There are always new restaurants opening in Madison, but every once in a while a new restaurant opens in one of the small towns around Madison. I heard about Holstein Kitchen in Oregon, and the short 20 minute drive is definitely worth it.
Their website says they speak meat and potatoes with their farm cooking. I love that! I’m not sure what the old building was before it was Holstein Kitchen, but it’s super cute and is decorated like a simple but elegant farm house (think sparkly lighting, barn wood and checkered table cloths). My friend Mary and I went around lunch on a Saturday and it wasn’t very busy, but the owner told us they were pretty busy around breakfast.
I got the Americana Scramble — scrambled eggs with sausage and bacon…and it comes with a pancake. I prefer savory breakfasts, but can’t resist a good pancake, so the Americana Scramble was the perfect breakfast for me. The scramble was the perfect size and because of the crazy amount of sausage and bacon it was very filing. The breakfast potatoes were perfect — hot, crispy and salty. The pancake was a perfect American pancake — and I ate it before I remembered to take a picture!
Mary got the Pain Perdue, which is New Orleans style french toast. It was thick, and fried perfectly so it was crispy on the outside and super fluffy and light on the inside.
Something very unexpected during our visit to the Oregon newcomer happened — the owner and chef came out toward the end of our meal and let us try the special of the day. I don’t remember what it was, but he wanted us to try it just to get our opinion. That was very cool and personable. I also remember the coffee being super tasty and plentiful.
FOOD NOTES: If you’re in the Oregon area (or even if you’re not), Holstein Kitchen is a great breakfast/brunch spot. I loved the homey feel of the dining room, and the owner seems to be very hands on, which is always a good thing. I want to go back for dinner sometime soon because the menu has a salad with cheese curds on top and buttered noodles! I mean..come on! Those have to be winners!
Going out to eat for me is usually a time to go all out — something I wouldn’t normally eat, something a little more extravagant or something less healthy than my regular routine. But every once in a while I like trying out healthy options that I just don’t know how to make on my own. And that’s exactly what I got to do when I went to Fit Fresh Cuisine with a friend last month.
Fit Fresh is basically inside Hybrid Athletics in Fitchburg. They offer cleanses, meal plans and a regular menu. Their menu has juices, smoothies, acai bowls, breakfast sandwiches and scrambles, sandwich and salads.
I’ve heard about acai bowls but never knew what they really were, so I jumped in with both feet and got the first one on the list. The palisade bowl comes with acai, strawberry, Sugar River vanilla yogurt, whey protein and wheat germ topped with tahini (I know…what?!), chia seeds, pepita and homemade granola. I was expecting to get a bowl of yogurt with acai berries and a bunch of other stuff on top, but I can only describe what I got as breakfast soup. It was good, but it wasn’t what I was expecting!
The yogurt-like mixture is slightly thinner than regular yogurt, but just as tasty. I was worried about the tahini on top, but it added just the right amount of savory flavor to cut the bitterness of the acai. The chia seeds, pepita and granola were the perfect crunchy additions. My bowl also had slices of banana in the yogurt. Even though it was not what I was expecting, I really enjoyed it. My friend got a sandwich and enjoyed it too.
FOOD NOTES: Fit Fresh Cuisine is not very conveniently located, but if you’re in the Fitchburg area looking for a healthy lunch option you should check this place out. My acai bowl was not what I was expecting, but it was pretty tasty. I loved that it was tasty, fresh and filling. Most of the time you get one or two of those…not all three! I’ve had friends try their meal plans and cleanses, and they’ve given it some pretty positive reviews.
My favorite meal is breakfast. I love breakfast in the morning and breakfast for lunch and nothing beats breakfast for dinner. Then there’s brunch — brunch is basically an excuse to eat breakfast anytime before dinner on the weekends! There are a lot of places that do brunch well in Madison, but a newcomer on the near west side hit it out of the park. Oliver’s Public House opened on Old University Avenue a couple months ago and a friend and I decided to try out their brunch first.
Oliver’s Public House is in the ground-level commercial space of a newer apartment complex right at the start of Old University Avenue by the hospital. The space is a mix of rustic and industrial materials with dark wood and metal details, but the big windows keep it bright and sunny inside. The other notable thing was that there was a smokiness that kept wafting out of the kitchen every time someone went in or out, so it felt super homey inside.
I got the steak and eggs that came with onions, mushrooms, two eggs, hollandaise sauce and rosti potatoes. There were a lot of good things about this dish so I’m going to post a list:
Perfect serving of steak (at least 4 oz)
Steak was crispy on the outside and medium rare on the inside
The rosti potatoes were crispy, salty and the perfect base for the eggs
The onions and mushrooms were crispy
The hollandaise sauce was rich and creamy, but not too heavy…it had a light citrusy flavor to it
My friend got the Willi’s omelet with caramelized shallots, bacon, spinach, apple, cheddar cheese and hollandaise sauce. The omelet also came with breakfast potatoes and a salad. She said the omelet was the best omelet she’s ever had. I tried the salad, which had a light, citrusy vinaigrette on it.
FOOD NOTES: I was extremely happy with my breakfast at Oliver’s Public House. I was pleasantly surprised by the serving size, the quality of ingredients and the flavors in my simple steak and eggs dish. My steak was great, the rosti potatoes were fantastic and the hollandaise was perfect. I can’t wait to go back and try stuff on their promising dinner menu!
Even though I love going to great places like Forequarter, Tornado Room and Heritage Tavern, some of my favorite places are those hole-in-the-wall, secret neighborhood places. There’s something I love about diner coffee, dining rooms that haven’t been redecorated since the early 90s and the regulars chatting in the corner. It’s an added bonus when the food is as good as it is a Coppertop Family Restaurant.
