Fish Fry Review: Dexter's Pub (November 2011)


I've been sitting on this review for a while, because I'm struggling with what to say, and how to say it. You may recall that I previously reviewed Dexter's Pub and had mixed feelings - the service was a bit lacking, but the fish was tasty; overall, a win.

Since the time of that review, I have returned to Dexter's many, many times. Simply put, I love the place. It's definitely a haul for me to head to Dexter's - depending on traffic, it can be a 25-30 minute drive each way. But it's worth it. The staff is outstanding - from the owner, Nick, to every single member of his team, everyone is friendly, helpful, accommodating, and super attentive. With the exception of that first visit way back in January of 2010, the Dexter's staff have never once faltered. They are true A-players.

Dexter's beer selection is amongst the best I've ever seen. Nick is a true beer geek, and knows how to select some of the most interesting, intriguing, and delicious microbrews from around the world. I've sampled some truly amazing beers over the past two years, nearly all compliments of Dexter's. Nick and his crew serve said beverages in the appropriate glassware, at the appropriate temperature - an extra nice touch, and evidence of their commitment to honoring the beer they so proudly serve.

Dexter's food is incredible - I'm a HUGE fan of their hummus plate (it features an IPA-infused hummus with a selection of fresh veggies and crispy naan). Even if you're not a fan of hummus, I strongly urge you to give it a try. It is that awesome.

Their Santa Fe chicken salad is another favorite of mine; the burgers never disappoint, the pizza is homemade and scrumptious, and the soups are inventive and phenomenal. I'm not exaggerating when I say that Dexter's knows how to make seriously good food. It's far from your typical bar food - this is true gastropub fare.

So, why the struggle?

I've had the fish fry several times now, and it hasn't consistently wowed me like the rest of the food has. It's been really good on several occasions - really good. But it's also been average on several occasions. In talking with Nick, he indicated that it's been difficult to source consistent fish - he's very picky about the fish he selects, and that shows.

The actual fish has never been my issue - the fish (cod, walleye, and perch) have always been truly excellent. Fresh, firm, slightly meaty, never too fishy, and plenty moist. I have zero complaints with the fish by its lonesome.

Where I've had mixed results is with the batter and preparation. The past few visits have resulted in a rather greasy fish fry; on this last visit, I sampled the deep fried cod, the deep fried perch, and the pan seared walleye. Of the three, the only one that wasn't spongy with grease was the walleye - it stole the show that night. Here's a picture of the wonderful pan fried walleye:


I'm not sure if the fryer temps dropped, or if the fish sat for a bit after being cooked, but on the past two visits, the cod and perch looked absolutely incredible on the plate, with perfect amounts of Dexter's infamous batter and breading. But upon first cut, those batters secreted unacceptable amounts of grease from their battery pores. I'm a fanatic for non-greasy fish, which is why I was semi-disappointed.

Now don't get me wrong - this is still a fantastic fish fry by any measure. In any other arena, it would be a top 10 fish fry. But with two of the last three visits resulting in a greasier than average fish fry, I have to rank it outside of the top 10. I really wanted to see Dexter's land in the top 10, but for now, I have to place it outside of the top 10.

Again - the breaded perch and battered cod are outstanding fish offerings. The perch features what appears to be a cornmeal-based breading that boasts a hint of salt and pepper flavor. The breading is thin, and it clings to the meaty perch with a kung-fu grip. The perch is tasty, firm, and offers the perfect amount of "chewiness" that a quality perch should. When things are "on," there's no sign of excess grease, and the fish fry is impeccable. Paired with Dexter's signature (and literally-to-die-for) waffle fries, the dynamic duo are a solid option. Here's the lake perch plate, with another solid side: onion rings. On this particular evening, the perch offering was a bit on the skimpy side:


The battered cod is served three filets to a plate. The oblong filets are substantially thicker and more meaty than the perch. The delicately-flavored white fish has always been moist, flaky, and sinfully smooth. The bubbly beer batter features a similar salt-and-pepper flavor with hints of a third spice that I can't quite place. Just like the breading on the perch, this beer batter has a death grip on the cod filets - it clings and won't let go, which is a rare feat in the world of fish frys. On this particular visit, I was racing so fast to devour the fish before the grease really released, that I forgot to take a picture until I was half-way through the meal... apologies for showing my half-eaten plate:


So there you have it. Not my typical review, but Dexter's isn't your typical place. It is easily one of my favorite places to eat, drink, socialize, and visit. There's nothing on the menu that isn't beyond superb. You could throw a dart at the menu and you'd love whatever it landed on. You'll also love the staff - they're always smiling, always helpful, and always right on the money.

Give the fish a try. If it's "on" - it'll be ON, and you'll enjoy the best fish fry of your life. If it's "off" - it'll still be better than most fish frys. It'll just give you an excuse to have to return and try it again.

No one is perfect 100% of the time. Dexter's comes close. It's sort of like being "disappointed" when Aaron Rodgers plays a game where he only completes 89% of his passes and barely eclipses 300 yards with just 2 touchdown tosses. In anybody else's world, that would be an MVP performance...

Summary: Dexter's Pub = WIN

Food = 4.25 stars (even when the fish is average, it's still worthy of 3+ stars)
Service = 5 stars
Value = 3.75 stars (the perch portions have been a bit light lately)
MISC = 5 stars (great atmosphere, friendly patrons, good jukebox, comfy & clean)

Trust me when I say you must try this fish fry. Oh, and another tip: try their chili. It is another hidden gem on their menu. It's hearty, chock-full of meat and veggies, and it's got a consistent heat with just enough zip to keep your taste buds alert and slightly nervous. :-) You'll love it.

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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on November 21, 2011 10:04 PM.

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