The 16 Absolute Best Fish Fries In The US

Fried fish is a staple of many cuisines, especially in communities close to bodies of water. Whether it's British-style fish and chips or Southern-inspired catfish, you can cross the country and never run out of battered seafood options.

The Friday night fish fry is rooted in the Catholic tradition. During Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) the Church asks its members to refrain from eating meat on Friday (the day Jesus died) as a form of penance. Throughout the 20th century, areas, where many European Catholics settled, became synonymous with fish fries. These weekly events are still popular fundraisers at local churches and civic organizations.

Fried fish can also be found in most bars and pubs, dating back to Prohibition. To stay afloat, bar owners served fish as a legitimizing form of business. The fish lunch was underpriced, sometimes all-you-can-eat or even free, to get customers in the door. 

Fish fries have roots in the Black community, too. Food historian Adrian Miller explained to the New York Times that during the era of slavery, a plantation's work schedule slowed down by noon on Saturday. Enslaved people would often go fishing and bring back their catch, and the Saturday night fish fry became an impromptu get-together. Generations later, this tradition spread throughout the country during the Great Migration, including accouterments such as hot sauce, coleslaw, and hush puppies.

With all that history, let's take a look at 16 of the best fish fries in the United States.

Foxhole Lounge - Racine, Wisconsin

Descend into the basement of the Veterans Center of the Northshore American Legion, Post #331, and you'll find the Foxhole Lounge. It's a wood-grained banquet hall that seats about 60 people anchored by a three-sided bar. Some nights there's a DJ, karaoke, or bingo, but every night there's a fish fry. Enjoy cod, perch, or walleye served with potato pancakes, applesauce, coleslaw, succotash, and rye bread.

After a daylong crawl of Milwaukee's bars, Bill Addison, Eater's roving national critic, called Foxhole's fish fry "a study of golds and browns arranged on a plastic white oval platter, and everything about it felt right." The unfussy plate of precisely cooked fish, accompanied by the easy camaraderie among his fellow diners "conveyed everything I hoped to glean about Milwaukee fish fries."

The Foxhole also serves a fried cod sandwich topped with lettuce, tomato, and the cheese of your choice. Nicknamed the "McFox," it's served with fries. But if for some reason you're not in the mood for fried fish, the menu offers burgers, sandwiches, soups, and specials like ribs. An older menu even stated, "Don't see it?? Please ask. If we don't have it, we'll get it (within reason)."

No matter what you order, you'll love the fact that you're supporting veterans.

Fitz's on the Lake - Lodi, Wisconsin

Because fried fish is such a simple meal, its pleasures increase exponentially with good company and beautiful views. You'll find both at Fitz's on the Lake, on the shore of Lake Wisconsin, about 30 minutes outside of Madison.

You can order haddock or walleye one of two ways: battered and fried or breaded and baked (for the best of both worlds, order half and half). The beer batter is light and airy, but the buttercrumb coating of the baked fish is an equally tempting choice. On Friday, the fish is even better, because from 11 am to 4 pm, it's all-you-can-eat. The fish fry comes with a side of coleslaw and your choice of au gratin potatoes, French fries, hash browns, baked potato, or vegetables. Mike Seidel, who runs the blog Madison Fish Fry, recommends the signature hash browns with cheese and onion on the side.

Stretch out on the deck to watch the boats on the lake and listen to the crackling fire, or sit inside the cozy wood-paneled dining room to be closer to the live music and enticing aromas from the kitchen. You can't go wrong.

Sandy & Sons Kitchen - Syracuse, New York

After sitting vacant for three years, the Village Lanes bowling alley in East Syracuse was revitalized in 2011 by Sandy and Jon Paninski. They bade farewell to the shag carpeting, refurbished the oak bar, and now Sandy & Sons Kitchen is a popular hangout for Central New Yorkers.

"We bought the bowling alley mostly for the restaurant," Jon Paninski told His mother Sandy, the main cook, isn't new to fine bowling alley fare— she cooked at Fremont Lanes for 15 years, building a loyal following.

Sandy & Sons Kitchen dredges haddock fillets in an egg-milk dip and coats them with Golden Dipt breading. After frying in 350-degree vegetable oil, the fish is served in a sandwich or with sides. You can choose macaroni or potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, or French fries. The restaurant even uses vegetables like onions, peppers, and corn that are grown on the family farm.

Get to the bowling alley early, because Sandy's Friday fish fries regularly sell out.

Bulldog Ale House - Chicago

Since opening in Rogers Park in 2017, Bulldog Ale House has become a favorite of Loyola University Chicago students. They congregate here to cheer on their team, the Ramblers, get their fill of bar food, and choose from an extensive list of craft beers on tap. This gastropub isn't purely a college crowd, though; locals pop in, as do visitors staying in nearby hotels. The wafting aromas of burgers, pizza, and fried fish is a likely reason why.

