Fish Fry Review: Kelly's Bar, Columbus, WI

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Well what do we have here? A fish fry review? It's been far too long, indeed.

After spending a few weeks following a strict diet/workout routine, and coming within 0.5% of my goals (literally), I decided to treat myself to a little fish fry by way of Kelly's Bar. My cousin and aunt had mentioned Kelly's to me a while ago, and said it was a great spot for fish - a bit out of the way, yes; but it was supposed to be superb. So, I fired-up the Prius and hit the road, destined for Columbus.

As a kid, I remember making the drive to Randolph on more than one occassion, and I always remembered a certain point along Highway 73 where there was a bright yellow building, and a series of smaller white buildings/houses. Back then, I had no idea the white buildings were Kelly's Bar... so, I was surprised when a familiar feeling struck as I drove north from Columbus.


The parking lot was starting to fill-up, and it was only about 6:00 or so. A good sign that Kelly's served good fish (that, or they had a good happy hour special).

My cousin and her husband were waiting patiently at a small table near the bar area; the bar isn't terribly large, nor is the drink selection terribly vast - you'll find a few domestic taps and a small smattering of "craft-ish" beverages, primarily from Leinie's. They did have Spotted Cow, but that was about it for exotic offerings. Cans of soda will run $1; most beverages about $3.

Kelly's follows an ordering methodology that some love and some hate - you place your dinner order at the bar, wait for a table to become available, and upon being seated, your food arrives. I prefer that method - it's efficient.

I browsed the menu which included several fish options - everything from walleye (Winning!) to frogs' legs (Not-winning!). They had: haddock, walleye, perch, cod, shrimp, and scallops. And, you could order combination plates, in various sizes: small, regular, order-and-a-half, or double order. For reference, a "regular" order consists of about 5 pieces of fish.

Side options were standard: fries, seasoned wedge fries, waffle fries, baked potato, hashbrowns, or cheese-tots. Upon further inquiry, the hashbrowns and tots were just what I suspected: frozen patties, deep-fried with cheese as an option.

I went for an order-and-a-half, with Lake Perch and Haddock. Leanne went with haddock, and Jeff ordered the sampler platter, which included a little of everything. We also ordered some breaded mushrooms and an order of cheese curds. Hey, when you're off the wagon for a day, you might as well jump clean away from it. :-D

We enjoyed a beverage at our small table, made some small-talk, and were just about to order another round when our table in the dining area became available. So, we moved into the dining room, where our mushrooms and curds were waiting, along with a basket of rolls, coleslaw, and salads.


The mushrooms and curds, while not homemade, were perfectly fried. Kelly's has a firm handle on the fryer controls; according to Leanne (who knows the cook), Kelly's watches their oil temperatures like a hawk - and that attention pays dividends in how their battered items serve-up. The 'shrooms were wonderful and the curds were decent - again, not homemade, but definitely good.

We had just sampled the appetizers when our main courses arrived, piping hot from those carefully piloted fryers. Here's my plate of Lake Perch and Haddock:


I tore into a piece of the Lake Perch and recoiled - it was so scaldingly hot that the trapped steam gave me a "warm" welcome. Wow, that fish was hot! I allowed the piece to cool a bit before giving it another go; the breading was of the crunchy, non-battered style and it clung perfectly to the firm piece of fresh water perch. The perch had just the perfect fish taste - enough to let you know you're enjoying fish, but not overpowering enough to turn you away. Delicious.

The haddock's batter wasn't quite a breading, nor was it a beer batter, nor was it a buttermilk batter. It was... well... battered. I can't describe it in any other way. It was good, and just like the perch, it stuck perfectly to the thick and meaty squares of haddock. And, just like the perch, the haddock was expertly cooked, and featured a perfectly mild, almost "creamy" haddock taste. Yum.

I do suspect, upon retrospection, that the fish arrives frozen and pre-battered. I'd be surprised if this was hand-battered/hand-prepped fish. There's nothing wrong with that, but purists will want to take note.

Jeff's sampler platter looked impressive (and indeed, received rave reviews):


Leanne's plate of haddock was exactly as my sampler - large pieces of squared haddock, served with a baked potato on the side. We scarfed down our food; dinner was largely silent, as we were too busy indulging and enjoying the feast. :-)

The check arrived, and our bill for 3 was just about $45, which included the appetizers and a few sodas as well. Not bad.

Note: Kelly's doesn't take plastic; it's cash or check only, and they do not have an ATM onsite.

Kelly's = WIN

Food = 3 stars - all "from the bag," but cooked really, really well
Value = 3.5 stars - lots of options, reasonable prices, great flexibility
Service = 3.5 stars - quick, concise, no-frills but friendly
MISC = 3 stars - true, "old school" tavern; filled with friendly locals; not much for beverage selection; no plastic/no ATM

Summary: it may not be home/handmade fish, and yes, it's a bit out of the way. But, it's a great little bar/restaurant with a huge selection of good quality fish and great appetizers.


Went to this place because of the review.

Well let me tell you how it went....

My wife and myself entered and it was fairly busy, shuffled around the bar to a open spot so that we could be bar side to get a drink and find out about ordering/getting a table for the fish fry. Well here's how it went we stood there and were ignored once, then again, then other people came in from the outside, they waited on them and set them in line for a table, so ignored a 3rd time, then they waited on the guy next to us, ignored a 4th time, then they waited on a couple on the other side of my wife, ignored a 5th time... I THINK IT WAS 6 TIMES WE WERE IGNORED WHILE PEOPLE AROUND US WERE TAKING NOTICE TO FIRST!...

I have no clue how the fish is or anything else for that matter, and I really don't give a rats ass either, because the jerks that run this place are inconsiderate morons, if your standing bar side looking straight at them and your ignored 5 or more times, just imagine how much they give a crap what your getting for dinner.

We got up and stormed out and will never give this crap hole place a red cent, EVER!...

Go up the road a bit to Feil's Supper Club, its all you can eat, and your treated like a customer, was greeted upon walking in, and seated immediately, waitress saw to our needs and everything went fine, she even gave us both 2 HACKER PSCHORR WEISS 16.9OZ BOTTLES for FREE....My Favourite beer!!!



Sorry to hear that you didn't have a positive experience with Kelly's, although I'm somewhat baffled as to why you would choose a place that was rated 29th on the overall list to visit, especially when the review notes that Kelly's doesn't appear to have a good beer selection nor do they appear to offer hand-made fish?

I will say that we've been to places that have been highly rated/regarded by others and have also had a bad experience ourselves. It just goes to show that a restaurant has it's "on" and "off" days - looks like you were at Kelly's on an "off" day. I appreciate how frustrating bad service can be, but it almost seems as if you're using my blog to blame me - you posted 9 times to the replies section - once is more than enough. Your screen name is also a bit tacky, and you didn't leave an e-mail address...

Best wishes with your fish fry adventures, and sorry again to hear that things didn't work out with Kelly's. I'm not affiliated with them in any way, so you if you still feel "wronged," you may want to share your experience with Kelly's directly.


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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on March 21, 2011 1:02 PM.

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