Back on the hunt: Fish Fry Report

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So after taking a well-deserved break from the fish fry hunt, we decided to resume our search this past Friday. With the roads still in rough shape from Wednesday's snow storm, we thought it would be best to stay close to home and after a brief discussion, settled on Tully's II in Monona.

Tully's is located "around the corner" from Mark's house, so it was a logical choice and it received decent reviews from other fish fry fans, so we were confident the experience would be solid.


Upon entering the place we were immediately confused. You walk in and encounter a small dining area with 7 or 8 tables. Behind this small dining area is a large bar with a ton of bar stools and 2-3 tables. To the right of the entryway is a pool table room, and to the right of the pool table room is another small dining room with 7-8 tables and a salad bar. We weren't sure where to sit, so we stood around for a bit and eventually settled on a table in the "front" area.

Waitress took our drink orders; no Old Fashioneds today - we just weren't in the mood. We did order some cheese curds and browsed the menu which lent itself heavily to the pub/bar food genre.

Fish choices were many: baked or battered cod, baked or battered perch, shrimp, and a third option that escapes my memory. All were offered as AYCE (All You Can Eat), and the side choices were equally vast - from kettle chips to garlic mashed potatoes.

We decided on the baked cod, the deep fried cod, and the deep fried perch. The dinners include a trip to the salad bar; I found the salad bar to be a bit disappointing - everything tasted as if it had come from a freezer bag or a can, and the cherry tomatoes that I had were squishy and funny tasting. Not a good sign.

Food arrived at the same time as our curds (another bad sign); the curds were anything but special, just your garden-variety Sysco breaded yellow cheese curds that were fried a bit longer than they should've been.

The baked cod didn't look too appetizing:


It arrived in a small crock of sorts and was swimming in a buttery water. As you can tell from the photo, they coated the heck out of the fish with dill. The fish was rather lifeless - dull, tasteless, mushy, and anything but exciting. I regretted going with the AYCE option after the first few bites... there was no way I'd be getting my money's worth on this trip.

The fried cod was just slightly better:


It featured a fairly tasty beer batter that was a both heavy and slightly greasy. It did have a good flavor, but no amount of batter could help the poor cod. And to add insult to injury, as the cod sat, it became even greasier. Strike two. The saving grace were the cheesy hash browns - they were crispy and delicious.

The battered perch was even greasier than the cod; not even worth a photo. The final blow came by way of the check - 3 drinks, an order of curds, and 3 plates of fish was nearly $60. Not good.

Since we didn't over indulge in fish, we decided to head to our favorite watering hole, The Come Back Inn. We're becoming regulars here; when we walked-in, we were immediately greeted and asked if we were going to have "the usual." Yikes!

I went with a liter of Spaten Lager; I'd normally go with New Glarus Naked, but it's a seasonal offering that "expired" in September and won't be available until next May.


Their bar is so great - it's a huge slab of wood that's at least 10" thick; they have about 30 varieties of unique/micro brews on tap, free popcorn, the employees are all wonderful and friendly, and they have live music on Friday and Saturday nights (without a cover charge). It's also reasonable - a liter is $9 - and their food is pretty solid.

The CBI is connected to The Essen Haus, which is a true German establishment - their dishes are all of the authentic German variety and on Friday nights, they have a traditional "oompah band" that plays polka into the wee hours. We took a gander and were immediately hooked. There's something about sitting in a place that resembles a German pub while drinking a good German beverage and listening to an oompah band. I loved it.


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