Archive for the ‘New places’ Category

February 9, 2012 – Craft Table & Tap (Middleton)

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Visit the website of Craft Table & Tap for menu, hours, and location.

erin says: Craft was very busy on the Thursday that we chose to visit, but apparently some diners chose to eat at the bar, which opened up a table for us almost right away. The decor is sort of industrial/warehouse with framed tools on the walls and chairs that reminded me of 70s dorm furniture. I don’t know if they ever use the upstairs, but it was closed on our visit. Part of the dining room was taken up by long bar-height tables that looked like they could fit 18 people (or more?).  They appeared to be set up as part of the dining room with place settings on two ends, but it seems like a nice, flexible idea to accommodate large or small parties. We ordered drinks and cheese curds. These were some of the best cheese curds I’ve had. The batter was golden, light, and crispy, and they were lightly seasoned and served with delicious dressing. They arrived at our table in a little metal pail tipped onto a platter. At first, it looked like a small serving, but that bucket wasn’t all for show – there were some cheese curds hiding out in there.  One order was sufficient to give the four of us a reasonable sized appetizer. After initially struggling to decide between the Craft burger and the blue cheese burger, I decided on the Craft burger. I think my taste in burgers runs toward moderate seasoning and medium-thin patties, and this was a great burger for me.  The bacon was nice and crispy, the patty was medium thickness and juicy, and the garlic mayo was added a nice kick. This is one of the better burgers I’ve had lately.  The only downside to my meal was the mac-n-cheese, which had an unsatisfying texture.  My companions called it gritty, but I think it was maybe a little dry.  The noodles were perfect, though – not overcooked to mush like other restaurants that serve macaroni as a side.  Pat ordered a Reuben, and Brian and Kevin had the Pulled Pork Brisket. The only comment I recall from the brisket-eaters was that they wished for some more sauce. Two of us ordered fries as the side, and no one seemed thrilled by them.  I tried one – they were skinny and crispy, but nothing exciting. The menu is just appetizers, salads, and sandwiches.  I’m curious to see if they will expand the menu and use the upstairs space.  8.5 out of 10.

October, November, & December, 2011 – Bison Jack’s [Middleton]

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

Visit the Bison Jack’s website for hours, location, and menu.

Erin says: My dad, Bob, has been to Bison Jack’s a few times, and he had some useful comments.  I apologize that it took me so long to get them up here.

Bob’s October report: I went to Bison Jack’s. It is definitely geared to be fast food. They are also concentrating on hot dogs (95% weighting) of various types plus a hamburger. They store the already cooked sausages/hot dogs in big warming pots. The burger they got from under the counter. Probably from a warming drawer. Nothing is fresh cooked but at 11:20 a.m., it tasted fine. The quality of the bison burger was exceptional most probably due to freshness (probably not previously frozen) and leanness. The burger was very tender and obviously low in fat as it just barely stuck together.

They have hot toppings like grilled onions waiting in a crock pot like device. They have about a dozen and a half iced containers of cold toppings like tomato and lettuce, etc. They have several sides like potato salad, franks and beans etc. They have several choices of roll types.

All together a quick lunch or dinner. It opens early and stays open late. They do have soft serve. I’ll need to go back to try a hot dog and an Italian sausage. They do have hot marinara on hand. You have to go real hungry as the hot dog and burger are huge.

I’m mixed on the place. I would like the items cooked on the spot but that’s not fast food.

The place was filled with worker types. They were all dressed as if they worked with their hands installing piping, wiring or building buildings. The place filled up immediately at 11:40 a.m.

Bob’s November report: I visited Bison Jack’s at lunch. Tried their leader items; hot dog and baked fries. Both were good but nothing to get real excited about. $9.33 with a drink. It seems they don’t use preservatives. I have no sense they use them. After you leave you feel great.

They have a frequent diner card now. Five visits gets you $5.95 or the like off your next. Minimum purchase is $3.95. That drops the lunch price by almost 20% if you keep it up.

To date, the Italian sausage is spectacular, the burger is great, the sides so far are a matter of taste but go for $2.95+ per side.

Bob’s December report: Bison Jack’s are finally getting their pricing in line. They have a posted special of $9.50 for any dog including the Italian with any topping and one side (other than chili) plus a drink. That is at least $4 off the regular price of the standard fare. There is a special on the burger too but I don’t remember what it was. Similar I expect. The drinks are now .99 cents rather than the $2 they previously posted, which I doubt is a special. I think the client has put some price pressure on them. I agree wholeheartedly with the change. That makes them competitive and not just for the uniqueness aficionados.

They did give me a bowl twice the size of dog and beans as a side. The previous bowl was a bit small. Now it is a bit big. The Italian dog topped with marinara only is still the best. The burger is next best. The standard dog is nothing special other than the fact that it is made of Bison.

