Fish Fry Review: 5100 - McFarland


Hey McFarland, what gives? You've got some really solid fish fry spots in your little south-of-the-Madison-area-borough. I mean that in all sincerity - Toby's, Green Lantern, and now, the 5100 - one can't go wrong when seeking fish along highway 51.

A couple of us fish fanatics were in the mood for a fish fry and were looking for a new place to try. A quick search of Yelp showed several options, and after a short debate, we settled on the 5100. I know what you're thinking, because we thought the same thing... "what a bizarre name - is it a dance club?"

And the answer is well, no. But sort of yes. 5100 occupies the building that once served as the Park Ponderosa, a semi-famous McFarland icon/banquet hall/dance hall that entertained locals for 40-years. The folks in charge of 5100 rejuvenated the building and gave it an open, sorta-northwoodsy look that works really well. It's surprisingly comfortable in the place.

We grabbed a table in the bar area near one of many large windows that look out toward McFarland. A server quickly appeared, iPad in hand, and shared the evening's specials. 5100 offers a nice variety of taps, including plenty of craft offerings. Prices were more than fair - $3 for happy hour pints.

With our drink orders converted to bits-and-bytes by the iPad, our server suggested we try the house-made cheese curds. Now, I realize there's a sucker born every minute, but if I had a nickel for every place that claims to sell "hand made" or "home-made" curds, I'd be rich. However, she specifically said, "house-made," so I pressed for more info.

She told us about how the 5100 curds start as fresh curds, sourced from local dairies. They're then introduced to a batter that consists of Spotted Cow beer, select spices, and a light batter mix. Ok - that sounded legit, so we took a chance and placed an order. With a few taps of the iPad screen, she smiled, turned and went to grab our beverages.

Within minutes, our drinks and curds arrived, and upon first glance the curds appeared to indeed be house-made. One taste of the delicate dairy delights and I was convinced - these were the real deal, and they were phenomenal. I took this picture after we had devoured nearly half of the plate:


The batter was really tasty; it featured a hefty dose of black pepper, a hint of salt, and the definite flavor of Spotted Cow. The breading was perfectly applied - not too thick, not too thin, and it clung to each curd. The curds themselves were top notch - soft, gooey, and nary a sign of grease. I would rank these among the top 1-2 curds in our fair city - just behind Middleton Sport Bowl's curds. Get them. Trust me.

5100 offers just three types of Friday fish options: deep fried cod, baked cod, or smelt. No perch, no walleye, no bluegill; no worries. Get the deep fried cod. We all did. And speaking of options - your fish plate will come with fries, like it or not.

Our fish plates arrived just after we had polished off the order of curds. 5100 serves up 4 generous chunks of cod; an All You Can Eat (AYCE) option is available for $3 more, but you won't need it.


The look and feel of that dark batter instantly took me back to my childhood, when we'd fire-up the oven and unload a box of frozen Vande Kemp fish fillets onto a cookie sheet, bake 'em and call it a dinner.

Fortunately for the 5100, aside from looks, this batter has nothing in common to the aforementioned blue box batter. Similar to the curds, the fish batter was slightly salty with heavy beer and batter taste. There wasn't any hint of pepper in the batter, but I wouldn't be surprised if the mix contained a touch of it. And just like the curds, this batter was expertly applied and perfectly fried - it clung to the fish like superglue sticks to fingers.

The cod was some quality stuff - firm, flaky, snow-white, and super fresh tasting. What a difference it makes when restaurants pony-up for the good stuff and then take some care to prepare it. We all scarfed-down the fish faster than you could say "gangnam style."

I'm told the slaw was decent and that the tartar was excellent. I'm not a fan of either, so I can't comment directly. But I can say that the fries were capital-DEEEEE-licious. Slightly thicker than traditional fries, they were piping hot, crispy and tasty.

Our server was excellent, checking-in on a regular basis and taking really good care of our table. We stayed for an additional beverage or two, genuinely enjoying the atmosphere of the place.

5100 = WIN

Food = 4.5 stars
Service = 4 stars
Value = 4 stars
MISC = 4.5 stars

A great fish fry, for sure. While Toby's may be more popular, 5100 is no slouch. It's not as jam-packed as Toby's, the curds are better, the drink selections are better, and the service is better. I'd happily visit 5100 for fish any time. Heck, I'd visit it just for the fun of it.

Great job, 5100 - kudos!

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This page contains a single entry by Steve published on December 8, 2012 6:05 PM.

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