Saturday, August 17, 2013

The best fish ever

I'm a fish lover, and have had some magnificent piscine meals in various places around the globe.  But for comfort fish, there's only one choice: Michigan perch.  (I guess maybe Wisconsin perch are almost as good.)

So on our way to northern Michigan last month I was happy that we took the culinary detour to Kern's Sausage in Frankenmuth, because that meant we'd have to drive past Berger's Restaurant in Bay City, home of the ur-comfort fish.  Ur-, because not only does Berger's make great perch, it's the restaurant where my family has been going for decades.

It used to be a roadhouse -- a grim little cement-block building with a wall down the middle -- low-end bar on the left, slightly more fastidious dining room on the right.  Knotty pine walls (heck, this is Michigan) and mismatched tables and chairs.  And the best perch in the world.

My father and my grandmother always made a big point of ordering their perch with bones in it, loudly maintaining that the fish was much better that way.  The rest of us made a big point of ordering ours with no bones, having experience with the two million tiny bones per fish.  (The bone lovers occasionally had to grab one of the handy slices of rye bread to wash down a bone caught in the throat.)

A while back the roadhouse closed, having gotten just too decrepit for words, and maybe something having to do with widening the road.  But then it reopened in a fancy new building, looking like any Denny's or Perkins or other "family restaurant" you could name.  It lost the ambience, but thankfully the fish is just as good as ever.  They don't offer the option of perch with bones in it, but that's OK because both my father and grandmother are dead.  And not from getting bones stuck in their throats, either.

So the next time you're driving I-75 between Saginaw and Bay City, you MUST MUST MUST stop at Berger's for perch.  Get off at exit 160, head back south toward Saginaw for few hundred yards and it's there on the left.

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