While a large portion of fish and chips is on the menu every day, the Friday special means they're all-you-can-eat (with the purchase of a beverage). Gorge yourself on beer-battered cod served with tartar sauce, fries, and coleslaw. Owner Matt Ahmeti takes pride that his chain of sports bars makes almost all its dishes from scratch. Since the first Bulldog Ale House opened in 2010, it's expanded to 10 Illinois locations, with new outposts scheduled to open in Wisconsin and Texas.

As one visitor to the area said, "The fish and chips were delicious! Crispy on the outside and not overcooked on the inside." In a word: perfection.

Mel's Fish Shack - Los Angeles

After moving to Los Angeles from Georgia, Mel Powell opened Mel's Fish Shack in the Crenshaw district in 1982. "People kept telling him to open a Mexican restaurant, but he opened a fish fry," his daughter Georgette Powell told the New York Times.

After her father's death in 2001, Georgette became the second-generation owner of Mel's Fish Shack, where she serves sole, red snapper, catfish, salmon, tilapia, and whiting fried however you like it: soft, medium crispy, or hard. Instead of tartar sauce, Mel's serves a lemony garlic dill sauce to counterbalance the cornmeal crust. "And you absolutely have to have some good hot sauce," she said. "You can make good fish taste bad with bad hot sauce."

But there's no bad-tasting fish here. Mel's has been a mainstay for generations of Angelenos, and recently its exterior became an unmissable sea-green social-justice-inspired landmark through the talents of muralist Dezcjon Lathrop. As Powell explained to the Los Angeles Sentinel, "I wanted to make sure that we talk about the importance of maintaining and sustaining legacy ... We've done a lot of things throughout history and a lot of times our stories get lost  ... I think it is important to keep our community tight."

The Frying Scotsman - Beaverton, Oregon

When you're craving fried fish, make your way to BG Food Cartel and head straight for The Frying Scotsman food cart. Hailing from Ayrshire, Scotland, the Frying Scotsman himself, James Smith, has been serving U.K.-style fish and chips from this cart for over 10 years. During this time, he's been featured on The Cooking Channel's show "Eat Street" and developed a loyal following that's stayed true despite the cart's relocation in 2019.

At Smith's chippy, you can choose from cod, haddock, halibut, mahi-mahi, and red snapper, all bought locally. In true Scottish style, you can also order a side of mushy peas or a portion of curry sauce to go on top. Of course, there's lemon, tartar, HP sauce, and malt vinegar as toppings, too. For the thick-cut chips, Smith says on a busy day, he may peel upwards of 300 pounds of potatoes.

Other imported delicacies you can get from this cart include deep-fried haggis, bangers (sausage), Irn-Bru (a Scottish soda), or a deep-fried Mars bar (milk chocolate, nougat, and caramel covered in the cart's signature batter).

Starboard Tack - Las Vegas

The Starboard Tack is an off-Strip hangout that opened in the early '70s. As one of the few places that served dinner 24 hours a day, it was a popular after-hours joint for performers like Frank Sinatra, Ringo Starr, and Tom Jones.

In 2017, the Starboard Tack made a glorious return as a rum bar under the ownership of Bryant Jane and Lyle Cervenka. "We're not a tiki bar whatsoever," Jane told Las Vegas Weekly. Instead, it's a retro-chic music venue, inviting industry workers, neighborhood locals, and visitors alike to its eclectic environs. While they added tropical touches, the new owners kept the original fireplace, the wooden ship deck tables, and the 24-hour kitchen — including fish and chips.

In the '70s, the original owners had a friend in La Jolla who would send fresh swordfish to the lounge twice a week. Today, the dish is battered Pacific cod served with house tartar and fries, a perfect complement to a rum cocktail. The bar claims to have the largest rum selection in the state, so work your way through the extensive list as you nosh on lightly battered fish and transport yourself to an island oasis.

Wiechec's Lounge - Buffalo

Wiechec's Lounge has been a Kaisertown mainstay since 1964 when Henry and Rose Wiechec started serving beer and bar favorites. In the decades since then, their son Mike and his sister-in-law Laurie run the kitchen, turning out burgers, soups, wings (because Buffalo), and legendary fish fries.

You can get the fish fry any day of the week, but on Friday you also have the option to order scallops and shrimp — and you'll probably have to put your name on a list and wait. Take a seat in the wood-paneled restaurant among the softball players coming off the diamonds across the street. Then, choose from beer-battered, crumb-coated, broiled, or Cajun blackened fish that comes with coleslaw, fries, and macaroni salad. Or opt for the fish sandwich on a long sub roll with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise, and cheese.

