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Here’s the dish on this traditional prairiefish

Destination Dining

December 15, 2019

Story By: Elima Pangorang |

Have you ever heard of a Friday Fish Fry? If not, you are definitely not from Wisconsin. The Friday Fish Fry is a Wisconsin tradition dating back to the state’s beginnings when European immigrants would use their cooking techniques to prepare the fish they would catch in Lake Michigan. As most of these immigrants were Catholics, they would eat their fish fry during Lent (because of the no-eating-meat rule.) Today, this old tradition has caught on throughout the Badger State and throughout its restaurants and bars.

“Milwaukeeans take their fish fries very seriously,” says general manager of The Packing House Restaurant in Milwaukee. “Friday fish fries are a long-standing tradition in Milwaukee and Wisconsin.”

The fish fry dish is usually accompanied by tartar sauce, fries or potatoes, coleslaw and rye bread. (Also, do not fret, fish fry can be ordered on days other than Friday, at most restaurants in the state.) Here are a few places to stop at in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to kick start your fish fry search.

1. The Packing House
900 E. Layton Ave., Milwaukee
(414) 483-5054
packinghousemke.com

PHOTO COURTESY THE PACKING HOUSE

The Packing House is an old-time favorite of the Milwaukee community as a family owned and operated business since 1974. Today, founders Keith and Margaret Wiken have since handed the reins to their son Chris Wiken, who proudly carries on the family tradition. Consistently rated the best in the city, this eatery’s Friday Fish Fry is hand-breaded Icelandic cod and coated in a signature breading recipe that has been in the Wiken family for 45 years, divulges Wiken. Accompanying Packing House’s fish is housemade tartar sauce and coleslaw, buttered rye bread slices and diner’s choice of fries or handmade potato pancakes.

2. Kegel’s Inn
5901 W. National Ave., West Allis
(414) 257-9999
kegelsinn.com

PHOTO COURTESY KEGEL’S INN

Kegel’s Inn is a proud server of Milwaukee’s most authentic German cuisine made from time-honored traditional family recipes. Passed down from four generations, Kegel’s Inn is a beloved classic to Milwaukeeans and is now run by Julian Kegel and his wife Stephanie, and they are doing a great job if it, too. “Every one of our German specialties takes hours to prepare. Our gravies are made from scratch using heritage spices,” says Stephanie.

Kegel Inn’s Walleye Fish Fry over homemade Spaetzel (a German noodle) is prepared with homemade breadcrumbs for the fish. Additionally, its special coleslaw prepped in house comprises cabbage, carrots, caraway, sauce and spices. The Spaetzel is made with flour, eggs, milk, dill and spices.

3. Lakefront Brewery
1872 N. Commerce St., Milwaukee
(414) 372-8800
lakefrontbrewery.com

PHOTO COURTESY LAKEFRONT BREWERY

With a grand and welcoming space and a menu boasting items largely based on local foods and traditions, it is to no surprise Lakefront Brewery is a top contender in Wisconsin’s Friday Fish Fry scene. Lakefront impressively serves an average of 1,200 guests and more than 400 pounds of cod every Friday night, claiming the title of one of the largest “fries” in the city of Milwaukee. “Our Friday Fish Fry is unique not only because we use our own beer to hand batter the cod fillets, but also because we use a wet to dry technique rather than a dry to wet,” says executive chef Kristin Hueneke. Dipped in beer batter first, the cooks then dredge the fillets in flour and a mixture of spices before frying it up.

The brewery also features a polka band complete with a bubble machine for an unforgettable and fun experience.

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