Monday, December 21, 2009

The Phoenix, Hartland, WI

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of the year. As much as I love the holiday season, I could do without the heart-attack like stress that comes with it. Day to day living is difficult enough, but add on crabby people at stores, people with no Christmas list, my overall lack of creativity at this time and a diminishing bank account to this and you'll find life tends to be a little overwhelming. I was able to finish my tasks on time and under budget this year, but not without a few bumps in the road.

Squeezing in the weekly fish fry also proved to be a tough task this week, with all the hustle and bustle of the season, but, thankfully we were able to sit down for a nice dinner on Friday evening at the Phoenix Restaurant/Bar in Hartland, WI. Upon walking into this restaurant I became increasingly hesitant about how this dinner would turn out. The bar smelled like a dirty ashtray and the very dim coloring with a splash of Christmas lights had me skeptical.

Thankfully we were able to get into the tiny dining room which was non-smoking (and did not have that stale smoke smell) and was a little more cheerful in decoration. Like many weeks prior, we sat down and perused the menu while enjoying a drink, which was brought to us by our top-notch server. Although that dining room was small, there were still about 12 tables (all of one was filled with diners) to be taken care of and this lovely young woman did it all with a smile firmly planted on her face. She did not show her stress and maneuvered through all the maze-like openings in this room with grace and poise. I should have known just then, this would be a phenomenal meal. Ann was equally impressed...

This past Friday we played “hookie” from our normal routine of working out and then going to Fish Fry. Instead we decided to retreat to the our “hole in the wall” right here in Hartland: The Phoenix. Now, I have known for some time that the food served at the Phoenix is top notch, surprisingly enough, as you wouldn’t expect such food to be served at this establishment. It has been years since I have had a fish fry at the Phoenix and I was very anxious to return for this one!!!!! When we arrived we put our name in and grabbed a beer at the bar. Beth and Z came minutes later and we were all seated in the joining room to the bar portion. Beth and I both ordered the Baked Haddock while Dave ordered the chicken and fish buffet and Z ordered the seafood buffet. As we watched Dave and Z eat their food…..(we did nibble off of their plates!!!) we waited, and I would say patiently, ESPECIALLY for us!!! The waitress comped our entire table a round of drinks it took so long………but, when it finally arrived, it was INCREDIBLE! By far this was the BEST fish fry we have had during our adventure of trying to find the best fish fry in southeastern Wisconsin. The Haddock just melted in your mouth and the home-made potato pancakes made you crave them more and more with every bite. This fish fry was SUPERB!!! Hats off to the chefs Carl and Robert! I give The Phoenix’s Friday night fish fry a 10 out of 10!!!!!

The Phoenix offers two different Friday buffets, one is a Fish/Chicken buffet (11.95) and a Seafood buffet ($15.95), the boys opted for that dinner choice, while Ann and I, as indicated above, decided to go with the baked Haddock ($15.95). I was delighted when I saw Haddock on the menu and jumped at the chance to have it, I really didn't care who had what at that point, as my mind was made up the minute I saw the choices. This haddock was outstanding. To give you an idea of how impressed I was, I called my father on the phone after eating this dish to let him know that it was better than the haddock recipe at Blanck's. Yes folks, it was THAT good.

The fish was baked to perfection and the subtle lemon pepper and dill seasonings were pure pleasure. The drawn butter, in my opinion was there for show, you didn't need it. Each fork full gave me a different taste of the flavors and just melted in my mouth, and that is a sign of an impeccability which is difficult to achieve. I asked the waitress if the cook would give up some more of the seasoning ingredients, much to my chegrin he did not...but, I really didn't expect him to either. We had a good laugh over it and continued to enjoy the rest of our dinner.

If there is any complaint it was the wait. There was a considerable amount of time (probably 45 minutes) between the time we ordered and when the food came to the table, but any concern we had was quickly abolished when the cool/calm waitress offered us a free drink for our troubles! It's a tradition in small Wisconsin restaurants which I LOVE. Buy the people a drink to keep them happy, and in most cases it does!

The wait will keep the Phoenix from getting that last star of perfection, but 9 out of 10 isn't bad either. I will definitely be back there as I heard the burgers are even better than the fish fry. I'd like to take this time to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of my friends and family. This has been another great year and I'm thankful for all the wonderful gifts in my life, including the ability to test out the best fish fry restaurants in Waukesha county! We will be back to you after the first of the year. Until then, be safe, be Merry and give someone you love a hug!


  1. Hi Bethie, Ann and crew - we followed your recommendation and went to the Phoenix last night. There were 6 of us, including 2 children. We really liked the small, old fashioned dining room and hope they never change the decor - it is perfect. Although we had not planned to, we ended up all choosing buffet. It worked well for us, as the children were able to eat fast, and the adults really enjoyed the food! The batter was light and not greasy, just the right consistency, the fish was nice and flaky, perfectly cooked. There were several kinds of fish. The salads were numerous and good. We liked, in particular, the beet salad and the german potato salad. For those who went with the seafood bar, the cold shrimps were delicious as well. The service was excellent, very friendly, very fast on requests. All in all we give service 10/10 and food 9/10, although we are VERY picky on food (we arrived a few months ago from SF, CA where we used to go out often). We will be back often! Thanks again for the recommendation - MP, Michel, Cams and Kae from Merton Pond

  2. This review is so wonderful to read, as your Friday night waitress is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and the Phoenix is (her) family owned! Thank you for your wonderful review! Would you mind if we used a link to this review for the upcoming Facebook (and possibly separate) webpage(s)? Thanks again!