Wiechec's is the kind of place where everyone seems to know everyone and everyone has a story about coming here years and even decades ago. That's part of the comfort served on your plate alongside a pitcher of beer or a Vernors highball.

Tipsy Steer - Minneapolis

With three locations throughout Minneapolis, Tipsy Steer serves locally sourced, "sassy" comfort food like burgers, pizza, and tacos. A favorite here is sunnies and chips, otherwise known as sunfish served with fries and coleslaw. Sunfish is a generic name for varied species found throughout Minnesota's lakes that include bluegill, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, orange-spotted sunfish, longear, and warmouth.

Pioneer Press reporter Jess Fleming raved that she and her husband are "eastern Wisconsin natives who are fans of a good lake-fish fish fry." The lightly breaded and crisp-fried sunnies won her whole table over: "Our neighbor and dining companion, whom we have converted to believing that the Wisconsin way is best, ate half of my plate."

You can also order a sunny po'boy, or for a Friday night fish fry, you might get a special like a lightly battered walleye filet. Tipsy Steer prides itself on serving seasonal catches and showcasing producers in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The restaurant even grows its own herbs on-site.

Pair your sunfish with a local craft beer or delve into the "Psycho Milkshakes" menu offering flavors like Chocolate Dream Xtreme and Crazy Carnival (with cotton candy).

The Old Monk - Dallas

The Old Monk is an Irish pub started by Dublin-born Feargal McKinney that's been a Dallas institution since 1998. True to its name, you'll find religious touches including lights from an old monastery, reclaimed dark wood paneling from confessional booths, and an altar door that dates back to the early 1900s. With a long list of beers on tap and in bottles, The Old Monk is the perfect place to find the classic combo of fried fish and ale, especially when you can grab a seat on the patio on a sunny day.

Here, Atlantic cod is covered in a batter made from Smithwick's Irish Red and a blend of flours including rice flour, giving the fish a light tempura flavor. The housemade tartar sauce is a mix of roasted garlic, capers, olives, red onion, fresh tarragon, and dill, making it a bright, herbaceous complement to your cod and thick-cut steak fries. It's a classic preparation, and defiantly so: as the Dallas Observer wrote, "You remember the fish and chips; you count on them to be crispy and the ramekins to be rimmed with paprika and shards of dill, no matter the state of food trends boiling within the city."

The Old Monk has two sister pubs on the same street, the Skelling and Spider Murphy's, the makings of a satisfying day of bar-hopping. But the Old Monk stands sentry.

"We didn't want to be a restaurant," McKinney says. "We wanted to be a pub."

Bull & Bush - Denver

Long before gastropubs and microbreweries entered the lexicon, Bull & Bush Brewery, a spacious British-style pub, opened its doors. Twin brothers Dean and Dale Peterson left their careers as stockbrokers in 1971 and named their bar after a pub in Hampstead Heath near London. While that Bull & Bush opened in 1645, this one pays homage through original artifacts including the warped copper-top bar still in use today (via Uncover Colorado). Glendale locals, the brothers say that in their childhood, the bar's location used to be a dairy that they would ride their bikes past.

These days, the bar is still in the Peterson family, run by Dale's sons David and Erik. On Fridays, the special is "Thank Cod It's Fry-Day," with all-you-can-eat fish and chips. The fish is panko-breaded cod served with housemade Tower E.S.B. tartar sauce. Tower E.S.B. is an award-winning amber-colored extra strong bitter ale brewed on-site. As for the other six days of the week, you can still order the fish and chips, but you'll have to restrain yourself (or get two orders).

With "brewery" in the name, you might not expect to find an extensive list of whiskeys, but Bull & Bush has one of the largest selections in Colorado. Create your own flight of three whiskeys and take in some live music, or sit back on the patio and sip.

Urban Growler - St. Paul

Bringing People Together Through Beer. Now there's a mission statement we can get behind. Urban Growler is the first women-owned microbrewery in Wisconsin. Deb Loch and Jill Pavlak left their corporate jobs in 2008 to start their operation. Despite being denied funding from 12 banks, the pair crowdfunded through founding memberships and t-shirt sales and were finally able to open their doors to a spacious, welcoming space in 2014.

Loch's website bio says that she is "all things Wisconsin -– Packers, cheese, and fish frys. You can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but you can't take the desire for a fish fry out of the girl. Hence, our Friday night fish frys."

Whether you eat in the beer garden or taproom or take your meal to go, you'll taste a little bit of Wisconsin in Minnesota. The fish is a panko-breaded lake walleye served with coleslaw, pumpernickel rye bread, and your choice of side (fries, tots, veggies, tortilla chips). The menu warns in all caps that it "STARTS FRIDAY TILL GONE," so get there early. Pair it with the brewery's flagship Cowbell Cream Ale, or ask your server for a recommendation.

