New Bonefish Grill among subpar chains near West Towne

Bonefish Grill

Bonefish Grill

Restaurants near West Towne Mall have been popping up left and right, including a Chick-fil-A, Jason’s Deli, Freshii and now Bonefish Grill. I tried Bonefish Grill out with my mom after a day of shopping and hanging out. Even though it was only the middle of April we decided to sit on the patio. The dining room was very nice, but the sunny weather and patio heaters were enough to get us outside. The disappointing thing was that the impressive dining room and nice patio were the highlights of our lunch.

Bonefish caesar salad with salmon

Bonefish caesar salad with salmon

I got the caesar salad with salmon, which was pretty marginal. The lettuce was probably a day past its prime, the dressing was generic and the croutons were flavorless. The salmon had a good grill char on it, but it was super small and was not seasoned at all.

Bonefish arctic char seasonal special

Bonefish arctic char seasonal special

My mom got the arctic char seasonal special, which came with pasta and spring veggies. It looked like a decent dish, but it wasn’t worth the higher price tag.

Bonefish key lime pie

Bonefish key lime pie

Bonefish creme brulee

Bonefish creme brulee

For some reason we both decided to get dessert, which was regrettable considering both the key lime pie and creme brulee were huge and not great. My creme brulee tasted like cold vanilla pudding with a crunchy topping. Creme brulee should be a little lighter than gooey pudding, but this one straight up tasted like pudding. The one thing to note about the desserts it that they are huge. My creme brulee could easily have served three people.

Bonefish Grill

Bonefish Grill

FOOD NOTES: Bonefish Grill is a typical chain restaurant. Our lunch was edible, but not great. The quality was a little disappointing considering the $10-$15 price range. The service was terrible…it took almost 20 minutes for our desserts to come out (key lime pie and cold creme brulee should not take 20 minutes!). I probably won’t be going back, but I do know quite a few people who love the bang bang shrimp.

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Crema Cafe is gem hidden away in Monona strip mall

Crema Cafe

Crema Cafe

I don’t get over to the Monona area very often, but every time I do I make an effort to try a new restaurant. So when my mom and I wanted to check out a new consignment shop on Monona Drive I figured it was the perfect time to try out Crema Cafe. Crema is definitely a hidden gem. It’s super colorful inside and has mismatched tables and chairs, but it’s hidden behind the boring facade of a strip mall.

Crema Cafe Bluebird sandwich

Crema Cafe Bluebird sandwich

When you walk in it may have the feel of a coffee shop, but trust me — you’ll want to try their food. My mom got the Bluebird sandwich, which is chicken salad made with dried blueberries and walnuts, and comes with white cheddar and greens on a baguette. I did not try it, but my mom loved it.

Crema Cafe hot chick sandwich

Crema Cafe hot chick sandwich

I got the Hot Chick sandwich (awesome name right!!!) that had grilled chicken, bacon, roasted tomatoes, chipotle mayo and aged cheddar on multigrain bread. When it came out I was sad because it didn’t look very big, but then I realized it had been panini-ed, which made it so much better! The chicken was moist and the chipotle mayo was just smokey and spicy enough…and you can never go wrong with bacon! It was a little messy to eat, but it was totally worth it! The sandwiches also came with what tasted like homemade Doritos…yum!

We both also got iced coffees, which were perfect. Sometimes iced coffee can be bitter, but theirs was smooth. I also like that they don’t sweeten their iced coffee.

FOOD NOTES: The only thing that could make Crema Cafe better is an outside seating area…because it has a decent view of Lake Monona across the street. The inside is super cheery and eclectic, and their menu has a decent amount of options…but who needs more options when the 10 or so options are so great already!? Next up…I’ll be back to try their breakfast options!

Ramen outshines baked goods at Asian Sweet Bakery

Asian Sweet Bakery on Park Street

Asian Sweet Bakery on Park Street

When I first heard about Asian Sweet Bakery on Park Street I wasn’t quite sure what to think…all of the reviews on Yelp were super positive, but most of the individual baked goods sounded either too sweet or a little odd for my taste. But I’m always going to give a new place at least one chance, so I went for lunch with my friend Nicole.

Asian Sweet Bakery baked goods

Asian Sweet Bakery baked goods

The tiny corner bakery has a decent-sized bakery case filled with baked goods even around lunch time. There’s also a small dining room with about four tables. The woman behind the counter was super helpful in describing what everything in the bakery case was and answering questions about the menu.

