entirely surrounded by trees and marsh making it stick out like a sore thumb. Or, maybe it is no nonsense, semi-soiled-but-we-don’t-give-a-crap ambiance of the place? Then again, perhaps it’s the unique moniker that is as intriguing as it is off-putting at the same time? Whatever the case may be, JJ’s is an interesting place and features pretty darn good Fish Fry.

Rolling solo I pulled into JJ’s rather expansive lot just before noon and took a stool on the far side of the bar. The bartender came over a few seconds later, grabbed me a beer, and took my order. For lunch the TOTS features a 2-piece cod for eight clams which come complete with a soup or salad option. The cup of clam chowder I chose came out almost instantly and looked homemade. It featured big asymmetrical chunks of potato, to go with a modest amount of calm. The few bites of clam I did get were awesome though, as at least three or four had that faint sandy crunch at the end. I love that.

As I was polishing off the last bits of the chowder the steaming hot fish arrived. The cod was difficult to handle due to the extreme heat, but I managed as best I could. Each of the two chunks were large and meaty, and kind of tasted like they had been soaked in butter before frying. While the fish was marginally flaky, it was on the verge of going mushy from accumulating grease. To keep it from settling and soggifying too much I repeatedly turned it, but even that level of diligence was not enough. By the end, the light and spicy batter was totally separated from its host making the last few bites strictly a fork-only affair.

A heap of battered French fries teamed with the cod forming a dynamic duo. The Julienned potatoes were well fried and gave the necessary respite from the creamy cod. JJ’s tartar was also right on the money, and the thick, creamy, sauce gave the cod a real kick in the tail. It also helped to quell the greasier portions of the fish, making every last bit edible.

The next car on our Fish Fry train was a single slice of French bread which was home to an extremely tough crust that practically had to be sawn through. While it was nice to have on the trip with us it wasn’t exactly first class. The slaw car picked up some of the slack however, and the classic zesty blend helped keep this Fish Fry on track.

This was our second trip to the Top of the Swamp and it pretty much mirrored our first experience. The friendly folks, decent fish, and standard sides all stacked up to make for a good meal at a fair price. In addition, JJ’s does have seating beyond the bar and the three or four tables that flank it. During the dinner hours plenty of more space is made available in their surprisingly large dining room which is closed off for lunch. Overall, we feel comfortable recommending the Fish Fry at JJ’s, and feel like we will be back to frolic in this Swamp again before too long.

5344 State Road 113
Madison, WI 53704

(608) 249-0505