Regional food specialties
-The Start of Spring in Wisconsin
Next week is the most popular weekend of the year in the beautiful lakeside town of Port Washington. Located about 20 minutes north of Milwaukee, the towns local American Legion will be putting on their 64th annual Smelt Fry April 10th and the 11th of 2015. Back when the now gone fisheries were still hauling in super-loads from Lake Michigan little smelt fish were the sign that Spring was here. These days the smelt fry has taken over the duty. I got to attend the 63rd annual fry last year and waited until now to post about the experience, giving you plenty of time to make plans to take your first post-winter daytrip to one of the more iconic dinner socials in Wisconsin.
American Legion Bar Post 82
When the Legion held it's first of many fry's the little fish that are fried whole were so abundant in the lake that people fished them with buckets, hauling in 100's on each scoop. Sometime around the 90's the population took a drastic downturn but the festival never stopped. The smelt comes from up the lake and the people that attend come from all over the region. A few things I remember were how damn near everyone knew each other and there were 100's of people by the time the party got going. I also remember the average age median to be over 50 but that dropped a decade by going into the bar attached the dining room filled with the early birds on my visit. No worries the line moves fast.
a peek inside
Smelt might sound unappealing but they have a mild fishy taste that when fried and made crispy can become flat out addictive. You'll see people putting them down like fries. Last year the entry ticket was $12 and that got you a plate which could be used for all the little fried fishy's you can eat as well as fries, rye bread, and one complimentary drink which could be either beer or pop. It's a great deal, smelt were always cheap and because of that and the fact you're easily able to fry them whole propelled them to a popular party eat. Smelt Fry's are still a thing and this one is the headliner.
Fried Smelt Plate
I enjoyed my first plate with a High Life at the bar and then went for round two which I took to one of the picnic tables across the street. The Legion is located right on a public park which sits right on the lake. After the brutal winter that was, this was one of the most gratifying meals I had all year.
Port Washington, Wisconsin
American Legion - Port Washington
435 N Lake St Port
Port Washington, WI 53074