I had visited Eric’s Porterhaus in Waukesha about 5 years ago and had enjoyed some great German specialties including Sauerbraten and Schnitzel. What I really liked was the intimate, cozy atmosphere offered at this former American Legion post at 229 Wisconsin Avenue, just south of downtown Waukesha. Every month my mailbox is flooded with coupon books and envelopes filled with more coupons. Almost all of these has a coupon for Eric’s and I always save them, let them expire, then toss them in the garbage as we always end up somewhere else. Last Friday we decided to give Eric’s a try for a Friday Fish Fry, even though the free entree coupons are not valid on Fridays.
We were told that there would be a short wait, so we had a seat at the bar. The only problem with having such a small space is that smoking is allowed at the bar and its tough to avoid the occasional plume of tobacco smoke while waiting for a table. We had a couple of Sprecher Ambers, which seemed a little old, but I had consumed a Pale Ale at home, so my taste buds might have been a little off. We were asked if we would mind being seated upstairs. We assumed it would be similar to downstairs, so we obliged. We were escorted up the staircase into a boring, bland, and somewhat depressing dining area. There are two separate rooms upstairs and you can’t help but feel like you are in someones poorly decorated house, not a restaurant charging upwards of 20-30 bucks for an entree. The carpet was worn out, the wall decor was an afterthought, with every other frame containing the Milwaukee Journal’s review of the restaurant. Worst of all were the 2×4 acoustical ceiling tiles that were so covered in spots and stains that I might have confused the upstairs with a seedy motel or my first college house. The whole room just made me uncomfortable and it marred what could have been a good dining experience.
There were four of fish options offered: the traditional fried cod, baked cod, bluegill, and perch. The cod entrees were around 10-11 ucks each, while the Perch and Cod were a hefty $16.95 The soup, as expected, was clam chowder. My wife tried the baked cod and I opted for a childhood favorite, bluegill. We split a bowl of the chowder, which I thought was exceptional. There was a healthy amount of clams in there and while the potatoes were a bit larger than I would have preferred, the soup was some of the best I have had in a long time. While we waited we were given a basket of bread and some cole slaw. The slaw was pretty good and the rye bread had a nice, chewy crust and was definitely not standard grocery store fare.
Our entrees arrived and I was impressed with the amount of food on each plate. There must have been 10-12 small breaded and fried bluegill fillets along side some very thin, crispy potato pancakes (fries are also available). My wife’s plate had two decent sized cod fillets that were baked with what I believe to be some smoked paprika sprinkled on top. The bluegill was pretty good, but a little more seasoning in the breading would have been nice. A little salt helped bring out the flavor. For the most part the fillets taste took me back to my childhood, where my parents were forced to fillet and cook small bluegill, perch, and crappies that we had pulled out of some lake in Northern Wisconsin. The delicate flavor of the bluegill was a nice change from the typical fried cod. However a few of the fillets had a distinct fishy taste to them, a sign that a couple of them may not have been very fresh. However the majority of the fillets were very good. With that being said, I enjoyed by entree but I don’t believe that it was worthy of the 18 dollar price tag, though I think dining upstairs might be the main reason I was disappointed with the price. The baked cod had a great flavor, provided by what I believe was smoked paprika, butter, and a squeeze of lemon, but they suffered from overcooking, resulting in a more chewy texture than most fish eaters prefer. I am not sure why so many restaurants have such a difficult time with something as simple as baking a chunk of fish, but overcooked cod is one of the most prominent menu items offered in southeastern Wisconsin.
Overall the food was good and I would probably go back and try the fried cod or perch just to see how they do with those items, but I would definitely want to be seated downstairs, even if that meant a longer wait at the bar. As we walked out the door and through the downstairs dining room, I noticed several diners enjoying large, juicy steaks which is what Eric’s is really known for. My wife and I will probably be back for a steak dinner in the near future. Overall I think there are better options in the area for Fish Fry, but as long as you demand to be seated downstairs you should have a satisfactory dining experience.