Archive for the ‘New places’ Category

April 21, 2011 – Monk’s Bar and Grill (Middleton)

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Visit the Monk’s Bar and Grill website for location and hours.

erin says: We noticed that this place opened a little while ago and decided to give it a try.  They were packed.  We had never been inside the Applebee’s that used to be there, but it’s a reasonable sized place, and they seem to have a fairly good size parking lot.  It’s a sports bar, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The five of us were seated right away, and it was probably around 6 p.m.  We decided against appetizers because we weren’t super hungry.  I ordered a buffalo chicken wrap and the potato “chippers”.  The menu stated that the sandwiches came with Monk’s “famous” pickles (or something like that).  We could see entrees going to other tables that looked huge, and ours were definitely generously sized when they arrived.  The “famous” pickles turned out to be ordinary round dill pickle slices.  If they were special in any way, I couldn’t tell.  The potato “chippers” were homemade chips.  I think the menu described them (in the appetizer section) as having some seasoning, but I couldn’t detect much – maybe a little.  The buffalo chicken wrap was just as it was described, and I liked the blue cheese crumbles.  I liked it, but I couldn’t finish the whole thing.  I thought the service was good, too, we just had some unfortunate timing.  Pat ordered spicy ranch for her salad, and after trying it she realized that it was too spicy for her, and couldn’t locate our server to get some regular ranch.  To me, the spicy ranch tasted like ranch with Penzey’s bold taco seasoning, which I personally really like.  It was also kind of hard to hear in there, I think from the number of people and not from the TVs, but I misunderstood our server a couple of times.  All in all, I like it better than the nearby Tanner’s, Quaker Steak and Lube, and Wild Bull, although I’d say they’re all pretty similar. I don’t recall too much about the surroundings, except that the TVs were there, but not in-your-face, which I appreciate.  How can Middleton support so many sports bars in addition to the other area bars?  I don’t think it can, and I predict a hard time for some of these places.  I can see myself going back to Monk’s though, so I hope it will survive.  8.5 out of 10

On the Road: April 13, 2011 – First Food (Las Vegas, NV)

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

A special post on a notable restaurant outside of our typical dining radius:

Pat says: On our last night in Las Vegas, Kevin and I went out on our own and had dinner at First Food, in the Palazzo Hotel.  With so many choices of restaurants on the strip, we’ll have to admit that we picked First Food based solely on it’s name and the cool (sort of) interactive menu posted outside.   Don’t know the chef, don’t know anyone who’s eaten there before.  Kevin had prime rib, and I had the sauted salmon with asparagus.  Since the menu is a la carte, we split an order of mashed potatoes.

First Food is relatively casual – no need to wear a tie or anything sparkly.  Fairly loud background music, and lots of televisions, but not so loud that you couldn’t carry on a conversation across the table.  Kevin is still comparing all prime rib to a place in Milwaukee from his childhood (Selen’s?) and said that while this was good, the prime rib of his memory is still the best.  The salmon was nicely done – pink in the middle (as opposed to the coral color of well done salmon), not dry, and cooked just enough to flake with a fork.  Asparagus is in season, so it was fresh and tasty, but as a side the mashed potatoes weren’t hot and lacked flavor.  Perhaps the folks in LV aren’t as in love with butter as we are in WI, but there’s a reason we love it so much.

Dining out in LV can be expensive, as evidenced by the $42 we spent on two not-very-good turkey sandwiches at the deli in our hotel.  Dinner at First Food was about $75.  We walked away feeling satisfied, not stuffed.  Next year, First Food for lunch – they have a lobster chowder that I’d like to try.

March 10, 2011 – Tanner’s Bar and Grill (Middleton)

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Visit the website for hours and location.  They’re evidently a chain with locations in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

erin says: We decided to try one of the new restaurants in Greenway Station.  We’re still mourning the loss of Macaroni Grill and Bucatini never really filled that gap.  Tanner’s is something different, although they’re competing with some similar concept places in the area.  It’s kind of fun to go in a building that used to be something else and try to remember the way it used to look.  Tanner’s seems to have blocked off the open kitchen, added a raised area, and installed the numerous giant tvs required to qualify as a sports bar.  The bar was fairly busy when we visited.  I don’t follow sports, but I imagine there was some game going on.  The raised area with round tables was moderately busy.  There was a woman stationed at the desk in the entry way whose sole job seemed to be to tell us we could seat ourselves.  We thought that was a bit odd.  A sign would be ok, too, but maybe they just wanted to say hello.  Service was prompt and friendly.  We weren’t drawn in by the overly cute “boogas” or “chicken lips”, but the menu had a reasonable variety of appealing choices.  I settled on turkey club wrap with tater tots.  I almost regretted my choice when a companion ordered sweet potato fries, but I decided I could try those another time.  The wrap was huge and the portion of tater tots was generous.  The turkey in the wrap wasn’t “shaved” as it mentioned in the menu, but it was ok.  The tater tots were very salty, even for a salt lover like me.  I ended up taking half of the wrap home, and it made a fine lunch the next day.  I found the decor basic but they must have kept the sound down on most of the tvs, because I wasn’t annoyed by that like I have been in other sports bars.  I thought the prices were fair, and I thought the menu had a pleasing variety of choices.  8 out of 10.

