Nothing says Wisconsin like the Friday Night Fish Fry!
Perch, blue gill, walleye, cod, and haddock are most common and traditionally come with rye bread, onion, coleslaw, some sort of potato, tarter sauce and a lemon wedge.
The Fish Fry is another classic Wisconsin tradition deeply rooted in our state’s heritage that can be traced back to medieval Roman catholic times.
During Lent, many Christians ditch the meat for 40 days before Easter to honor Jesus’ death and resurrection. More than a million people celebrate Lent in Wisconsin, and luckily the Badger State is the land of 15,000 lakes, making fish a perfect alternative to “dirty warm-blooded” animal meat.
Fish Fries really caught on during the Prohibition. Since booze was banned, taverns cleverly marketed them as a quick and inexpensive way to feed your whole family. Now, they’re ingrained in our Wisconsin culture, and have become a popular year-round tradition for everyone.
You’ll find more than 1,000 bars and restaurant serving Fish Fries on Friday nights. But here are 11 places we’ve heard have the best in the area. If you don’t see your favorite on the list – add it in the comments!
1. Maricques – Green Bay
Maricques is an old-school bar that’s been on the Northeast side of Green Bay since 1934.
Although the bar’s location and atmosphere are nothing to write home about, it just happens to be the place people say serve the best Fish Fry on Earth. With Spotted Cow on tap!
Maricques is owned by a commercial fishing family who serve their own catch of the day.
You’ll get a mound of fish piled high on a paper plate. No silverware. They’re not about the frills. You get a thick slice of onion with buttered rye and two sides of homemade tarter. No slaw. No lemon. Just down to business with the good stuff.
Maricques offers Blue Gill, Pike, Whitefish, Catfish, Shrimp, smelt if it’s in season and freshwater Perch. I’m sure all the fish is delicious, but people can’t stop raving about this perch.
It’s so good – there’s even bones in it. You can order it without bones too, but they’ll tell you the bone-in is better. If you’re a first timer, your waitress will teach you how to master the art of deboning. Both versions are delicately cooked, lightly breaded and moist.
If you want a real taste of a classic Wisconsin Fish Fry with a couple of brews – try Maricques. They’re dishing out Fish Fry on Wednesdays and Fridays and bowls of chicken Booyah on Saturdays.
FYI… word of mouth has packed this place every Friday night – but I hear they make a strong Brandy Old Fashioned to help keep you company while you wait.
2. Farr’s Grove – Green Bay
Another classic Wisconsin tavern where you’ll find a great fish fry served up on paper plates. You might call it a “dive bar” with a school lunch cafeteria feel. So, don’t expect fine dining – expect good fish.
They have freshwater perch, which fans say has just the right amount of breading, walleye, shrimp, cod and even frog legs!
You’ll find tons of great reviews on Farr’s Grove. Some diehard perch lovers are completely dedicated and will go nowhere else but Farr’s. It’s a family-run business cookin’ homemade comfort food – Wisconsin fish fry style. I’ve heard the vinegar-based slaw and made-from-scratch potato salad are both excellent.
Farr’s is on Shawano Avenue in Green Bay and has been around for many years. The regulars are hooked. Take caution – you could easily become one too.
3. Late’s Diner – Manitowoc
Here’s a cozy down-home cafe, with vintage ‘5os charm.
Plenty of people in Manitowoc swear by Late’s diner for Friday fish fry. And people really dig their lake perch sandwich too.
The coleslaw and German potato salad are also a must try. But from what I gathered – the malts and cheese curds alone are definitely worth the commute. The curds are lightly breaded, squeaky and fresh. People make special out-of-town trips just for these curds!
Plus, I hear the malts are to die for.
If you’re close enough – they do deliver. But if you dine in and the weather’s right, take a walk across the street to Red Arrow park. It has an awesome view of Lake Michigan, a beach walkway and a real WWII cannon the kids can play on.
4. Mark’s East Side – Appleton
Mark’s East Side is a popular German-style Supper Club on Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton. It’s been family-owned since 1967.
The owner, Mark Dougherty, started as a dishwasher and busboy, and was cooking by age 15. That was when his parent’s Bill and Jan owned the place and it was called Chef Bill’s.
