With no racing plans for this weekend and a busy week of work behind us, we were excited to get back on track with chasing down the best fish fry around. After considering our many options, we decided to hit RP Adler's Grill and Pub, located on the far west side of Madison.
We arrived promptly at 5:15pm and were pleased to find a few good seating choices: the large and inviting bar is outfitted in dark wood and features high ceilings, plenty of pub tables, and a variety of large screen plasma TVs. The dining side seemed to be a bit of an afterthought, and conjured memories of Denny's, with its forrest green booths and carpeting. To say that it's a stark contrast to the bar would be an understatement.
The host told us that we could grab a seat at the bar, order a drink, and then make a decision as to where we'd like to sit. He added that the smallish dining area would fill-up promptly by 5:45pm, but also said we could eat in the bar if we'd like.
We grabbed one of the high-top tables and browsed the beverage menu. Mark went with a margarita; I opted for a New Glarus Naked (now back on tap!). We browsed the menu, but were most interested in the fish special, of which our waitress informed us included cod (baked, fried, blackened, or boiled), or lake perch.
I inquired if I could "mix-and-match" my cod options and was shocked when she responded with an "of course you can!" So, I ordered the three-piece cod dinner, with 2 pieces of baked cod and one fried, with steamed red potatoes for my side. Mark chose the lake perch with fries. I also asked for a cup of French onion soup, in lieu of cheese curds - Mark and I have decided that unless the curds are infamous, they're most likely going to be the standard Sysco curds, and calories don't come cheap...
The soup arrived just as I was finishing my beverage. I was saddened to see a fair amount of oil/grease in the soup; I cast aside the cheese and dug-in to the dark brown brothy cup. Any sadness quickly disappeared - the soup was fantastic. It had an initial peppery hit, a velvety and rich beef stock flavor, and a sweet and mellow onion finish. It was really a good soup - obviously homemade.
Fish frys include a baked pretzel as the bread option - the pretzel was awesome; I wish they'd have given us a dozen.
A second round of drinks was ordered, with Mark opting for an Old Fashioned (whiskey sour). The Old Fashioned was muddled (with orange - minus 1 point), and was very "watery" tasting. No favors won with the Old Fashioned, but that's ok.
Our fish plates arrived, and they looked decent, although RP won't win any awards for presentation. Here's my plate:
The baked cod was delicious, if not a bit small. It was moist yet pleasantly firm, and flaked nicely when cut with my fork. The cod flavor was just as I'd expect - mild and smooth. No signs of butter or grease anywhere. If this would've been AYCE fish, I would've put down more that a few plates of the stuff.
The deep fried cod featured the same delicious cod base, but was covered in a beer batter that included what I believe were Corn Flakes. The result was a slightly over-battered piece of cod, but it was still delicious. The batter was extra crispy and just barely overpowered the cod. I ate the fried piece last, and was happy to find that it remained crisp, with no signs of grease or sogginess.
The steamed potatoes were average - about what you'd expect from a steamed baby red potato.
Mark's 4-piece perch plate looked delicious as well:
Crinkle cut fries were obviously of the Sysco variety, but were well-cooked and crispy. The lake perch pieces were bigger than what we're used to seeing, and weren't quite as "firm" as what we've had elsewhere. The batter was identical to the cod batter, and featured the Corn Flakes as well. As such, I feel some of the lake perch beauty was lost in the batter, which is a shame, because lake perch can usually stand on its own - it doesn't need much batter; a light dusting and a quick fry will usually work perfectly.
RP Adler's Pub & Grill = WIN (barely)
Service = 4 stars (excellent, attentive and helpful - definitely sit in the bar area)
Food = 3.25 stars (baked was great; fried options were over-battered)
Value = 2.5 stars ($60 for two, with drinks - a bit pricey)
MISC = 3.5 stars (the bar area is enjoyable)
Summary: You can definitely do a lot worse than RP Adler's Pub & Grill - if you're in the area, don't hesitate to swing on in for a couple of beverages and what is for the most part, a decent fish fry.