January 5, 2012 – Dumpling Haus (Hilldale)

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Visit the Dumpling Haus website for menu, location, and hours.

erin says:  I’m late in posting this, but I wanted to make sure to write down a summary of what I recall hearing from our group after we visited Dumpling Haus.  There were four of us, and I believe we ordered Haus Stickers, Veggie Wontons, Haus Lo Mein with shrimp (with side of Haus Dumplings), Haus Noodle Soup (with side of Haus Dumplings), and a fried rice dish that I don’t see on the regular menu, but might have been a special that day.  It was a Thursday night, and it got pretty busy while we were there.  I thought everything tasted very fresh.  The freshness was especially apparent in the lo mein.  I usually find lo meins that are pan fried and salty, but this was very light and had a good balance of vegetables.  There weren’t any “filler” vegetables  – just scallions and carrots and veggies that added to the dish.  Pat also commented on the freshness.  She noted that if she was looking for her usual, less healthy Chinese fix, she would head down the mall.  Brian was daunted by the mechanics of eating noodle soup, but he liked the flavors.  I enjoyed the Haus Stickers and Haus Dumplings with their sauce.  The Veggie Wontons were unexciting.  When she ordered them, Pat thought that they would be fried, and she expected more from the filling from its description.  It is notable that they deep fry anything at Dumpling Haus (I believe).  The kitchen is only feet away from the tables, so that is probably a blessing.  The consensus of the group was that the prices were expensive.  Even so, I would go there again.  I am a big fan of dumplings, and I hope to try some of the other types on offer. 8 out of 10.

January 28, 2012 – Steenbocks on Orchard

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Pat says: This is a relatively new Food Fight restaurant -it’s on University Avenue in the Discovery Center.   The good: really delicious, locally grown organic food, well prepared and artistically served. I had a short rib of beef with orecchietti pasta for an entree and the beet salad as a first course. The beet salad had multi-colored early beets with a citrus flavor.  The beef was cut with a butter knife tender and served with pasta in a brown sauce. I loved every bite.

January 13, 2012 – Green Lantern (McFarland)

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Kevin says: Homey, traditional, tasty, inexpensive.

Pat says:  Have to say that I really like this place.  I met some friends here after work, then had dinner with Kevin.  The bar has comfortable tables, the background music is just loud enough to stay in the background, and the cheese curds and nachos were the best that I’ve had a long time.  There is no table service in the bar, but it wasn’t hard to get the attention of the bartender when it was time for another round.  Even if you’ve never been here before, they do a good job of making everyone feel welcome.  For dinner, Kevin had fish fry with roast potatoes and I had baked salmon with hash browns.  The fish fry was good, not great – I had a couple of bites and thought that it could have been a bit crispier.  Same thing with the hash browns – they could have been crisper.   The salmon was very good – not too salty, served with melted butter.  The dinners came with a side salad – nothing special, just bag lettuce and carrots.  The ranch dressing had a strong undertaste of smoke flavor – definitely not my favorite.  We had great service – from the bartenders, to the host who seated us to the waitress to the guy at the register, everyone acted like they were glad that we dropped in.  I’m looking forward to our next visit.  9 out of 10.

August 1, 2011 – Opa (State Street) [CLOSED]

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Pat says: We planned to go to Ian’s pizza on Frances Street, but they were closed for an employee party, so we headed down State Street to look at the families in town for SOAR and find another place for dinner.  Ended up at Opa because it was the first place we came to, it was on our list, and they had a sign in the window that said “gyros & fries, $6.50″.   Erin says that they’ve been open for a while, but here’s their general atmosphere - not ready to open yet.  Everything is sort of random – tables, variety and placement of artwork on the walls, and especially the padded bench with legs that fall out from under you when you sit.  No air conditioning and it’s still 90 degrees at 6:30.  Our waitress was nice and paid just the right amount of attention (read: regular refills on drinks but no hovering).  Kevin had a gyros style sandwich with pork instead of lamb – I had a bite and it was okay but not nearly as good as my real gyros with a  fresh, mixed greens, feta and cucumber Greek salad on the side.  I love the garlicky, greasy, sour creamy taste of a good gyros, and this was not disappointing, even if it wasn’t the giant pile of lamb and onions in a basket that we’ve come to expect from the place further down the street.  Kevin’s fries were just right – hot, crispy and served with a small tub of ketchup.  I’d eat here again, maybe for lunch on a Saturday, but I’ll wait until the weather cools.  Opa gets a 7.

erin says:  Pat pretty much covered it, above.  We ended up here while on our way somewhere else, drawn in by the sign on the curb.  I didn’t notice the issue with the bench until Kevin commented right before some girls sat down and almost went sprawling as the bench collapsed.  The fact that it was obviously broken and there was no sign is a clear problem.  The food was good, the service was friendly.  They have a lighted area at one end, so they must have live music.  We started out with a spanakopita appetizer, which was okay in my opinion.  The outer layers were a little more doughy than flaky.  The filling tasted pretty good.  I had a gyro and fries.  We could see the spit turning in the back, which is always a good sign for places with gyros.  One thing they have going for them is the menu with expanded options beyond just gyros.  Pat didn’t mention that our bill was incorrect (in our favor), but we got it all sorted out before we left.  Even though I feel like I’m placing a lot of emphasis on the negative here, the food and the service were good and I would go back.  7 out of 10

July 7, 2011 – Jimmy’s American Tavern [CLOSED]

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

website here:

Pat says:  After a number of incarnations, this space on McKee Road has become Jimmy’s American Tavern.  Neil joined us tonight and promises to write about the Black & Blue Burger and fries that were his dinner.  We started with a small plate of lobster macaroni & cheese to share – creamy, less solid than expected for mac n cheese but tasty. Dinners come with a trip to the salad bar, and this is one of the nicer ones that I’ve seen for quite a while.  It’s narrow, so no reaching across a sneeze shield to get to the cottage cheese.  A variety of choices – two types of lettuce mix, sun dried tomatoes, potato & bacon salad, along with the usual ingredients.   I had Pasta Buttera for dinner – penne with creamy tomato sauce, Italian sausage, and peas.  At first bite, it was sweeter than expected. and for a pasta dish, it was lighter than usual, which was nice after a giant plate of salad.  Kevin had a pulled pork sandwich – smoked pork on a bun with a splash of bbq sauce.  He enjoyed it, but I’m only interested in pulled pork if it’s swimming in sauce before it hits the bun.  We had a terrific waiter – he asked the kitchen for a burger off the lunch menu for Neil, brought drink refills two minutes before we needed them, smiled, and paid just the right amount of attention to us during dinner.  Altogether, it was a nice dinner experience.  I’d definitely go back.  8 out of 10.

erin says:  I think all of us were pleased with our meals at Jimmy’s.  I chose the Stroganoff pasta, and it was very good.  It arrived with about 4 oz of sour cream piled on top of an already creamy sauce.  The beef tips in it were cooked to perfection.  The sauce was pleasantly beefy and had definite taste of brandy, I think.  I ended up taking about 1/2 of it home to eat the next day for lunch.  My pasta also came with the salad bar.  I thought the salad bar was ok.  The blue cheese dressing was watery and there was some flavor in the potato salad that I didn’t like.  The salad bar did have some different options, so maybe next time I will choose better.  I tasted Pat’s pasta, and there was some sweet spice in it, possibly in the sausage.  It could have been cinnamon, but I’m not sure.  I agree that the service was attentive.  We were seating right inside the door from the entryway to the dining room, and I was facing the entryway, so I don’t feel like I got a good idea of the decor, but the 5 of us were in a generously sized booth.  I think it is a nice addition to Fitchburg.  We will probably be back.  8.5 out of 10.

June 27, 2011 – Alchemy Cafe

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Visit the Alchemy Cafe website for details.

erin says: As it happens, this was our second visit to the Alchemy Cafe.  Brian and I forgot to write it up the first time.  There’s a lot of that happening these days.  I’ll have to prod my co-conspirators into participating in the blog again.  Anyway, we met some friends there for dinner.  It’s a small place.  Our friends had some beers, and ordered an appetizer of fried sweet potato rounds.  I loved the jalepeno blackberry jam enough that I sought some out at the farmer’s market later in the week.  Brian preferred the tarragon mayo.  Brian had a beer that he had never had before, but he can’t remember what it was (he’s no help).  I ordered a BLT (with explosions) and a side of smashed potatoes.  The bacon was delicious.  The sauce was sweeter than I had expected, almost like a honey mustard.  I wasn’t a huge fan of that.  The potatoes were pretty good.  Brian had a steak.  The service was great.  The atmosphere seemed pretty charming to me, even though I think the chairs weren’t too comfortable and it was very loud.  It would be a fun place to be when they have live music, but I can’t imagine how crowded it must be.  I give them an 8.5 out of 10.

Sometime in May – The Nile

Monday, June 27th, 2011

erin says: My apologies for forgetting to write up our trip to the Nile.  Brian and I noticed that the Odana location that has housed a few Indian restaurants got a makeover in Mediterranean style, and we decided to try it out one evening.  Despite the graphic on the sign by the curb, they don’t have gyros, at least not for dinner.  I enjoyed the house soup and my entree, but it has been long enough that I don’t think it would be fair to rate based on my memory.  We will have to go back and do a better job of updating the website next time.  What I do remember is that the food was good, the service was good, and they were surprisingly busy compared to our visits to the Indian restaurants that used to be there.  It’s a tough location.  I wish them luck.

June 20, 2011 – Cuco’s (Verona)

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

erin says: a new restaurant opened in Verona recently, Cuco’s.  I believe they are related to another Cuco’s in Waunakee.  We had been eyeing the location for a new business after the ill-fated Megan’s of Verona closed.  I was personally hoping that they would keep the phone company themed table, and they did!  Since one of our family members works for a phone company, we are amused by all of the old literature and bits and pieces encased in that table top, and it just so happens that the two times we’ve been to that location (once at Megan’s, once at Cuco’s), we’ve been seated there.  I think Verona will welcome Cuco’s.  They don’t have anything like it in their immediate area.  It is definitely similar to other (amazingly) fast Tex-Mex restaurants in the Madison area.  I think we will be back.  We did notice that the chips seemed a bit soggy, and I thought the salsa was a little on the sweet side.  The service was good.  The decor looks basically like it did before, with the addition of a wall painted to look like adobe and brick.  I’d give them an 8 out of 10.

© Copyright 2008, Brian Ruppert