Sunday, December 11, 2011

Smoky Jon's

Smoky Jon's. You should visit the website before reading on. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Let's discuss . Number one, what is the first thing you see on the website? Two movies with still shots of an unreasonable amount of meat.  The meat is not arranged in a particularly attractive way. This is Smoky Jon's way of warning you, like a meat scarecrow. If a restaurant with an alter to meat on its front page doesn't appeal to you, then it's probably best you and Smoky Jon's go your separate ways right now.

Okay, you're still reading. Well done, brave meat soldier, you are in for a treat. I know your type. You know Smoky Jon's wants you to be worth of its meat, that Smoky Jon's won't pander to those who care about "how the meat is presented." Instead of focusing on the counting how many slaughtered animals are in these videos, you slow trip towards full meat frenzy. Your mouth has started watering. You can smell the meat and you know how the pork will be soft and juicy after sitting all day in the smoker. Read on, meat-adventurer. You are among friends.

During our carnivorous journey, we sampled a pork shoulder sandwich and a marinated tenderloin steak sandwich. Both came with Smoky Jon's sweet BBQ sauce on the side. This is a test. The BBQ sauce is not optional, though it is on the side. DO NOT EAT THE SANDWICH WITHOUT THE SAUCE. I cannot stress this enough. In fact, to eliminate any misunderstanding, here are the simple steps to optimize your enjoyment of that sandwich:
  1. Take the top of the sandwich off
  2. Smother all of the sandwich with the BBQ sauce that comes with the sandwich
  3. Put the top back on
  4. Pick up the sandwich to eat it.
  6. After you are finished with the sandwich, take a shower.
All the sandwiches look good and come with sides. The sides are not as good. We had applesauce (bland and weird consistency), fried biscuits with powdered sugar (okay, not worth the angioplasty I'll have to get), spicy corn (actually, this was quite good), and french fries (they were good, but if you can't make good french fries, you should not cook food). But you didn't come here for the corn. You came for the meat. And you have left satisfied. Perhaps we shall meat again.*

*Don't you roll your eyes at me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bunky's Cafe

Let me start with this. The inside of Bunky's Cafe reminds me of what the inside of my head might look like, were it possible to see it. I don't really get the "vibe" they are going for...but I like it. It reminds of someone's living room and yet also a kind of italian bakery and yet ALSO a hippy gift shop. Yah, go ahead and imagine what that implies about me.

Anyway, the decor matches the food in a way. There's some italian, some mediterranean and also some more local, midwestern fare. All of which are good and none of which I am complaining about. We went with friends on a Monday night (apparently the first Monday they were ever open for dinner) and enjoyed pineapple....wrapped in bacon....drizzled with mango sauce as an appetizer. Yah, not sure what area of the world invented that but give them the good seats at the summit next time.

Dinner brought the four of us a variety of dishes- I had butternut squash ravioli with a marinara sauce, which was such a perfect fall meal. It had some toubouli in the middle which I found odd...but kind of a good concept. If the sauce weren't as thin I would say go for it. But even though it was thin, I still say go for it. My fellow diners got everything from lamb, to hummus and pita to okra.

Everyone enjoyed their meal and the friendly, welcoming service. The only odd thing was our waitress kept pushing these city tins. Oh well.

Overall, I would absolutely go back to Bunky's. It's fun, it's funky, the price is reasonable, and the food is high quality. Yatta!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Ugh, I'm sorry to say that the first time we've gone out to eat someplace new lately it was a big fat disappointment. We were so hopeful when we saw the new Brocach open on Monroe Street. It seemed like the perfect fit for the block and brought something a little different. There have been a few failed restaurants lately but this had potential.

We decided our inaugural visit should be during brunch; which they had just started the day we went. I love brunch so sure, my expectations were high. But come on. First of all, service was slow and I SWEAR the wait staff was not older than 13. Really. It was a disturbing scene. But since they were so young they should really have moved faster. Anyway, the pre teens were friendly enough but didn't seem to have a firm handle on what was going on. Ok, fine. It's a new restaurant and brunch hasn't been done before, we'll cut them some slack. But they were out of stuff. On the menu. Which to our knowledge had not been used until that day. HOW could you be out? But I guess the yogurt parfait was not in the cards. I got a scrambler of sorts which was WAY too big and not all that tasty. Bob got bagel and lox which I think he enjoyed (even if he didn't know how to eat it- it was piled THIS high). He liked it. But didn't love it. And really, we deserve love here people.

So, in summary, it was an overpriced, under performing meal. We won't go back. And we'll tell all our friends to skip it. We're so mean.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Alchemy Cafe

Alchemy Cafe is the kind of place that Madison breeds. It's a bar with a good selection of highly alcoholic beers, served in glasses particular to your beer selection. The food is mostly organic. There is a clear commitment to locally sourcing both the food and drinks and informing the consumer about the source of their food. Some cities have dives. Madison has gastropubs, where foodies expect to know the farm which raised the cow for their burger and smell a sample of the grass the cow grazed. One of those statements is an exaggeration.

