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Joey's Seafood and Grill

Update 8/12/15: Joey's is now North and South Seafood & Smokehouse. Thanks, Brian!

In a word: Decent chain seafood, if a little underwhelming.

The specs: #0280
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp, Madison Hot Bite, Madison Fish Fry, collected at del.icio.us; Joey's Seafood & Grill on Urbanspoon

Latest Joey's Seafood and Grill news and reviews

JM ate the crab cakes with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the fish tacos with an iced tea.
The bill was $21, or $10.50/person, plus tip (thanks, Bucky Book!)
JM gave Joey's Seafood and Grill an A-; Nichole gave Joey's Seafood and Grill a B- (see our grading rubric).

Clock Tower Court

With not much to go on other than some mixed experiences from family in the Twin Cities area, we sailed to Joey's with little expectation other than it would be a seafood restaurant (we managed to cleverly deduce this from its name).  Upon arrival, we were well taken care of despite the obnoxious overabundance of FOX news on the TV screens and the proximity/crampedness of the bar vis-a-vis its placement relative to the seating and a large saltwater aquarium.

The menu was fairly long, and some nightly specials on the chalkboard above the kitchen door edged towards something more adventurous than breaded and fried filets. A caddy of condiments adorned each table and included a huge cylinder of French sea salt and a tin of Old Bay.

Pollock tacos

Nichole ordered 2 fish tacos, each made of a generous slab of fried pollock, sliced cabbage, grated cheddar cheese, and salsa in a soft flour tortilla. This seemed to Nichole like an incredibly, well, white interpretation of a fish taco. (Only after some research did we learn that, like Boston's the Gourmet Pizza, Joey's is a Canadian chain. Maybe their Albertan roots are an explanation.) The portions were big and the flavors were bland, with only an occasional kick from the mostly tepid salsa. Still - and embarassingly enough - it's not hard to imagine us making fish tacos like this at home. OK, we'd use corn tortillas. But it'll be awhile before we're pickling our own red onions to get flavors more robust than this Northern version.

Crab cakes and hush puppies

The dinner of crab cakes didn't look like much food on the plate, but JM found that the dense cakes, hush puppies, and a corn muffin were more than enough to be filling. Hoo boy, were these crab cakes crabby. Like the tacos, though, they seemed one-note and needed some sauce to make any bites after the first interesting.

Key lime pie

Would you believe that Joey's key lime pie is among the top slices Nichole's had? Food Fight's (Hubbard, Monty's, Bluephie's) are too chalky; Norske Nook's too gummy; and most others, if they can be found, not limey enough. (Of course, Fyfe's is better, but not long for this world.) Every bite of this petite slice on a graham cracker crust packed a tart kick that smoothed into sweetness. Maybe it came frozen from a central supplier, but darned if it wasn't great anyway.

Nichole's other favorite bit of the Joey's experience was a little orange fish that flitted around the big tank, literally perching on a coral or right on the sandy floor of the tank. Spunky little critter. Too quick to get a picture of, though.

Fish tank


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A- sounds pretty high for a review that sounded pretty bad. Why did JM come up with that? That plate of his did not look appetizing. Hush puppies AND a corn muffin?!? The fish tacos sound really freaky. Pickled onions are easy to make! And Fox News to boot....I usually like things Canadian....

The crab cakes were quite good once you sauced them.

Other than the cheese (we are in Wisconsin), what sounds freaky about the fish tacos?

It was more that they weren't "freaky" at all. The floppy flour tortillas, but also the scarcity of salsa and the lack of crema, onion, and cilantro (which, OK, I can do without) all contributed to the blandness. The batter was just blah, too. No lime, no chili powder that I could tell.

Maybe I'm being harsh. I wonder if Joey's uses different recipes in different marketing regions. I would be curious to know whether the cheese they use is specifically Wisconsin or is just whatever Sysco brings.

OMG, I had one of the worst meals ever at Joey's. I too ordered the fish tacos, and was utterly horrified by what they brought out.

You are too kind: I'd give these guys a D-.

Crab cakes and fish tacos have become two of my favorite seafood items...and neither tough to make at home. Though the idea of breaded fried fish seems a bit off...and Midwestern.

I was amazed at the review because this was one of the worst restaurants I've ever experienced. The salmon I ordered actually had lines on it from being in plastic packaging before being placed on my place. My son's macaroni and cheese was one giant glob of yellow that could not be separated into bite-sizes pieces. And my wife's entree was terrible. This is definitely the most unpleasant dining experience I've had in Madison, and maybe anywhere.

I have to say that JM and Nichole's review is spot on. Do you think maybe, just maybe, everyone's negative postings on Joeys has to do with the Madisonian attitude towards franchises?

I've eaten at Joeys numerous times, and while it has never blown me away, or measured up to Red Lobster (gasp, another franchise!), it has never been 'the most unpleasant dining experience [ever]'.

Or maybe, just maybe, everyone's taste, expectation and experience is different!

