Fry-Day Night Fever: Unearthing Madison’s 3 Best Fish Fries

Fry-Day Night Fever: Unearthing Madison’s 3 Best Fish Fries

Photo courtesy of Dexter's Pub

By UpNorthNews Staff

March 14, 2024

If there’s one thing Madisonians take seriously, it’s a fish fry. Friday night in Madison is an event, a tradition, and for many, a beloved weekly ritual. It’s a time when the community comes together, strangers share tables, and that first crispy, golden bite washes away the week’s woes.

The allure begins with the freshest catch, sourced from the sparkling waters that cradle our city. Each filet, tender and brimming with flavor, promises a taste of the local aquatic bounty. But it’s the batter that sets a Madison fish fry apart. This golden cloak whispers tales of secret recipes often passed down through generations.

But beyond the impeccable cuisine lies the heart and soul of the Madison fish fry experience: the vibrant spirit of community. These gatherings are a cherished opportunity for laughter and storytelling. It’s a time when barriers dissolve at the dinner table, inviting everyone into a space of warmth and inclusivity. The fish fry becomes a communal hearth, where memories are forged and the week’s trials and triumphs are shared with equal fervor.

And let’s not overlook the seamless dance between food and drink that characterizes these gatherings. The careful selection of local beers underscores Madison’s commitment to celebrating the craftsmanship of brews. This pairing delights the palate, enhancing the dining experience to something akin to culinary alchemy.

In Madison, the fish fry is a weekly homage to the joys of good food, good company, and the enduring spirit of our community. It’s an experience imbued with love, tradition, and a dash of local flair, making it an indispensable part of our cultural tapestry.

With so many outstanding places to choose from, we asked UpNorthNews readers for their favorites. Now we’re here to dive deep into the batter of this cultural phenomenon to bring you Madison’s best fish fries.

Picture this: a table filled with smiling faces, the air filled with the comforting aroma of beer-battered goodness, and the clinking of glasses as everyone dives into the heart of Madison’s culinary pride. Get ready to experience Fry-Day Night Fever like never before!

3. The Old Fashioned

Fish Fry at The Old Fashioned

Photo courtesy of The Old Fashioned

Exploring the heart of downtown Madison brings you to the welcoming doors of The Old Fashioned, where Wisconsin’s culinary traditions are celebrated with gusto and a deep reverence for local flavors. It’s a place that radiates warmth, inviting you into an atmosphere rich with the scent of beer-battered delights and the sound of lively conversations—a space where the fish fry is more than a dish; it’s a testament to the state’s storied past and vibrant present.

At The Old Fashioned, each bite of their fish fry is a journey through Wisconsin’s culinary landscape, meticulously crafted to highlight the best of local produce and flavors. The cod, enveloped in a beer batter that’s both light and satisfyingly crisp, speaks to the skill and passion behind the dish. It’s a balance of tradition and innovation, where the classic fish fry meets a level of creativity that keeps diners coming back for more. The secret lies not only in the quality of the ingredients but in the love and care poured into every plate served.

The experience at The Old Fashioned goes beyond the food. It’s about embracing the essence of Wisconsin’s dining culture, where every meal is an opportunity to connect, share, and create memories. Surrounded by the buzz of friendly chatter and the clinking of glasses filled with locally sourced beers, the fish fry at The Old Fashioned becomes the centerpiece of an evening that encapsulates the joy of communal dining. Here, every server’s smile and every dish that makes its way to the table feels like a celebration of the community’s spirit and culinary excellence.

MORE: The Old Fashioned has Madison’s best cheese curds.

2. Dexter’s Pub

Stepping into Dexter’s Pub feels like coming home, if home comes with fried fish and a beer list that would make any enthusiast’s heart flutter. This cozy, unassuming spot might fly under the radar for the uninitiated, but for those in the know, it’s a destination that encapsulates the essence of a stellar fish fry experience.

What makes Dexter’s a standout in Madison’s competitive fish fry scene? The batter, oh the batter! Light, airy, and impossibly crisp, it hugs each fillet in a crunchy embrace, ensuring that with every bite, you’re met with a satisfying crunch followed by the tender, flavorful fish within.

And let’s talk about the beer selection for a moment—because what’s a Wisconsin fish fry without the perfect beer to go with it? Dexter’s offers an extensive array of Wisconsin beers, each one chosen to complement the flavors of the fish fry. Whether you prefer a light pilsner or a full-bodied ale, there’s a brew to enhance your meal, turning each bite into a symphony of flavors that dance across your palate.

In a city that loves its traditions, Dexter’s proves that you don’t need the frills and fanfare to stand out. Here, it’s all about the food, the people, and the love of a good fish fry. The atmosphere buzzes with the chatter of locals and newcomers alike, all drawn in by the promise of a meal that feels both comforting and exciting. It shows that, sometimes, the best dining experiences come from places that prioritize the food and the people at the table.

1. Kavanaugh’s Esquire Club

Fish Fry at Kavanaugh's

Photo courtesy of Kavanaugh’s Esquire Club

At the center of Madison’s bustling fish fry scene, Kavanaugh’s Esquire Club stands tall. It’s a beacon of culinary delight that has captured the hearts (and taste buds) of our readers, who named Kavanaugh’s the best fish fry in Madison. This local hotspot has managed to carve out a legendary status among the myriad of dining options in Wisconsin’s capital.

When you step into Kavanaugh’s, you’re stepping into a slice of Madison history. With walls that could tell a thousand tales, there’s an undeniable warmth and welcoming spirit that greets every patron. The atmosphere buzzes with anticipation, a communal excitement for the feast that awaits.

Their fish fry menu is a testament to their unwavering commitment to quality and flavor. Whether you opt for the succulent cod or the tender perch, each bite transports you to a place of pure gastronomic joy. The batter, light yet crispy, encases the fish in a golden embrace, while the meat inside remains flaky and moist. Kavanaugh’s understands that a great fish fry is a symphony of flavors and textures. The coleslaw is homemade, crunchy, and creamy. The potatoes and bread are perfect complements to the star of the show.

But what takes the Kavanaugh’s experience to the next level is the sense of celebration that permeates the air. Here, families, friends, and first-timers come together over shared plates and stories, forging connections amidst the clatter of cutlery and the laughter that fills the room. It’s a reminder that at its heart, a fish fry at Kavanaugh’s is more than a meal; it’s an occasion, a weekly homage to the joy of communal dining and the simple pleasure of a dish done well.

Navigating the bustling Madison fish fry scene might seem daunting, but Kavanaugh’s Esquire Club shines as a beacon of culinary excellence and community spirit. In a city that loves its traditions, Kavanaugh’s stands out as a cherished institution, inviting one and all to partake in a dining experience that’s distinctly Madison.




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