But after Mark graduated from UW Oshkosh, he took over, remodeled and called it Mark’s East Side.
Mark’s claims to have the Valley’s best clam chowder and has won multiple Golden Fork Awards for Best Fish Fry. On Friday Night you can get fresh lake perch, all you can eat Icelandic batter-fried haddock or broiled Atlantic silver salmon.
They also have a tempting seafood platter that comes with perch, shrimp, scallops and fried haddock. They serve a baked french onion soup that looks delicious, and fans say it’s the best they’ve ever had. There’s also been a bit of buzz about their sauerkraut balls and perfectly mixed drinks.
5. Barn Tavern – Lena
Don’t go to The Barn expecting glitz or fancy decor. You will get simple country cooking with a small town atmosphere.
People describe The Barn Tavern as friendly, affordable and basic. It’s actually an old red barn that’s been converted into a tavern. And yes, it really was used for dairy cows!
Their Fish Fry is on Wednesdays and Fridays. People say they’ll go out of their way just for this fish. It’s quality.
You can choose from cod, perch, poorman’s lobster, shrimp and walleye. Everything comes with coleslaw, bread and cheese, tartar sauce and a choice of fries or homemade potato salad.
If you feel like dining out where there’s a great sunset and rural views to enjoy a classic Wisconsin fish fry – go “sit and drink where the cows used to stink.”
6. Wendt’s on the Lake – Van Dyne
Here’s another highly recommended place to get your perch fix. A small and cozy casual restaurant on Lake Winnebago.
Wendt’s on the Lake is a third generation family-run business in the town of Van Dyne. The Wendt family converted a building that used to be an icehouse in the 1900s, into a fish fry destination in 1962.
- Read more about the history of the Booming Wisconsin Ice Harvesting Business.
Now after five decades, the family has built a national reputation for the best-tasting lake perch and have won more than 20 awards (since 2001) for best fish fry in Oshkosh and Fond du Lac.
I hear they’re famous for their tarter sauce too! The great part is, Wendt’s serves perch everyday they’re open. Not just on Fridays. It’s also lightly breaded and hand-dipped the same way for more than 50 years.
If you go on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday – you might have to try a combo platter so you can try the famous batter fried lobster that so many people love – along with the perch. They also offer smelt, shrimp, pike and cod. And Sprecher Root Beer on tap!
- Read more about Sprecher Root Beer, plus 5 other delicious Wisconsin made root beers.
FYI – It’s cash or check only – no credit or debit – so go prepared!
7. The Settlement – Green Bay
Here’s yet another Green Bay bar with a proper Friday Night fish fry. It’s off of WI-57 near Wequiock Falls.
Like many others on our list, it’s nothing fancy schmancy. But the drinks are strong, the perch is light and crispy and the haddock melts in your mouth.
Some picky-eaters say the breading is a bit thick – but other people prefer it that way.
Green Bay customers say The Settlement ranks right up there with Maricques. I’ve also heard many good things about their friendly, speedy service and good prices on everything.
Plus the portions are huge! People really enjoy their signature fries and baby red potatoes. The cheese curds are great, and their Bloody just might be the best in Green Bay!
The Settlement is packed on Fridays, but worth the wait. When you order your drinks, make sure to get a number from the bartender right away so they know you’re ready to order. They only take cash or check too – so be prepared – or else you can use their ATM.
8. Kropp’s Supper Club – Green Bay
Kropp’s Supper Club in Green Bay’s Mill Center is a local landmark.
It started as a hotel and tavern for local loggers when it was built in 1904. And since 1947, it’s been a historic family-run bar and restaurant with a homey, old-world atmosphere.
The establishment has also been featured in Ron Faiola’s book and documentary – Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience.
Wisconsinites love Kropp’s. The fish fry here is legendary – one of the best perch joints in town – which might explain why it is a bit pricier than other places. You can get your perch with bones or without.
Kropp’s is so good, most of the waitresses have been there for 50 years or more! They are also known for their onion rings, hash-browns, clam chowder and chicken. But – the walleye, shrimp, cod, frog legs, lobster and steak are supposedly delicious too. They have limited hours – open only Wednesday, Friday and Saturday – but they do take reservations. And credit cards!
