The Best Fish Fry in Milwaukee Is in the Basement of an American Legion — Open Road

The Best Fish Fry in Milwaukee Is in the Basement of an American Legion — Open Road

(upbeat Southern guitar music) – [Bill] I’m Bill Addison, Eater’s ever-roving national critic. My next stop: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, perched on a concave bend on
Lake Michigan’s western shore. The city is synonymous with breweries, though its culinary ambitions
stretch well beyond beer. But one deep-seated tradition
that makes Milwaukee a special place to eat
is the Friday fish fry. The place that impressed me the most, with its warm spirit and
the straightforward goodness of its Friday fish fry was a basement restaurant
called the Foxhole Tavern in the Northshore American
Legion, Post #331. – So, when I first walked in here, I thought, “What a great place.” I love supper clubs, I love
that basement bar feel. We’ve got the original
wood grain on the walls and we keep our drink prices really low. We’re one of the only nonprofit American Legion
bar-restaurants in the area. During the day, we’ve got a
lotta regulars, a lot of vets, a lot of neighborhood
people that come every day; it’s kind of their social hour,
and it’s a really great mix. Everyone seems to get along, everybody just gets to know each other. So, bringing in Lloyd,
he redid our entire menu, he increased food to seven days a week. The food is mostly made from scratch now, versus frozen deep-fried
food, that sort of thing. The fish fry is our most
popular day of the week and the neighborhood loves it. We get pretty busy for our fish fry. Typically, on fish fry nights, non-Lent-time, we do
about 100, 150 fish frys. During Lent, we up it to
about 300 fish frys a night. (upbeat acoustic guitar music) – I’ve done nothing but work in kitchens since I was 16 years old. I went to culinary school
here in Waukesha, Wisconsin, gave me a really good background. And since about 2000-ish,
I’ve kinda been on my own, doing my own menus and
doing consulting things, which is kinda what this is,
kinda like a consulting gig. Giving the place a new life, really, which has been a lotta fun
for me the last few years. Diane gave me a call. She knew I was coming
here for the summertime, I was coming back to visit
family and friends and whatnot. Diane gave me a ring ’cause
she knew I was gonna be here and asked me to come and she said that the kitchen
needs some touching up, and I was more than happy to oblige. And fish fry is just a fundamental part of the fabric of society here. And you grow up doing it as a kid, you grow up eating fish frys constantly, and what I’ve learned is that
no matter how high you climb in any sort of restaurant, you just can’t escape
a damn fish fry here. About 10 years ago, I estimated that I have made clam chowder 958 times in my life, and
that was 10 years ago, and that’s strictly Friday fish frys. And to me, it’s something
that I’ve been doing for quite a while and it’s something that I
feel like I’ve perfected it. Just doing things from
scratch and taking care in the way you do things,
it pays off, you know? And to hear someone say this is the best fish fry
in the area, it’s amazing. I can leave here with
a huge smile on my face and be proud, it’s cool. (upbeat pop music) – [Bill] Plates of golden fish fry are so much a part of
Milwaukee’s food culture now, the side dishes are classic:
hash brown-like potato cake, applesauce, cole slaw, rye bread. It all comes together just right, particularly with a pint of local beer. – The fish fry is a sacred,
really, and storied meal. Along about the 1880s,
there were more Germans of a Catholic persuasion,
which is key, in Milwaukee than there were anywhere
else on the globe. It was verboten to eat
flesh meats on Friday. Now, Wisconsin is surrounded
by water on three sides, so fish was something
that was inexpensive, accessible, nutritious. A fish fry really grew
out of that tradition. And then comes the breweries. They started offering fish
specifically on Fridays at a very reduced rate
right when Prohibition hit. And if you can’t get a beer, how do you lure the gentlemen back in? Well, you start serving fish on Fridays. And oftentimes, the whole family
would come and meet there. And out of that grew this devout tradition of the Milwaukee fish fry,
where great places like this, an American Legion, VFWs, churches, and to come to Milwaukee
and not have a good fish fry means that you actually
didn’t visit the city. (driving acoustic guitar music) You belong here. These are your people, this is your place. Even if you know no one else in the room, I guarantee you sit down for a fish fry anywhere in Milwaukee and
within 10 or 12 minutes, the person across the
table or across the aisle is gonna be reaching
over and saying hello, and it doesn’t matter
what car you drove up in, how much is in your bank account. You come hungry, you come
sincere, you come human. It’s who we are. We’re unabashed about it,
but it’s also so good. – [Bill] Friday fish fry. To get a taste of the community and the care that makes the
meal a treasured ritual, hold off until the weekend and seek out a true Friday fish fry.

48 thoughts on “The Best Fish Fry in Milwaukee Is in the Basement of an American Legion — Open Road

  1. Whats thats sauce on the side of potato pancakes? Apple ? I never have eaten potato pancakes with apple sauce, only sour cream and sugar or goulash.

  2. I live 50 mins north of Milwaukee, and can tell you that this is not the best fish fry in Milwaukee, at least by volume. I believe Serb hall is….serving almost 2000 fish frys a Friday night during lent.

  3. …boring. its fried fish. nothing new. You can make this at home and i can bet that it'll taste better than the fish in that place.

  4. I totally get this. I'm a Scot. We love a good fish supper. It's comfort, feel-good food, solid, honest food. I'm sure the take on it is different for our American friends, but I suspect the feeling is the same…

  5. I'm sorry but if you come more north in Wisconsin we have way better fish fries. Especially the Eau Claire and Chippewa area.

  6. I've been waiting for this video! Lloyd is my dad and I can't believe he was in this video!! I'm so happy to see him get proper recognition for how hard he works! I love it!

  7. Highly inaccurate title. The best fish fry in Milwaukee is at Fritz Pub in the south side. Every restaurant here does one, but Fritz is a standout

  8. Jonathon "Johnny B" Brandmeier from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin was a radio personality in Chicago in the 80's and 90's. He had a bit where whenever he talked to someone from Wisconsin he would ask for the best fish fry and they would instantly shoot back a definitive answer. No matter how small the town, no matter what part of the state they had a place. Here in Chicago there are thousands of places that have Friday fish fries, they are not throwing frozen crap into the fryer and staying in business, there are just too many places that make great fish, why would anyone eat Mrs. Pauls?

  9. either shave that beard or cover it while you're cooking… I'd be very squeamish about my food if I saw him like that…

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