Travel, History & Culture in America's Dairyland
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Buckets Of Fish?!?!?!
Ya Think classicwisconsin Will Stop?
Smith Bros. Fish Shanty, Port Washington
No surprise that some of Wisconsin's best are found along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The fish frys are pretty damn good too.
From Kenosha (The Boathouse) and Racine (The Yardarm) to Milwaukee (too numerous to mention) and Sheboygan (Zieggy's Tavern, on a street nicknamed "Fish Fry Alley" for God's sake); through Manitowoc (The Galley), Two Rivers (Suzie Q's), Kewaunee (The Karsten Inn), Algoma (Hudson's Bar & Grill) and Jacksonport (Mike's Port Pub) -- just to name a few -- the succession of tempting fish joints dot Wisconsin's shoreline like a string of pearls hanging on a nail.
First thing first
You know that classicwisconsin is required by its charter to stop in any town beginning with the word port.
Unless a town ends with the word harbor. That means Port Andrews, Port Edwards, Port Washington, and Port Wing get first dibs, unless Bailey's Harbor, Egg Harbor, and Detroit Harbor get in the way. That also means Bridgeport and Jacksonport, which contain the word port but don't start with the word port, are screwed.
Never fear, good people of Bridgeport and Jacksonport, the classicwisconsin charter stipulates that the port and harbor requirements can be waived for towns named bay, beach, creek, falls, lake, pond, river, and water, or derivations and variations thereof, so towns with port stuck at the end of their name still qualify, as does any establishment serving fish.
Ya straight on that? Good.
When classicwisconsin was leaving Kenosha on a Thursday night, headed north to the Emerald City for the professional footballers' draft weekend, its 1973 Pontiac Grand Safari mobile headquarters instinctively barreled off I-43 and sallied up to the Smith Bros. Fish Shanty in Port Washington.
Imagine having de-lish fish slung at your face...
Not only a town named port, but a classic fishing village and home of arguably the most famous fish joint in all of our beloved fish eating land of lakes great and small. Imagine having de-lish fish slung at your waiting face every damn day and night. That alone is why classicwisconsin loves the Smith Bros., and classicwisconsin hasn't even mentioned Carmen, yet.
The Smiths and Port Washington are synonymous. The Smith brothers -- Delos, Herbert, and Roy -- diversified into a variety of fishing-related companies following their father, Gilbert Smith, who started a fish wholesaling company in 1848. It was Delos' daughter, Evelyn, who started the restaurant business in the late 1920s when she served fried fish sandwiches to card players at the local Knights of Columbus hall. Delos' son, Oliver, was a founder of Fish Day, a terrific celebration held each July.
The family sold its interest in the restaurant in the early 1990s, but never fear, it's virtually the same place that has drawn diners from all over the Great Lakes areas for decades.
The interior is classy but unpretentious, with loads of woodwork and Great Lake nautical charts on the walls. The dining room overlooks the lake. A screened-in porch is THE place to hang in the summer.
Until recently the bar was home to a brewpub, which has relocated to Sheboygan. It's still a worthy bar and some of favs -- Old Port Porter and Harbor City IPA -- will be sticking around, according to Carmen.
Connected to the restaurant is the Smith Bros. Fish Market, Deli & Takeout. As if quick plates of fish with French fries and sauce aren't a dream come true for you, dear fish eater, Carmen brought to classicwisconsin's attention that, in addition, the market offers buckets of fish.
Buckets of perch.
Buckets of walleye.
Buckets of smelt.
Buckets of catfish.
classicwisconsin was nearly overcome...
Sitting all alone at the Smith Bros. bar, contemplating buckets of fish on the eve of the professional footballer's annual draft, the probability of adding blue chip receivers to the Packers' offense, Carmen gently slingin' pints of Old Port Porter, not one goddamned FIB in town -- classicwisconsin was nearly overcome with emotion. Nearly. But when Carmen said that the nightly special was whitefish, salmon or catfish baked on an oak plank with a beurre blanc sauce and chive dutchess potatoes, well, let's just say classicwisconsin needed to excuse itself for a while. (Pretended to look at the nautical charts.)
classicwisconsin collected itself, ordered the whitefish dinner (at the bar) and looked wistfully through the rest of the menu: Smoked Great Lakes trio (smoked trout, chub & salmon), beer cheese soup, perch, blackened catfish, broiled whitefish, walnut crusted walleye, salmon. Before long classicwisconsin was nudged from its dream when dinner arrived (at the bar) -- a dark plank containing a huge blob of whitefish, tators and sauce.
Never has a blob been more perfect.
classicwisconsin might have stayed forever, but Carmen, the skilled and becoming informant that she is, forewarned classicwisconsin that blue-haired Illinoitians would be frequenting the place once the weather clears, not to mention rumors about trading up began to swirl in the Emerald City.
Carryout was a necessity for long the weekend, but choosing carryout is easier said than done at Smith Bros.
"Oh bucket," classicwisconsin finally told Carmen, "one of each, and let's find some receivers for Favre."
Copyright 2002-2010, Michael Bie (Classic Wisconsin)
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