9. The Shoreline Restaurant – Ellison Bay
Here’s a great fish fry with an amazing atmosphere for a great Door County experience. Open from late April to mid November – they serve lightly seasoned pan-fried perch and fresh whitefish on Friday with beer-battered french fries, creamy homemade coleslaw and rye bread.
But the full menu is extensive and offers many other options.
People love the whitefish at The Shoreline. But, the one thing they can’t stop talking about is the amazing sunset and beautiful view of the bay over the peninsula. The whitefish chowder is also highly recommended. Some say it’s the best in the Door, while others say it’s the best in the Midwest.
Excellent reviews boast about the high quality fish, service and atmosphere at The Shoreline. It makes a great date night destination or family vacation spot.
They do take reservations for 10 or more. Otherwise, expect a wait. Many times there’s a line out the door 30 minutes before the doors open. But the back patio makes a perfect spot to sit, relax and enjoy an ice cold beer.
10. Sister Bay Bowl – Sister Bay
A classic Wisconsin up north supper club with a little old fashioned fun.
Some people say Sister Bay Bowl has the best fish fry in Door County. Others say they’ve had better. But you’ll never know if it’s the best you’ve had until you try it.
Plus, this place is not just famous for fish fry, it’s a unique historic experience.
The supper club started out as a hotel in 1917 and was converted to a supper club and retro 6-lane bowling alley in the ’60s. Now it’s a third generation family-owned business.
- Learn More About why Sister Bay Bowl is a Strike Above the Rest.
For Friday night fish fry, choose from lightly battered lake perch, shrimp, or walleye. Or, order whitefish, scallops or other options off their full menu. The fish fry will come with a fresh loaf of warm white and rye bread, potato salad or fries, coleslaw and relish.
Large portions. Kid-friendly. Casual… Enjoy a game of bowling while you toss back a few. I’ve read they mix a stellar Bloody Mary and Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet.
11. The Redwood Inn
Have you ever been to a fish fry where you can get two baked potatoes!? If not, you have to try The Redwood Inn in Green Bay – family-owned since 1964.
They serve about 500 pounds of perch every week!
This year, owners Pat and Bob Smits are celebrating their restaurant’s 50th anniversary. And all of the delicious food is prepared by Bob himself (who is still cooking at age 71) and his son John.
- Check out this article featuring The Redwood from the Green Bay Press Gazette.
The Redwood Inn’s serving sizes are huge and the prices are fair. And if you’re a tarter sauce lover, who is always asking for more, you won’t have to ask The Redwood. They have squeeze bottles filled with their homemade tarter on the table!
Plus, their Bloody Marys and Brandy Old Fashioneds get a 5-star rating from many loyal customers. The old fashioned mix is made from scratch. You’ll definitely have a chance to try one because this is another very popular Friday fish fry and you will probably have to wait.
But some people say even a 2-hour wait at Redwood Inn is worth it. If you’re too hungry to wait on Friday night, they serve their fish fry on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays too.
Packer pride is a Redwood Inn bonus. You’ll get to see some awesome Packer player memorabilia, uniforms, part of a goal post, murals, pictures, gear – you name it!
FYI – They are at 3361 Main Street in Green Bay and only accept cash or check.
There are so many more great suggestions for where you can get a traditional Wisconsin fish fry. Thanks for all your ideas on Facebook.
We have a few others listed here, but if your regular go to place is “the best” and hasn’t been mentioned – please leave a comment and let the world know!
- River Street Pier, Howard – Fresh fish served Wednesdays & Fridays. Super small hole in the wall dining. Excellent clam chowder, homemade potato chips, and onion rings. Pours good cheap drinks.
- Lake Aire Supper Club, Clintonville – People love their all you can eat salad bar which has great variety. Recently remodeled with a beautiful small lake view and amazing sunsets. Great drinks and service.
- The Lake Park Tavern Bar & Pub, Menasha – Friday Fish Fry is second to none. Stuffed shrimp, baked haddock and seafood chowder are boasted about. Great drinks. Good service.
- Wolff’s River Inn Supper Club, Elcho – Best Fish Fry and steaks in the Northwoods! And great family-friendly service.
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