Fish Fry Review: The Grumpy Troll, Mount Horeb, WI

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I was flying solo this Friday night, so I decided to a drive over to Mount Horeb, troll capital of the world, to sample the fish and the beverages from The Grumpy Troll Brew Pub.

Mount Horeb is located about 25 minutes south west of Madison and is a pretty neat little town. If it wasn't so far from Madison, I'd consider moving there - it's very picturesque and it seems like a nice place to live. The roads also looked to be quite awesome for biking...

I located The Grumpy Troll without too much trouble - it's about a block off of Main Street, and has a rather distinctive sign that makes it easy to find.

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When you enter The Grumpy Troll, you're presented with two options: venture upstairs to the pizzeria, or enter through a door that looks rather "school office-like" and into the bar, where they have a larger menu. I accidentally walked upstairs - it seems like the natural path, but quickly discovered my error and made my way back down to the bar, which was absolutely packed with people.

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I eventually made my way up to the bar and ordered a "Curly" Scottish Ale - The Troll brews its own beers, and many are held in high regard. The Curly was indeed quite good - it was very smooth, not too heavy, and very mildly bittered with a hint of hops.

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After standing around wondering how to put in my name for a table, I asked some folks if they knew how the system worked. They pointed to a small hostess station that was located near the back of the brew pub, so I walked over and asked for a table for one. The rather unfriendly hostess gave me a blank look and said, "ok."

And that was it. Didn't ask for a name, didn't give me an idea of how long things would take - just a blank look and then she walked away. I stood there wondering if I should wait, but decided to venture back over to the bar as a seat was opening up and I wanted to snag it.

Once seated at the bar, I felt a little more comfortable; I figured if I got stuck waiting for too long, I could always eat at the bar. And that's what I did. After about 35-40 minutes of waiting, I asked the bartender for a menu. He obliged and I browsed the vast menu.

I inquired about some "brats in a blanket" as an appetizer - mini brats, wrapped in a sourdough puff pastry, and served with a spicy honey mustard. "Oh, we no longer have those," said the bartender. Argh.

"How are the cheese curds?" I asked.

"We make them in-house, and they're awesome. So are the Grump Chips."

Decision made. I went with the baked fish with Grump Chips, and an appetizer of the curds. The bartender offered to substitute the curds as a side to my fish and bring out the chips first - he said it would be less expensive. Fine by me!

The chips arrived within minutes, along with a pretzel roll and some coleslaw. Everything looked incredibly tasty; the chips were dusted with a spicy blend, some toasted parmesan cheese, and served with a gorgonzola dip.

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Unfortunately, nothing tasted as good as it looked. The chips were cold, stale, and tasted like old grease. The gorgonzola dip had zero flavor - it tasted primarily like lumpy cream cheese. The pretzel was warm and soft, but had no flavor, and it was overly buttery. Oh joy... this wasn't shaping up to be a very good experience.

I ate about 3-4 of the chips, about 1/4 of the pretzel, and waited for my fish to arrive. The bartender asked how my chips were, and I told him, "not good - they taste really old and greasy." He shrugged and walked away.

By now, the bar was largely empty - I guess everyone was seated and eating. I inquired about a second beverage - I went with a Diet Pepsi, and I was also given some popcorn (also not very fresh tasting).

The fish arrived shortly after my soda and popcorn. I was immediately struck by the cheese curds - they definitely didn't look homemade... in fact, they looked exactly like the curds that you can get at nearly every bar in southern Wisconsin - Sysco curds... argh #2.

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I took a bite of the fish and it was game over. The fish was clearly a frozen filet, baked, and covered with paprika. It wasn't moist - it was dry and flavorless. It wasn't tender or flaky - I cut it with my knife and ate it like you might eat a piece of bread... The curds were over cooked and slightly greasy.

I ate about 1/2 of the fish and about 1/4 of the curds. The bartender stopped to ask how things were and again I gave him the bad news. He offered me a piece of the beer battered cod to sample, and I did. It arrived within seconds, and wasn't much better than the baked cod. The batter was too heavy, it was greasy tasting, and the fish wasn't anything to write home about.

I asked for my bill, and almost fell out of my chair - $28, without the beer (I paid cash for that). I asked for an itemized bill - they apparently don't have them.

So, I went and re-created how I hit the $28 price tag... $12 for fish, $7 for curds, $5 for chips, $2 for soda, and then tax. Wow.

The Grumpy Troll = FAIL

Service = 2 stars (horrible, considering I was sitting at the bar)
Food = 1 star (everything tasted old and had a strong grease flavor)
Value = 0 stars
MISC = 4 stars (the beer was decent)

I would definitely not recommend The Grumpy Troll for fish. Their beer was nice, but everything else was less than decent. The pizzas looked good, but I'm not sure if I'd even give them a shot, especially with as bad as the curds and chips were. There are many better fish frys out there - don't make a special trip to Mount Horeb for the fish here. :-(

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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on April 18, 2010 1:52 PM.

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