More than 10,000 voters from across the state weighed in on 101 things they love about Northern Michigan. Their votes determined over 300 Red Hot Best winners and 700 honorable mentions. Here you’ll find the best fish frys!


First Place: Scalawag’s Fish & Chips, Traverse City
A trophy rainbow trout leaping over a bank of vintage outboard motors is the entrée to Scalawags, a happily kitschy museum of fishing memorabilia and home of the North’s Red Hot Best fish fry. Lamps crafted from overturned steel bait buckets hang over rows of vinyl booths kitted out with bobber-shaped salt shakers and bottles of malt vinegar. Every inch of wall space hosts a colorful clutter of rods, reels, antique lures and fish mounts leading to the order counter. There, fish-fry acolytes order from a concise menu of fresh Lake Michigan whitefish, walleye and perch expertly fried and served in baskets loaded with shoestring fries, crisp hush puppies, tartar sauce and crunchy slaw. Fresh whole fish, sourced from Charlevoix’s John Cross Fisheries, are filleted and skinned on site, accounting for sweet, moist pearlescent fillets, lightly battered and flash fried with delectable crunch or seasoned and grilled.

[Have you heard about the storied steelhead at Scalawags?]

Read on this month as we seek out Omega-3 infusions in the school of runners-up to this year’s Red Hot Best Fish Fry.

Apache Trout Grill

Tied Second Place: Apache Trout Grill, Traverse City
Apache hangs its fishing hat on panko-crusted fresh whitefish served with Yukon gold mash.

Tied Second Place: Dinghy’s Friday Night Fish Fry, Frankfort
Insatiable fish eaters will find an all-you-eat option on Friday nights at Dinghy’s with baskets of crisp cod loin or fresh perch fillets.

Third Place: Moose Jaw Junction, Pellston
A True North watering hole nestled in the wilds of Emmet County, Moose Jaw draws crowds for cold pints and crunchy baskets of fried local whitefish.

Knot Just A Bar

More Red Hot Best Fish Frys:

Bluebird, Leland
Pregame on the vintage salad bar and then sit down to Lake Michigan whitefish, walleye, bluegill or Lake Superior smelt, lightly breaded and fried up right.

Boone’s Long Lake Inn, Traverse City
Fresh whitefish, perch and walleye are expertly converted into crispy piscean delights at this sprawling Long Lake steakhouse.

Brady’s Bar, Traverse City
Feel the rustic neighborhood bar vibe at Brady’s while chomping on crispy fish and chips and pounding pints of local pale ale.

Geno’s, Thompsonville
Geno’s baskets mounded with golden brown cod are the perfect salty counterpoint to cold pitchers of brew and a blaring Tigers game.

J & S Hamburg, Traverse City
Bottomless fish baskets beckon the hungry and brave to this tiny retro diner on West Front Street.

Knot Just a Bar, Omena
The Knot beer-batters perch, smelt or cod and serves them piping hot in a paper cone with fries, slaw and homemade tartar.

Sleder’s Tavern, Traverse City
Make the pilgrimage to Michigan’s oldest eatery for fried perch, cold beer, live tunes and a giant moose.

June cover 2017


Get your copy of the June 2017 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine for the complete list of over 300 Red Hot Best winners! Subscribe and get the June issue plus 12 months of Traverse Magazine for year-round travel ideas and food recommendations!


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Photo(s) by Dave Weidner