Rapid Review: Lakefront Beer Hall's fish fry
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In 2014, Lakefront Brewery took over this venue's food operations – which had been handled by the Vecchio Entertainment Group under the name Lakefront Palm Garden – and expanded and revamped the menu to include more locally-sourced products.
Now called the Lakefront Beer Hall, the place offers a Friday night fish fry, a Sunday brunch and banquets.
We had not been to the fish fry since it changed hands, and were eager to give it a whirl. The experience was much like we remembered. We noted that the stage was moved, but the polka band – called the Polka Kings – was still in full swing. The long tables were filled with diners eating "family style," which has always added a social and interactive element to the Lakefront dining experience.
During the week, the new menu is larger than the former one with a plethora of signature items including deep fried Wisconsin cheese curds – made with Clock Shadow Creamery's curds – beer cheese soup, beer braised pork tacos, Usinger's brats and a Friday night fish fry.
Every Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. there are four fish fry options. The classic Milwaukee cod fry features fish dipped in a batter made with Lakefont's East Side Dark beer. The baked cod dinner is gluten free, topped with herbs and fried capers, and comes with melted butter. There's also a perch fry and a smelt fry.
All of the fish fry dinners come with coleslaw, bread and a choice of side, including fries, potato pancakes and (sometimes) warm potato salad.
Overall, the food is good, the atmosphere is lively and the wait can be very long.
Type of food: Fish fries, sandwiches, soups, salads and many "Wisconsin favorites."
Prices: Affordable. The fish fries range in price from $10.95 to $14.95.
Vegetarian friendly? Somewhat, the majority of the menu is seafood and meat-centered, but there is a grilled cheese sandwich, mac-and-cheese, deep fried cheese curds, hot pretzels and salads available.
Hours: Open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (fish fry on Friday from 4 to 9 p.m.) and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Parking: Free parking in lot and on Commerce Street, but can be tough to find spots on Friday nights.
Vibe/dress: Casual. Lederhosen-friendly on Friday nights.
Hits: The fish fry sides – particularly the crunchy coleslaw, potato pancakes and homemade potato salad (not always available) – really make Lakefront's fish fry a cut above the rest. The fish itself is good, but not particularly stand out compared to other fries in the city.
Misses: The deep fried cheese curds looked delicious but did not have enough flavor. It comes with an accompanying garlic / dill dip that overpowers the curds. Also, the service and timing of our experience was off. We waited for 90 minutes, which was fine (because beer!) but there were many open seats during our wait. Perhaps there was a staff shortage which prevented a quicker turnover. Once we sat down, the service was good, actually too good. We received our food within 10 minutes.
Insider tip: Go early if you have / like kids, go later if you want to avoid kids. And for the love of all things fried, get the potato pancakes.
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