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Wilson's Bar

In a word: They don't care what you think.

The specs: #0742  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Wisconsin Fish Fry Reviews, Madison Fish Fry, Daily Dadio, Yelp, EatDrinkMadison; Facebook, official web site, Wilson's Bar on Urbanspoon

Latest Wilson's news and reviews

JM ate the 3pc cod fish fry with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the Wilson's burger.
We were joined by 4 associates of MadisonFishFry.com, who also had cod fish fry.
The bill was about $8/person, plus tip.
JM gave Wilson's Bar an A-; Nichole gave Wilson's Bar a B+ (see our grading rubric).

The greeter at Wilson's is not the bartender, not a swiveling patron, but an intimidating punching bag arcade game that looms to one side of the front door.

The first rule of Wilson's is that you don't talk about certain things about Wilson's.

Those things include the prehistoric ketchup, and dinner. Don't try to get a seat here after 4pm when a major game is on. And don't whine about what sodas they have on the gun, because there's a vending machine out back.

The second rule of Wilson's is that you don't talk about Wilson's without saying that MadisonFishFry.com has documented this fish fry so thoroughly - 120 meals and counting, including an Ode to Wilson's - that there must be a book in it. We're in awe.

Third rule: someone in your party needs a beer, this is a good place for a basic tap. Nothing too fancy.

Fourth rule: only 6 to a table. Unless you show up way before the game to stake out your turf.

Fifth rule: one dish at a time, fellas. The "eponymous" - or is it "homonymous"? - Wilson burger.

Wilson's burger

Through the lens of Kate's burger rating guide:

  • Bun: Untoasted white with sesame. Held up.
  • Meat: Jenny St. beef in a handmade patty.
  • Bun/meat ratio: A-OK.
  • Cheese: I am some sort of delicious melted Jack cheese.
  • Misc.: Sauteed green peppers and onions and HOLY COW is that an inch-thick slice of fresh, red tomato that looks like it came right out of someone's garden? Why, yes. This burger only wants a bigger plate. About an 8.5 of 10 overall.

Sixth rule: shirts, shoes = service.

Seventh rule: lunch will go on as long as it has to.

Fish fryAnd the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Wilson's, you have to get the fish fry.

We get to eat fish fry so seldomly that we sometimes forget the details that make a great one. Our yardstick is Seafood Center, which we still think is good for carryout, but Wilson's reminded us what we were missing. The batter has real character here. It's salty, peppery and light, not just made of oil and flour. The pieces of fish are hand-battered and vary in size and shape, tending to square. This leads to moist, almost molten cod centers. As MFF mentioned in their account of the meal, the fries were having an off day and the slaw is never great (too floppy) but the rolls were fresh.

If you go to Wilson's, trust us. Everything's gonna be fine.


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I have a bit of a confession to make...forgive me, Wisconsin, for I have sinned. I have never eaten at a Friday night fish-fry here, ever. I have lived in Wisconsin for more than a decade without having done so. You see, Wisconsin, it is not fried fish that scares me away from your Friday dinner tradition, it is expectation. I don't want to be disappointed, Wisconsin. I want to love everything about you, but I don't want poorly fried fish. I grew up eating fried fish, but it was panfish that we caught ourselves and dad would fillet on the shore. Then he would dredge the fillets in an egg wash and Aunt Jemima's Pancake Mix and deep fry those tender morsels to perfection. Does that make me spoiled, Wisconsin? Yes, yes it does. And I don't want you to ever think you're not good enough, so I don't partake in your fish fry goodness. I just don't want to be that mean.

This review tickles me. Amusing through and through.

I'm constantly amazed at how good the food is at Wilson's. They're putting out the kind of product that the fancy, expensive "burger bistros" only wish they could deliver.

I went there a while back and had the wilson burger, on the recommendation of a friend. It was one of the worst burgers I've ever had. The meat was fine if underseasoned, but the bun was a soggy mess; the peppers and onions were burnt to the point of being inedible, and the sauce was non-existent. And like other reviews have already stated, the fries weren't very good. Maybe a regular burger is the way to go?

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