Apple Granny - Lewiston, New York

Apple Granny is a well-known Center Street eatery for locals as well as visitors to Niagara Falls. As far back as 1830, the site was a general store. In 1975, John Roberts acquired it and turned it into the beloved institution. In 2015, new owners Chuck Barber and Michael J. Burke took over but made a point to change very little. "We'd be foolish to change it," Burke told the Niagra County Tribune/Sentinel at the time.

Famous for its Friday fish fries, the restaurant serves moist, flaky beer-battered haddock with French fries and coleslaw.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the restaurant lost its Canadian clientele who could no longer easily cross the border. Apple Granny also had never done much takeout business and had to pivot quickly. "The curbside Friday fish frys were a huge help to us," Barber said. "The community rallied behind our fish frys. I'm glad to see people still were looking for those fish frys ... It wasn't always the fastest way possible for people, but we really did want to make sure we did that: Continue to serve that consistently throughout the year in the safest way possible. We're glad that people enjoyed it."

That's probably why in 2021, Apple Granny won its fourth consecutive "Best Fish Fry" by readers of the Tribune/Sentinel. As Joelle C. stated, "If you've ever had it ... you know! It's incredible!"

The Rustic Grill at StoneWater - Highland Heights, Ohio

When you're in the suburbs of Cleveland, head to Fish Fry Fridays at the Rustic Grill on the StoneWater golf course. There, you can enjoy beer-battered cod and house slaw, or opt for the breaded Lake Erie perch sliders, topped with house slaw and garlic aioli. Both come with Cajun wedge fries. For the little ones, the kid's version is a smaller portion of battered cod served with French fries and applesauce. It's a Friday-only affair; the rest of the week you'll have to rely on seasonal fish specials like seared stripe bass topped with romesco and served with sauteed Swiss chard and black rice pilaf or grilled salmon in lemon beurre blanc served with Parmesan risotto and crispy artichokes.

If beer on tap or a glass of wine aren't calling to you, the featured Fish Fry cocktail is Anchors Aweigh, a refreshing mix of Watershed vodka, limoncello, ginger liquor, bitters, and a prosecco topper.

Feeling a little posh? When dining in, reserve one of the restaurant's four heated igloos that can fit up to eight people. Or for a more casual affair, sit inside or on the patio (no tee time required). And for eating-over-the-sink-in-your-PJs vibes, order your food from a delivery app or pick it up curbside. Whatever way you choose, you're in the capable hands of executive chef Kathryn Neidus.

Barrow's Catfish - New Orleans

According to Very Local, the first time a Louisiana newspaper used the term "fish fry" was in an 1843 edition of the Times-Picayune. For about a hundred years, a fish fry was a family get-together, much like a crab boil or barbecue. But in the 1930s and '40s, advertisements for dances at churches and dance halls began appearing in local newspapers, with fish fries mentioned as one of the major draws. 

At Barrow's Catfish, though, frying fish isn't a once-a-week special, but the whole ball game. "We're the tenth oldest restaurant in the city and the second oldest Black-owned restaurant," said co-owner Kenneth Johnson Jr. "My wife's family has been frying fish here for more than 70 years — it's what we do best."

During a typical Lenten week, Johnson said they might fry between 2,500 and 3,000 pounds of fish and serve about 450 pounds of potato salad.

But don't fret about these quantities. Individual attention is the restaurant's signature. "The reason people love our fish is because we make our food the same way those ladies made theirs at those fish fries," Johnson said. "We have one person who adds the individual seasonings, and we have one person who smashes the potatoes. We treat it like a real fish fry, but we're just making it for a lot of people."

The catfish filets are coated with a thin cayenne and cornmeal crust. There's a soft heat that lingers but doesn't overpower the flavorful fish.

The Fish Box - Seattle

Fried fish isn't generally thought of as the greatest dish served to-go. When food comes from a fryer, it gives off steam that can make whatever's just been fried soggy by the time you get it home.

But at the Fish Box in Seattle, the fish is made to be served in a to-go box (hence the name). In fact, there's no dine-in option at all. This seafood spot in the Central District serves four kinds of fish and chips: catfish, salmon, halibut, and tilapia.

The catfish is the specialty here, with the Fish Box's website claiming that it's so good, some people mistake it for chicken. The chefs take care to cut and marinate the catfish to remove any muddy flavor. Then they soak the filets in buttermilk and a homemade blend of spices (bonus: the spice mix is available for purchase). Your box comes with seasoned French fries and hush puppies.

Beyond fish and chips, you can also order The Sammich, a generous portion of fish served on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and special sauce.