Toby's Supper Club
The specs: #0662
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Madison Fish Fry, Yellow Pages, Brava (via Vesna Vuynovich Kovach), madcitygirl, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Yahoo! Travel, Daily Dadio; listing at Eat Drink Madison; official web site,
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JM ate the fried cod with french fries and a lemonade.
Nichole ate the baby pike with hashbrowns and an Old Fashioned.
The bill was about $15/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Toby's Supper Club an A- (see our grading rubric).
Belinda Carlisle notwithstanding, heaven is a place like Toby's.
Sure, you have to die a little to get there, but it helps to have a guide through purgatory. The Beatrice to our Dante tonight was the inimitable MadisonFishFry.com, true kindred spirits in their years-long celebration and study of the fish fry tradition in Dane County.
They showed us how to put our names in the Book and set us up with some strong, tart beverages while we waited in suspense in the first crowd of the Lenten season. And when our name was called, our table was ready. Right down to the iceberg mix salads and dishes of fresh coleslaw.
There's no strife in Heaven, especially not over the crisp radishes in the relish tray. Nor is it a long wait for fish - time has no meaning when you're in such congenial surroundings.
JM went for the classic cod in a fantastic flaky breading. The fish's flesh was moist but not greasy, and complemented by the homemade tartar which was right on the money. Nichole's baby pike came in two big, lightly battered pieces. Fridays, the bluegill is not an option, which is sad; Wednesdays, the Illinois state fish (elected by public school children in 1986, including one of your hosts truly) is back on the menu.
For sides, there are hashbrowns served family-style in the shape of a small frypan and topped with squares of American cheese - these are pretty dang good. If they have a flaw, it's that they're a little too thick in the middle to maximize the crispy surface area ratio, but if you enjoy textural contrast these hashbrowns are for you. Steak fries are also an option, though we didn't sample them, and some nights the fries are even better than the hashbrowns, according to our guides.
Toby's seats about 300 souls per dinner but surely there is room for all who seek. Don't miss the buttermints in the Bingo ball on the bar, or the Lions Club quarter-for-a-tschotschke machines in the foyer.