Alchemy is a cozy place inside. It does not take credit cards, but is kind enough to have an ATM inside (pet peeve alert: ATM stands for Automated Teller Machine... people who say "ATM machine" are best publicly humiliated). The lights are relatively low and they often have music, though not on our trip.

We went as part of REAP's local harvest: taste of the town. I got the burger special, which was seasoned with aioli and had some seasonal veggies. The burger was great... except for the meat part, which I ordered medium-rare but turned out very dry and shrunken, served in an over-sized bun.

We also tried the Matilda "burger," which is your standard butternut squash burger. What, you haven't had a butternut squash burger? Well, they're really good. A creative dish, pulled off well.

And I guess that kind of sums things up. A bar that makes a squash burger better than a beef burger. Someday, I'm going to miss Madison.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

El Rincon Tico

Ok, it's pretty rare that we just flat out do not enjoy a restauranteering experience. But when we went to El Rincon Tico we left not only really disappointed but also...really hungry. Allow me to explain.

I have been excited about this place for months, really since I saw the sign announcing it's arrival. We are big fans of Cafe Costa Rica and Mango Man so Version 2.0 was bound to be good right? We went on a Friday night around 7pm, and got a table right away. And that was the highlight.

Service was slow. Like, really slow. And after our waitress would stop by once it would take days for her to stop again. She also didn't seem to know what she was doing. I mentioned this to a friend she reminded me that this would be what is called "bad service." YES, bad service. Definitely bad service.

We both ordered the special (some kind of garlic chicken with potato stew and plantains), which not only came out suuppeerrr slowly but came out without plantains. THIS, was not acceptable. Before we could ask about where they were our waitress left and never came back. We started to eat- the food was lukewarm and bland. Our waitress FINALLY came back to "check on us" and we asked about the plantains. "Oh, we ran out. But I thought you two would get the last ones." Well, no, we didn't. Thanks for the heads up.

Anyway, we tolerated the rest of the meal, waited 20 minutes to pay the check, then got out of there. Still hungry. So, I made us stop by Willy Street Co-op to guessed it...plantains. Which we proceeded to take home, cook, and eat.

Ugh, I am so sad. But I just can't stay too mad at Mango Man.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Chautara is one of SEVERAL Nepalese restaurants in Madison. Think it's surprising that there are an abundance of Nepali cuisine in deep-fried apple pie Wisconsin? We think so too. Yet, this is the curious situation in which we now find ourselves, and there's nothing for it but to soldier on, sample the food, and blog about it.

Here are our findings: First, Chautara is located on State St. and has outdoor seating. We note this as a plus. Second, unlike certain other Nepalese restaurants on the 300 block of State St. that I could name *cough* Himal Chuli *cough*, this restaurant serves meat. And not just meat, but my favorite meat, Lamb. We note this as another plus. Third, the menu looked pretty good, a nice mix of meat dishes balanced with grains (mostly rice) or vegetables (including the nice use of chickpeas). But the specials sounded great, and I opted for the market Lamb with Daal (thinner than other's I've had, more soupy, but tasty) and some seasonal veggies like patty-pan squash. I'll give this another plus.

So I guess Chautara gets three pluses. Out of how many? Oh, I don't know. Let's say four. Three out of four is pretty good, in my book, which is the one you are reading. All in all, it was a good, straightforward meal of traditionally cooked meat and roasted veggies with a nice soup, located on State St. I know it's a Nepalese restaurant, but that epitomizes good Midwest food for me.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Marigold Kitchen

Marigold is a cute just-off-the-capital-square restaurant. Yes, I know there are many but I would say that Marigold definitely stands out. It's pricy (maybe over priced) but really, what isn't these days? If you want a cheap meal, this probably wouldn't be your first stop but if you want a quality, pretty speedy meal prepared with care by people who obviously love food check it out. In fact, why haven't you gone already?

It offers fresh seasonal fare (seriously, if I had a dollar for every time we said that phrase on this blog; sheesh get over yourself Madison. But don't really because I love you) and I really love the charming simple interior. They have great outdoor seating and the case of tarts and baked goods near the register is edible decoration, I swear.

Breakfast is your best bet here because surprisingly, there aren't a lot of (good) breakfast options in this area. Lots of veggies, goat cheese and eggs. Can't go wrong. I've enjoyed quiche (which changes regularly) and scramblers (which also changes regularly) and really, anything that changes due to the seasons is a win in my book.

The only caveat is that it can get pretty busy, so maybe go at off times. But definitely go!