Asian Sweet Bakery ramen with shrimp dumplings

Asian Sweet Bakery ramen with shrimp dumplings

We decided to try the rice noodle ramen with shrimp wontons. I’ve had bad ramen and it’s like eating noodles in warm water. But this ramen was great. The noodles were perfectly cooked and the broth had a great savory flavor…it wasn’t too salty, but it definitely had some depth. There was just enough cabbage and it still had a good amount of crunch to it. The shrimp wontons were not what I was expecting, but they were super good. The soft noodle wrapper was al dente and the shrimp filling was flavorful…I think it had some green onions mixed in! The other thing to note was the size of the bowl…it was more than enough for the two of us.

Asian Sweet Bakery pot stickers

Asian Sweet Bakery pot stickers

The pot stickers were also pretty good. The pork filling had a good, sausagey flavor, but they weren’t too greasy. And they were crispy, which is way better than mushy pot stickers.

Now onto the sweets

Asian Sweet Bakery black bean bun, kids bun, Chinese fried donut

Asian Sweet Bakery black bean bun, kids bun, Chinese fried donut

I got a red bean bun, which looks like a cinnamon roll without frosting, but instead of cinnamon and sugar the sweet stuff is a sweet red bean paste. I’ve enjoyed similar desserts at other restaurants and this one was also pretty good. The bread and the paste were both moist, and I felt like there was a good amount of the paste…I was worried there might be more dough than the yummy filling.

Nicole and I decided to split one of the super long Chinese fried donuts, but it was kind of disappointing. The batter tasted like plain fried dough…the dough was not sweet and there was nothing sweet sprinkled on top. It was definitely not what we were expecting, and not great.

Nicole also got a fun hotdog and corn bun for her daughter. It was a simple flat pastry with slices of hotdog and corn kernels in it. It went over pretty well with Avery, but I think she liked the red bean bun better…we kept saying it was chocolate!

FOOD NOTES: Although I liked most of the sweets (except the fried donut) that we got…I think the hidden gem of this super simple place on Park Street is their ramen and wonton soup. The broth is super flavorful, the ingredients are fresh and plentiful, and the price is great for the amount of food you get. The red bean bun was pretty great…but I’m not sure if I’m adventurous enough to go back try some of the other interesting baked goods in the case.

Atmosphere, prices worth trip to Village Bar

Village Bar

Village Bar

I think I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again — I’m all about the townie bar. I’ve found that you can usually find the best atmospheres, prices, food and people at townie bars. There’s a reason people keep going back to these places and the owners usually don’t make changes very often. The Village Bar, right where Mineral Point Road veers and changes into Speedway Road, is one of those places.

Village Bar - we're sitting in the front corner so this is about it!

Village Bar – we’re sitting in the front corner so this is about it!

When you walk in you’ll notice there are only about a dozen tables and the same number of bar stools. The other thing you’ll notice is that even though they have a food menu there’s no kitchen — they have a small cook top and fryer at the front end of the bar that handles everything. Their menu is pretty simple – hamburgers, cheeseburgers, a sausage and cheese plate (which is about as basic as it can be), fries and chips. The menu also listed steak, pork chops, brats and hotdogs, but I didn’t see anyone get any of those items. Oh yeah, one more thing — everything is served on styrofoam plates.

village bar burger

Village Bar pepper jack cheeseburger

Village Bar french fries

Village Bar french fries

I got the cheeseburger with pepper jack cheese and an order of fries. The burger itself was decent — a good size, had a good char — but the bun was pathetic. They steam the bun on the cook top, but I would prefer it to be grilled or toasted or left alone, because what was left was a soggy hunk of bread that was too small and too mushy to do any good. The cheese was a completely different story. I’m not sure how many slices they use, but the cheese was almost as thick as the burger. I really enjoyed the cheese in the beginning – it was melty and thick – but by the end it had congealed a little and the amount seemed unnecessary. But that also could have been caused by the fact that I was chatting too much and not eating fast enough! The fries were decent, but nothing special.

Village Bar cheeseburger

Village Bar cheeseburger

FOOD NOTES: Honestly, I loved the atmosphere at the Village Bar. It was super chill and very Badgers sports focused (I was there to watch my Badgers men’s basketball team squash Coastal Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, so that was a plus!). Everything on the menu (including beer from what I remember) is under $5, so that’s also something to note. The next time I head to the Village Bar I will probably skip the cheese on my burger and I will definitely get a super old school cheese and sausage plate to enjoy during the game.