Ya condescending little...

That maybe, but I've lived in and out of Madison long enough to notice the remarkable skewness in attitudes towards franchises vs. locally owned.

Interestingly, when objective reviewers such as JM and Nichole, or even the late, great Dennis Ghetto of Milwaukee reviewed Joeys, they gave it a decent review (Ghetto gave it 3 stars).

I thought Joey's was terrible and am even embarrassed to have a name associated with it!

I agree about the whole "ew, it's a franchise" thing. I know people who have raved about places (Brocach for example) one week, and turned on it entirely after finding out that it is a franchise.

I understand supporting the local economy and all, but there's just something so petulant and teenager-ish about immediately turning up your nose at something beause it's not "cool" (even though it was "cool" just days before, and nothing has changed).

Equally immature is assigning a blanket mentality to everyone in a city or region for the sole reason that they live there.

Why is it automatically less than objective when someone states their opinion as "I don't like chain restaurants"? (something, it should be clarified, I'm not doing) Similarly, why must that decision be rooted in something so infantile as "coolness"? Do you really think there's no fundamental difference between a locally-owned establishment and a multi-location franchise?

I don't think this is the place for it, but I'll respond briefly to clear up some misunderstandings.

I didn't mean to imply (nor I'm sure, did Joe) that every single man, woman and child in the greater Madison area was anti-franchise. But distinct locales have distinct cultures, and anti-franchise sentiments seem to be part of Madison's (at least in my relatively limited downtown experience).

And I didn't mean to suggest that there are no objective reasons to dislike franchises. I have plenty of problems with them based on their unnecessary government subsidization, their antitrust treatment, their effect on our labor force, their standardized long distance supply chains and the whole vassalage business plan.

But that doesn't mean that I would ever dismiss a place out of hand just because it's a franchise. Nor would I ever let the realization that a place is a franchise change my perception of it. I've encountered that exact phenomenon on multiple occasions in Madison however, and if you haven't, you're not paying attention (check the dailypage forums, or even some comments on this blog). That's the "cool" I'm talking about. And it has nothing to do with the food.

In any event, I don't think it's all that bad. Considering the culture that exists in many places, I think snobbishness ranks pretty low on the danger scale. But it is kind of irritating, and I'm not the only one who's noticed it. And, for the record, I don't think it's immature. I think it's insecure, self-righteous and alienated, which is why I equated it with being a teenager.

Sorry, I'm on the Daily Page forum pretty much every day (say what you will), and while there's no shortage of posturing and pretension, I have not once seen someone post a comment like "d00d, that place is a chain? that suxxors. I won't eat there again!1!eleven"

(yes, that was over the top. but i've still never seen it)

I've never seen the word 'suxxors' before.

If you look at Crystals post regarding Johnny's Italian Steakhouse (the 3rd most recent after mine), you will see the comment Jason and I are trying to point out.

It’s a predisposition to not like a restaurant simply by virtue of it being a chain or franchise.

Uh, I'm pretty sure Brocach isn't a chain?

I'm gonna guess he meant Claddagh. They sound the same. Or something.

Brocach is part of a chain of Irish pubs. They each have their own unique name, but they are franchises.

I went a couple of days back and ordered the mixed food grill..The fish was so smelly that i had to eat an entire packet of Altoids to get rid of it. I am now scared that it would cause any stomach problems.

According to 77 Square today, Joey's (the chain) collapsed. Joey's (the Madison restaurant) is now independent. http://ow.ly/JTbc

Only ate there once. TERRIBLE grilled fish. Thin, dry, tasteless. May try it again to see if it's gotten better.

2.5 years later... And things have definately changed! Joeys no longer carries pollock and the crabcakes are reinvented with a better recipe. The tacos don't include cheese anymore and all desserts are made in house! Monthly chef specialties (by John Marks) are trendy and deliscious! Check out the restaurant now, you will not be disappointed!

I give Joey's a C-.

I tried Joey's twice and will not return. The first time I had a very mediocre plate of scallops. They were over cooked and rubbery. My friend had the Firecracker shrimp. They were small and the sauce, which was build as spicy, was pretty darn mild. I wouldn't order this again.

The next time I visited I had crab cakes and the halibut fish fry.

The crab cakes were all cake. I discerned no crab at all. The "remoulade" sauce that comes with them is a fraud. It simply is mildly spicy mayonnaise. I make my own remoulade and it is way better than what I was served at Joey's.

The halibut was good. It was lightly breaded and cooked perfectly and went well with the malt vinegar. The fries were average.

The atmosphere is not conducive to a "nice evening out". It is noisy and the servers are frenetic, then they disappear for a long time only to rush over and say something really fast and rush away.

only went first time couple years back..mid afternoon when is was slow. the food was awful. Service very slow.
the fry grease was burnt and the food tasted it. prices sky high and lousy servce. if you need a seafood fix...look for a Long John Silvers..Joeys is awful

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