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History of The Wisconsin Fish Fry & Where to Find them in PdC

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

The tradition of the Friday night fish fry has become an iconic part of Wisconsin culture. It's a time-honored tradition that brings friends and families together to enjoy a delicious meal, share stories, and make memories. But where did this beloved tradition come from? What is the history behind the Wisconsin fish fry?

The origins of the Wisconsin fish fry can be traced back to the Catholic Church's practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays. In an effort to promote the consumption of fish, the church encouraged its followers to partake in fish instead of meat on Fridays. As a result, many Catholic communities began to see an increase in the demand for fish.

This was especially true in Wisconsin, which had a large Catholic population. In the early 20th century, Catholics in Wisconsin began to organize fish fries as a way to socialize and enjoy a meal together. These early fish fries were usually held in church basements, and the fish was often brought in by members of the congregation.

One of the earliest recorded fish fries in Wisconsin took place in 1917 at St. John's Church in Milwaukee. The parishioners of St. John's brought their own fish to fry, and the event was a huge success. Soon after, other Catholic churches and organizations began to hold their own fish fries, and the tradition began to spread.

As the popularity of the Wisconsin fish fry grew, so did the demand for fish. Local restaurants and taverns began to offer fish fries as a way to attract customers, and the tradition began to evolve. Fish fries became an important social event in Wisconsin, with many establishments offering all-you-can-eat specials and live music.

During the Great Depression, fish fries became even more popular as they were an affordable way for families to enjoy a night out. The tradition continued to grow in popularity throughout the 20th century, and today it's a Friday night staple in Wisconsin.

So, what makes a Wisconsin fish fry so special? Typically, a Wisconsin fish fry consists of fried cod or perch, served with sides such as coleslaw, potato salad, and fries or chips. The fish is usually battered and deep-fried, giving it a crispy texture and delicious flavor.

While the fish fry itself has remained relatively unchanged over the years, the way it's served has evolved. Some restaurants offer a traditional sit-down dinner, while others have a more casual atmosphere with a buffet-style setup, and many fish fries are ALL YOU CAN EAT!

Over the years, the Wisconsin fish fry has gained national attention, with food critics and bloggers raving about its deliciousness. It's become a must-try dish for anyone visiting the state. In fact, many Wisconsin communities hold fish fry festivals, which attract visitors from all over the world.

The Wisconsin fish fry is more than just a meal. It's a beloved tradition that brings people together, fosters community, and celebrates the state's unique culture. Whether you're a lifelong Wisconsin resident or a visitor to the state, be sure to check out a local fish fry and experience the deliciousness and camaraderie of this iconic tradition!

Head to one of the MANY locations for a Friday night Fish Fry in Prairie du Chien! Watch for bars and other fundraising groups that offer pop-up fish fries too! A few recommendations:

  • The Blackhawk

  • The Barn

  • The Crooked Oar

  • Jones Black Angus

  • Fort Mulligans

  • Prairie Country Club

  • Huckleberry's

  • Hungry House

  • Leisure Time Sports Bar and Bowl

Chow Down! :)


Stay at the Corner Cottage

After a full day of exploring and chowing down, head back to the Corner Cottage Vacation Rental, conveniently located just one block from Prairie's downtown River District. This mid-century modern, four bedroom home comfortably sleeps eight guests and features a private patio with plenty of off-street parking for your vehicles and boat.


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