Nestled on the banks of the Crawfish River Aztalan, a name derived from an ancient Aztec tradition, was a Native American village over 1000 years ago. Today, Aztalan State Park is Wisconsin’s premier archaeological site, a national landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a prehistoric marvel and a mystery that the inhabitants left suddenly with no apparent explanation.
It is no mystery that hungry locals flock to Darren & Mindy’s Aztalan Inn. Located between Lake Mills and Johnson Creek at the intersection of Highways B & Q, a trip to the Inn is well worthwhile on any Wednesday or Friday for the fish fry lover. Starting at 11am and serving until 9pm, the Perch, Cod, Walleye, Shrimp, Scallops, Catfish and Frog Legs are all lightly hand-breaded and deep fried. Accompaniments include baked, traditional, seasoned or sweet potato fries or jo-jo’s (Texas-sized potato wedges.) Substitute onion rings, beer battered fries or potato pancakes for $1.00 extra.
All entrees run under $10.00 with the exception of “5 giant scallops” ($10.99) and the double order of 10 jumbo shrimp ($13.99.) My wife and I sometimes split the large shrimp order and it is plenty of food.
On a recent early Wednesday evening visit, our famished group was seated immediately by a friendly waitress in the main dining area. There are two side dining rooms, one directly adjacent to the huge bar and kitchen, and another just off the main dining area. We noticed that tables were quickly bussed and reset and the bathrooms spic and span. The lively bar was crowded with happy hour patrons who move aside as you elbow your way through with salad bar selections.
Drinks arrived swiftly, and we were directed to the salad bar where the standout is the seven layer salad. Other choices include beet salad, macaroni salad, cottage cheese, pudding, fruit, coleslaw, dinner rolls and butter. Dining tip: make sure to take some extra butter if you order a baked potato with your entrée. The only disappointment: lettuce was not included as a salad bar option, as the emphasis appeared to be on mayonnaise-based offerings.
Our generous servings of cod, shrimp and walleye arrived hot and crisp on the outside and moist on the inside, accompanied by steamy baked potato, seasoned fries and thin, crispy well-seasoned sweet potato fries (our favorite.) My huge walleye filets overlapped the plate. An extra serving of tartar sauce was necessary to properly consume the crisp deliciousness. The 2 inch thick cod filets were pronounced scrumptious and the shrimp accompanied by sassy cocktail sauce just “yummy.” Everyone pushed away from the table with a contented smile, all the while thinking about the Aztalan Inn’s Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday specials – as there is life beyond fish fries, right???
Motorcycles, minivans, sedans and pickup trucks. Whoever you are or whatever you drive, you’ll find generous servings of great fish dishes on any given Wednesday or Friday. We regularly order carry-out on Friday, and they are are always ready for pick-up on time.
No reservations, so come early or be prepared to wait at the bar, which, come to think of it, can’t be all that bad. It is very likely you will run into someone you know at Darren & Mindy’s Aztalan Inn.
Katie was the Executive Director of the Lake Mills Main Street Program from 2011 to 2019 and was the Secretary for the Jefferson County Tourism Council. In 2019, she retired to explore a new fashion degree and travel throughout the world. Katie was also a writer and contributed a great deal of copy for our website and printed guide. She was a great asset to our organization and we'll miss her!