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Kavanaugh's Esquire Club
1025 N. Sherman Ave.
The long-timers know it like they know the threads of their favorite flannel shirt: The Esquire, owned and operated by three generations of the Kavanaugh family, combines two of Wisconsin’s most honored traditions—the supper club and the Friday fish fry. Bucking more modern trends, Kavanaugh’s fry hasn’t changed from its original 1950s focus on ocean perch. Cod and a single-serving plate of lake perch have joined the menu options over the years, but the hand-breaded ocean perch remains the main draw. It might have something to do with the fact that, in defiance of another modern trend, it remains all-you-can-eat.
“I go back to the days when fish fry was $1.25 a plate,” says John Kavanaugh, the gracious and affable owner, as he surveys the large bar that forms the centerpiece of the club, where groups of regulars nurse seltzers and old fashioneds.
All-you-can-eat is a little pricier today, but this is a tradition worth the price. “We encourage people to want seconds,” says Kavanaugh. “We had one customer come in and eat twenty-two pieces of fish. If a guy can do that, I’m happy for him.”