Alchemy: Fish Fry Review

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Well, wouldn't you know it, but another Friday was upon us and that meant just one thing: it was time for some fish fry. A quick inquiry of our "must visit" list led us to the Alchemy Cafe, which is located on Atwood Avenue in downtown Madison.


We arrived to the Alchemy at around 6:15pm. The place is quite small and apparently quite popular with the neighborhood residents because our wait time was quoted at "around an hour." We put in our names with the friendly hostess and then tried to make our way to the bar for a beverage.

That effort proved to be nearly futile, so we caught the hostess and asked if we could leave a phone number; we were going to walk next door and grab a seat at the "Ideal Bar." She accommodated our request and we made the short walk to the Ideal, where we grabbed a couple of New Glarus Moon Mans. While sitting at the Ideal, we noticed a bar novelty item that struck our fancy - Beer Nuts. I haven't had those things in 20 years... so, we grabbed a couple of packets and enjoyed our wait.

Before we knew it, the phone rang and we made our way back to the Alchemy, where we were promptly seated at a nice little table near the front of the restaurant. A waitress introduced herself and took our drink orders - Mark went with the customary Old Fashioned; Dennis stuck with water, and I sampled one of the many unique craft brews that they had on tap. I'd only heard of one or two of the breweries listed, so I was curious to see how things would play out. I tried a "Hell Lager" from some tiny little brewery - it was pretty tasty and proved to be a good first pick.

The Alchemy menu is quite limited and appears to change often. The menu that's currently listed online didn't match with what they were offering at the restaurant during our visit - for example, the only choice for "starters" were some fries or a clam chowder; and the entrees had changed significantly as well. No problemo - we were there for the fish; although the only option for the Fish Fry was beer battered cod. No baked, no walleye, no perch - it was battered cod or nothing.

So it was battered cod all the way around; I chose sesame-seared green beans as my side item, while Dennis and Mark opted for fries. Mark's Old Fashioned arrived while we were placing our food order - it was nicely muddled and had a very good flavor. We're not sure if they used Squirt, but it didn't matter as it was tasty. So far, so good.

After about 20-30 minutes of waiting, our fish arrived. The Alchemy features a very cool interior; I'm going to classify it less as a cafe/bar and more of a "gastro-pub." The classification shows through with the presentation - while not fancy, they did try to present the fish in a unique way:


The fish featured a thick beer batter that was actually quite tasty, if not a tad heavy. I'm pleased to report that the fish itself was absolutely excellent - it was nice and tender, moist yet flaky, and thanks in part to that heavy beer batter, didn't catch any grease. The fish was served nice and hot; and while I took my time eating, the batter never got soggy or greasy - it stayed crisp and perfect througout. The beans were excellent as well, although I couldn't detect any sesame flavor. The whole wheat dinner roll was tasty to boot.

The fries, as ordered by Dennis and Mark were interesting - they weren't so much fries in the traditional sense of the word as they were more like American Fries or thick-cut chips. Here's what the plate of fries looked like:


They were good, especially when dipped in a touch of ranch, but I'm not so certain I'd order them on my own.

Each fish fry cost $12.95 (a bit steep for what it was), and with drinks our bill came to just over $50; not too bad for three people. The environment was pleasant, the fish was decent, and the service wasn't too bad - although it was a bit slow and "forgetful."

Alchemy Cafe = WIN

Service = 3 stars
Food = 3.75 stars
Value = 2.75 stars
MISC = 4 stars (nice microbrew selection; cool interior/vibe)

Summary: There are worse places to visit for fish; the Alchemy offers a solid fish fry with a very cool interior/vibe. I'd be tempted to try their normal menu - many of the offerings (including a bison burger) sounded quite interesting.

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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on April 12, 2010 9:22 AM.

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