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Lakefront Palm Garden’s Friday Fish Fry

Beer, polka and Cream City brick complement this Milwaukee tradition

Dec. 8, 2010
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When it comes to selecting a dinner destination for out-of-town visitors, Milwaukee has a few easy choices. Karl Ratzsch’s offers time-honored German food and Three Brothers’ fine Serbian fare is served in a Schlitz corner tavern. But Milwaukee is the city of beer, brats and the Friday fish fry—and one place covers two of those categories like few others. The Lakefront Palm Garden, located in the Lakefront Brewery building, is a classic Cream City brick structure along the banks of the Milwaukee River.

Every Friday night Lakefront Palm Garden serves a fish fry in its large hall (the hall is also available for private parties on other days). The fish fry is very popular. Fortunately, the bar also serves as a waiting area. As you would expect, the Palm Garden offers a complete range of Lakefront Brewery products, including the original Riverwest Stein and the recent red ale called Fixed Gear.

Vintage leaded glass chandeliers from the former Plankinton House Hotel in Milwaukee’s Downtown light the hall. At the front of the room is a small stage with musicians. Appropriately, the music is polka—and it is loud. Feel free to dance. The German-style seating features long, communal tables where everyone of age seems to be drinking beer. This is a place for outgoing personalities.

The menu is very simple, with fish, shrimp, pasta, salads and sandwiches. For starters, soups ($2.50) include New England clam chowder and chicken with wild rice. A side salad ($3.95) comes with balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette. Most visitors go straight for the fish ($10.95-$13.95), which arrives in a basic presentation. The choices are beer-battered cod, breaded perch, breaded shrimp, breaded bluegill, baked tilapia and a combo platter with all but the tilapia. Tilapia just doesn’t feel right for a fish fry anyway. Sides of cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, applesauce and coleslaw come in plastic cups.

Which is the best to order? The shrimp are perfectly good, as are the small perch filets. The bluegills are plump, but not as good as the perch. The cod comes with a fine beer batter, which would be expected here. The coleslaw is ordinary and the tartar sauce too sweet, so stick to the lemon. Fries or potato pancakes are included; the pancakes are some of the best to be found locally.

It’s best to arrive early. Otherwise, expect a wait. If the Palm Garden is too full, another option is Captain Rusty’s Fish Fry, held every Friday at the Hubbard Park Lodge in Shorewood (3565 N. Morris Blvd.). In all honesty, this fish fry is not destined for greatness, but it is good enough—especially when combined with booming polka music and some mighty fine beers.

Lakefront Palm Garden

1872 N. Commerce St.

(414) 273-8300


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