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Fish Frys

The Avenue, Madison

classicwisconsin was walkin' around Madison, because Madison is a great walkin' around town, with the Capitol and the lakes and the nutjobs and all, just walkin' around thinkin' about fish frys, because that's what classicwisconsin does, walk around thinkin' about fish frys, when classicwisconsin got weepy for the long lost Goeden's Fish Market Restaurant on University Ave. Had to be the most underrated fish joint in the state. God, what a beautiful place. Kind of a dive. Had a four-stool bar, a gill net on the wall, a couple of those 8th grade science charts -- Fish of the Great Lakes and Fish of the North Atlantic -- you know, with the encyclopedia-style pictures and tiny descriptions with science class mumbo jumbo: Percopsis omiscomaycus… Perca fluviatilis…Schmelt. 

The coup de grace was the big window overlooking the street. During the winter months Goeden's was a bit drafty so they covered the window with that Saran Wrap stuff and it actually added to the ambiance. 

classicwisconsin won't even get started about the smelt, other than to say the smelt was always running at Goeden's and classicwisconsin et there every day for pert near seven years. 

The place had been a meat market decades earlier. The fish was displayed on crushed ice in the original display cases. You could choose your personal, soon to be devoured fish before it hit the pan. Their secret was in the seasonings. When Goedens held its grand closing, the night classicwisconsin went on a smelt jag and hallucinated for a day, the nice Goeden couple that ran the joint promised to mail the recipe to all the regulars. classicwisconsin never heard from them, maybe just as well. It wouldn't have been the same. 

And it hasn't been the same, at least not in Madison. 

Goeden's closing came as Mad City was becoming more like Mad Cityland, the urbane latte town. Yeah sure, upscale and faux-cosmopolitan is nice, but classicwisconsin isn't looking for fancy pants bars charging $9 for a martini. (We're not making that up. Nine bucks for a shot of gin! Hell, you can stop by the classicwisconsin headquarters and -- for no charge to you or your loved ones -- go swimming in a bathtub full of gin.) 

And fish fry wise, we're not looking for the over-hyped deep-fried chunks of shit that are served at a popular downtown microbrewery. No, we'll leave the deep-fried chunks of shit to our legislators, who can be found ogling doe-eyed coeds in embarrassing attempts to act like Somebody Important. 

There is one cool place just off the Capitol Square, the Argus, where you can find complimentary deep-fried smelt during Friday happy hour, so the Argus is automatically inducted into the classicwisconsin Shanty of Fame. The Argus is located in the oldest commercial building open in Madison, so we love it for that reason alone. 

If you're visiting Madison for a Badger game, or weekend-long bar crawl, or both, and looking for a fish dinner, and who the hell isn't, the Avenue Bar on East Washington Ave. is the old reliable. Probably more representative of the 71 counties outside of Dane, the down home Avenue fits like an old shoe. The place is packed to the rafters with people wearing Badger red and drinking brandy Old Fashioneds from bucket-sized cocktail glasses. And the Avenue has enough tools hanging on the walls to cultivate Kiribati. 

What started as a small bar in 1970 has grown into a supper club with a full staff of hard workin' fish slinging waitresses. Friday nights are standing room only, so call for a reservation. The Avenue's specialty is boiled cod with baby potatoes, baby carrots, and baby onions. Baby. A decent lake perch is served as well, although sometimes the little perchies can be a tad overdone. Killer hash browns -- get 'em with cheese and onions. That means you'll have boiled baby onions and onions in the hash browns, baby. Like classicwisconsin says, we say, go heavy on the onions.

More fish...


One fish:
What did you expect from a couple of deep fryers and a bag of frozen cod? At least they tried.

Two fish:
For a Friday night it's better than eating fish sticks on your couch.

Three fish:
Typical Wisconsin fish fry at a supper club or tavern. Involves a crowded bar and a Packers schedule on the wall (extra credit if the game scores are filled-in).

Four fish:
Member, classicwisconsin Shanty of Fame. An irresistible combination of atmosphere and fish.



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