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East Side Business Men's Association

Update: ESBMA is now the East Side Club.

In a word: Not quiiiite a good value.

The specs: #0147
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Wisconsin Fish Fry Reviews, 77 Square, Madison Fish Fry, collected at del.icio.us; official web site; East Side Business Men's Association on Urbanspoon

JM, John and Nichole all ate the fish fry buffet.
The bill would have been $10.02 each plus tip, but John shared his free meal vouchers (a poker perk) - Thanks, John!
JM and John gave ESBMA a B; Nichole gave ESBMA a C+ (see our grading rubric).

Latest East Side Business Men's Association news and reviews

ESBMA sign

The East Side Business Men's Association building, overlooking Lake Monona, is suffused with the glories of yesteryear.

Past presidents of ESBMA

The waitstaff, always quick to clear a dish or refill a water glass, seems to also have been imported from yesteryear.  We're guessing Gaylord's, who caters this do, has very low staff turnover.

Foyer

The buffet consisted of:

  • salad bar with mixed greens, about 8 salad toppings plus the standard dressings, crab pasta salad, and coleslaw
  • steam table with several kinds of seafood (baked scrod, baked cod, fried cod, fried shrimp, fried redfish), fried chicken, 2 soups (shrimp bisque and chicken noodle), shrimp jambalaya, french fries, red potatoes, and asparagus
  • dessert table with 3 kinds of cookies, 2 puddings (including tapioca), cake, and dinner rolls (they must not have fit elsewhere)

Now, that may look like a lot on paper, but in person it was underwhelming. The fish itself was fine, especially the crunchy baked scrod. Yet the peppery breading on the cod and chicken was uncannily similar.

The steam tables weren't very good at keeping the hot stuff hot. The almost total lack of veggies made us fear for the health of ESBMA regulars. And the drink philosophy (tea, lemonade, and milk included, soft drinks etc. extra at the bar) was, we thought, odd, as was the application for membership.

First name of spouse?

We imagine a minimum of effort could swank the place right up a la some of the more concept-driven places downtown, but whether that would be a net improvement for the ESBMA fish fry is not for us to guess.

Comments

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Hilarious! I can't believe this was on the list. I thought you had to be a member to enter the building! Ha. Everyday we drive past this, we always joke about the huge crowd, and turning up for bingo some night. I don't know, with a B rating that might not be so far-fetched. ;)

they have a sunday brunch (also catered by Gaylord) which is a little more appetizing than their fish fry sounds... that's just me, though, since i don't eat the fried things.

Congratulations on reaching the E's! Zuzu Cafe is getting closer and closer....

Awesome night photo of ESBMA! Keep up the good work from your friends at Madison Bar Tour.

The sign (and website) now read The Eastside Club.

My husband and I tried this place to see if we could add it to our "Friday fish list". Unfortunately in its present state, we'll probably pass on it. The fish variety was plentiful, but flavor was lacking. Bland fish (even with some lemon) is a bit of a turn-off. The steamed veggies were extremely soft. The salad bar was average. My guess is that the food is geared to seniors with bland palates, which is unfortunate. It's too bad really...since the service was wonderful. Oh, and the best thing on the buffet were the cookies. Weird, to be sure.

I've been reading/hearing good things about the new tiki bar in the back, overlooking the lake.

All the comments on this fish fry are from 2006. We went for the first time in 2009, and it was pretty good. We have been back several times, and while it isn't the best Madison has to offer, it is certainly better than what is described in the comments. Give it another try.

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