February 28, 2011 – LongHorn Steakhouse

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Visit the website for hours and location.

erin says: We commented on LongHorn while driving to another area restaurant, and when we found the other restaurant closed on Mondays, we turned around and headed back to LongHorn.  None of us had been there.  I’m writing this quite a while after the fact.  We’ve been busy, as you can tell since the blog hasn’t been updated recently.  My apologies.  After examining the menu we commented that it would be fun to come back and order all appetizers.  They had many and they all sounded good.  We ordered Firecracker Chicken Wraps.  They reminded me a bit of taquitos from the grocery store freezer section, but they were good.  The avacado lime sauce was good.  Most of us ordered steak and one ordered chicken.  Our server brought out a couple of baskets of honey wheat bread while we waited for our entrees.  Brian was surprised that the steaks were covered in a mildly spicy rub.  We don’t recall seeing that anywhere on the menu.  The steaks were cooked to our specified temperatures.  Overall, I thought it was ok.  I don’t frequent steak houses, but I think there are definitely better ones in Madison with prices that are comparable or only slightly higher.  7 out of 10.

January 21, 2011 – Bellini

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Pat says: Just a couple of things to say about Bellini, since our visit was as a part of a group of 108 people and not a typical night.  First, amazing service.  We ordered in advance, with a choice of 3 dinners.  Starting the evening with drinks and butler passed appetizers, then moving on to dinner,  the staff did a great job of getting everyone served.  The waitstaff was well organized – everyone seemed to know where they were supposed to be and did a terrific job.

About the food – someone in the kitchen loves nutmeg!  Comments that I heard were generally positive, except for two things; the broccoli in the tortellini dish was overcooked and not as fresh as it should have been, and the spaghetti was watery, perhaps because of pasta that wasn’t well drained enough.  I had the tortellini and thought it was very good.  Next time, we’ll try Bellini as a family dinner.

January 22, 2011 – Johnny Delmonico

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Pat says: Being a big fan of every “food fight” restaurant that I’ve been to, I was really looking forward to dinner at Johnny Delmonico.  Everyone that Kevin and I talked to before the dinner said the same thing - “bring a lot of money”, so we checked out the menu online and decided what to order in advance.  We had a crab cake appetizer, the spinach salad with blue cheese, the tenderloin (Kevin) and a NY strip (me), and the key lime pie.

This was a very good dinner, but not great.  The restaurant has terrific ambience, but our table was close enough to the table next to us that the waitstaff had difficulty squeezing between the rows of chairs to set down plates and fill glasses.  Getting up to use the restroom meant having the woman behind Kevin move to the side, then Kevin could scoonch back and stand up, then I could stand up and go through the bar to the restroom hallway.  Repeat in reverse to sit back down.  Granted, we were with a group of 16 people, and the restaurant was busy, but this was a bit too crowded for comfort.

With the soup and salads, there were baskets of wonderful warm french bread with whipped butter.  We enjoyed the crab cakes, but were surprised by the size of a $10.95 appetizer – two cakes, two bites each.  The spinach salad was delicious – Kevin ate the blue cheese crumbles and I ate the sugared walnuts.  We both chose the hash brown potatoes with our steaks – they were good, but lukewarm.  We’ll admit to being spoiled by the hash browns at Smokey’s – served on a sizzling platter, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  I suspect that at least part of the secret is a boatload of butter in the pan while the potatoes are cooking – as in, if you knew how much butter you might think twice about eating them but then you’d eat them anyway.

Kevin’s steak was tender and tasty, cooked to his requested “medium”.  The NY strip wasn’t quite as good as the tenderloin – there were a couple of sections that were tough, but in general I enjoyed it.  The plate came with a floret of baked garlic (we asked our waitress what this was and she said it was “some kind of onion”) but if we were meant to spread the garlic on our steak or potatoes, a small knife or spoon would have come in handy.    Kevin loved the key lime pie, which was tart, creamy, and delicious.

The service matched the rest of the evening – very good, but not great.  The staff did their best to work around the close tables, water glasses were filled promptly, and our primary server was kind enough to repeat the specials at both ends of the table.  But there were long pauses between courses waiting for attention from the waitstaff, and we watched as tables around us with two people were seated, served, billed and out.  Perhaps this was deliberate – offering an opportunity for conversation to our group – hard to say, but the appearance was that this restaurant is better suited to a romantic dinner for two.    I’d like to try again, perhaps with just one other couple, and see if it’s a different experience.  All together, I’d give Johnny Delmonico an 8 out of 10, but I’d love to go back.

January 11, 2011 – Wild Bull Restaurant & Sports Bar (Middleton) [CLOSED]

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Visit their website for location and hours.  It looks like they have one other location in Schaumburg.

erin says: Brian and I knew Boston’s at Greenway Station went out of business, but we were curious to see what would replace them at that location.  We wandered by and found Wild Bull.  It truly is a Sports bar, with a TV at nearly every table.  We were one of only a few tables, but I’m not sure how long they’ve been open.  I’m guessing no one knows about them yet and Tuesday was not a big traffic night.  Brian ordered chicken fingers and shrimp with fries and I ordered chicken fingers with ribs and onion rings.  Everything was ok.  Their menu includes burgers, pizza, pasta, ribs, wings, and more.  Even with all of those choices, I still had trouble finding something that sounded good.  Judging by the short-lived Boston’s, I think this is a difficult location for a restaurant that doesn’t stand out from the crowd.  If I were a sports fan or more of a fan of beer I might have more to say.  7 out of 10.

January 4, 2011 – Bella Vita (again) CLOSED

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Visit the Bella Vita Italian Grille & Pizzeria website for hours and location.

erin says: Not all of the Ruppert food bloggers were there on our first visit, so we decided to go again.  This time we sat in a large booth in the room on the parking lot side (front).  The same complimentary flat breadsticks arrived, this time with red sauce and a little dish of shredded cheese.  We ordered crab cakes as an appetizer, and found them very tasty with a zippy remoulade.  Our server also brought a loaf of bread, which was rather dry.  I ordered a pizza with mushrooms, cheeses, and sun dried tomatoes.  Everyone else ordered pasta.  Sometimes I find sun dried tomatoes overpowering, but the ones on the pizza were very nice and flavorful without being overwhelming or oily.  The personal pizza is definitely generously sized.  I took a couple of pieces home.  There was a space heater running in the room, and by the end of the meal I felt sleepy from being so warm, but the booth we were in was higher than the rest of the room, so we were probably in a hot spot.  Brian mentioned later that he doesn’t like it when servers bring out the dessert tray without asking if we are interested in dessert.  I can understand why it works – seeing the desserts is far more tempting than reading about them or hearing about them.  We managed to say no – we were stuffed, but we still accepted a mint on our way out.

Pat says: If you remember the noise level in TGIFriday’s, you’d be amazed by the change.  La Bella Vita is serene – the wall colors, the white tablecloths covered with paper (so that you can make a little mess and still be quite elegant), the comfy booths.  The breadsticks weren’t my favorite – not bready enough to pick up sauce, and not crispy crackery either.  I ordered fettucini alfredo with grilled chicken – it was very good.  Creamy, lots of chicken, and two kinds of pasta. Kevin had spaghetti with sausage – just spicy enough.  The portions were good sized and everyone brought home leftovers.   For a nice restaurant, breadsticks and homemade salad dressing and tablecloths, the cost was very reasonable – for the four of us with an appetizer and a beer for Kevin, the whole bill was just around $60.  I like this place – 8 out of 10.

December 27, 2010 – Bella Vita [CLOSED]

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Visit the Bella Vita Italian Grille & Pizzeria website for hours and location.

erin says: A while ago we noticed that a new restaurant was moving into the location where Tilted Kilt/TGI Friday’s/Peppermill used to be.  Brian was skeptical, but we decided to go with one set of our parents last week.  The restaurant was fairly busy when we arrived (particularly for a Monday), but there had just been an article about the place in  the paper.  The interior looks very nice.  They brought some flat bread strips with garlic seasoning and some of the house made red sauce.  I thought the sauce was a nice balance of sweet and tangy, not overly sweet, and not boring.  We ordered spinach and artichoke dip, which I found rather bland.  I ordered canneloni, Brian ordered a supreme personal pizza, and the others ordered ravioli with a side of meatballs and a stuffed pepper.  Everyone but Brian got a side salad with their dinner.  Dressing was served on the side automatically, and I could have used a little more.  I thought the canneloni was very good.  Brian enjoyed his pizza, but mentioned that the crust was a little too crispy for his personal preference.  The meatballs were a little cold, but everything else seemed good.  Overall, it was better than skeptical Brian expected.  I would give them an 8 out of 10.

December 7, 2010 – Chocolaterie Stam

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Visit their website for product information – they don’t mention the Madison store yet, but I bet they will soon.

erin says: We had some trouble figuring out where the new chocolate shop is in Greenway Station, but it turns out that it is right next to CJ Banks and doesn’t really have a noticeable sign yet.  We opted for a pre-boxed assortment, but they also had various size boxes that could be filled with your choice of chocolates.  It was fairly busy there for the middle of the day on a Tuesday.  Brian likes milk chocolate and I like dark.  Brian is a big fan of Candinas, but wanted to try this new place as a birthday treat.  I loved the dark chocolate orange bonbon.  Each piece had a unique shape and the box included a guide.  The store also had some cute chocolate logs filled with treats and other things.  I would go back, but I think next time I will choose my own bonbons and truffles instead of the pre-boxed assortment.  The assortment had some white chocolate and other things that are not my favorite, but it was a good introduction.

© Copyright 2008, Brian Ruppert