Coppertop fits all of the qualifications of a quirky neighborhood spot – the regulars were chatting in the corner booth, the coffee was hot and fresh, and the dining room looks like a funeral parlor from the 90s (think floral patterns, mauve paint, a lot of vinyl, mirrors on the ceilings…). They serve standard breakfast options; sandwiches, salads and soups at lunch and they also have dinner entrees. Big bonus: they serve breakfast all day!
Thanks to a suggestion from a friend familiar with Coppertop, I got the Wisconsin skillet, which has ham, green peppers, cheese, onions and mushrooms. It comes with two eggs done however you want, American fries (read: breakfast potatoes) and toast or pancakes. In my breakfast-eating experience, the ingredients in scrambles or skillets can come out one of two ways — mushy and only slightly cooked or crispy — and the latter is definitely preferable. Coppertop’s skillet definitely fit into that second category. The ham, mushrooms and peppers were all crispy…not to mention the super crispy breakfast potatoes. I also loved the sprinkle of cheese on top. The surprising part of my breakfast was that it was barely greasy — grease is usually a staple on the plates of most neighborhood diners.
FOOD NOTES: I was very happy with my breakfast for lunch, and with any place that serves breakfast all day…I will probably never try any of their lunch or dinner options. I love breakfast too much to pass it up if it’s an option! Some people might let the decor stop them from going back, but I think it’s endearing…it gives the place a towny, “we don’t take ourselves too seriously” feel. The view of the Beltline from the front windows is also pretty great!
I’ve driven past The Curve, an extremely tiny restaurant on Park Street, many times, but I never really wanted to try it because it looks a little rundown. After hearing through the foodie grapevine that I was missing out, I decided to try it out for breakfast the weekend before Christmas.
Since the tiny (8 tables, plus a counter) restaurant is right on South Park Street I was worried about parking, but we got a spot on the same block looking toward Monona Bay. The Curve’s exterior and interior presentation is a little unsettling (it’s dirty, outdated and could clearly use some repairs), but don’t let that stop you from ordering. The menu is simple and the staff (two or three people max) are probably the nicest I’ve dealt with ever. The red tile floors partnered with the chatty regulars really give this place a neighborhood feel!
We were brought two large cups of coffee before we even had a chance to open a menu. Sometimes diner coffee can be bad — weak, bitter, too strong, lukewarm, only drinkable with cream — but not at The Curve. The coffee was hot, smooth and best consumed black. Good coffee is the first mark of a good breakfast place!
Now here’s where this review is going to get a little confusing. I was planning on ordering the corned beef hash off the menu, and that’s when the woman told me the special was corned beef hash. I immediately said I’d get the special, but after she walked away I realized the corned beef hash on the menu was $2 less than the special…which didn’t make a lot of sense. And when I asked — the difference does make a huge difference! The hash on the menu is out of a can, but the special hash is homemade. And apparently they only have it every other weekend. I’ve had corned beef hash out of a can and it tastes like dog food. DO NOT get the corned beef hash if it isn’t the special. The homemade corned beef hash special was crazy good! It had a spicy, garlicky heat to it with tender corned beef, crispy potatoes and onions. Corned beef hash is one of my favorite breakfast dishes (thanks Dad!), and this is the best one I’ve had. Normally I need the egg yolk to make the dish perfect, but this hash was so good I could definitely eat it without the egg — but I won’t because eggs make everything better! The serving size is also something to mention — it wasn’t too small or too big…it was perfect! I was full when I finished off my plate, but not gross full and it kept me filled the rest of my day.
My mom got some sort of omelet that I don’t even remember trying because my hash was so good! I do remember bringing half of her omelet home, because it was so large!
FOOD NOTES: There are three take-aways from this review.
The old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” really applies to The Curve. Don’t let the peeling paint and dusty window ledges scare you away.
The employees (and diners the day we were there) are some of the friendliest people I’ve met in a restaurant. The woman who works there even invited us back the next week on a day that she brings in Christmas cookies for all of their customers!
The corned beef hash special is so good I’m craving it now just writing about it and looking at the picture. It is a perfectly seasoned, crispy pile of potatoes and corned beef only made better by the gooey eggs! Remember: I wouldn’t suggest ordering the corned beef hash off the menu.
I wanted to try breakfast at the Edgewater for two reasons: the menu and the view. And neither of them disappointed. What did disappoint was the various levels of disarray the Edgewater was in the weekend we went. My mom and I stayed at the old Edgewater so both of us recognized the amazing view of Lake Mendota when we walked into the State House for breakfast a couple weeks ago.
Other than the view, the State House had some other interesting atmosphere quirks — like the odd teal velvet chairs with studs and wings. Those were probably the ugliest chairs I’ve ever seen…and yes, they did detract from the dining room’s ambience. The extremely upscale kitchen and menu were overshadowed by the nice but untrained and awkwardly overattentive servers. And the plastic wrap and paint supplies we had to walk around to get into the dining room were pretty surprising to see.
Now on to the menu. Everything listed seems to have at least one thing that made it intriguing and hard to decide what to get– whether it be something homemade or an interesting ingredient. It also made the menu slightly unapproachable.
I eventually decided to get savory croissant bread pudding even after our waiter had no idea what it was and didn’t offer to go find out. The dish came with two perfectly poached eggs on top, a lighter-than-normal hollandaise sauce, a couple stalks of asparagus and some thinly-sliced ham on top of the savory croissant bread pudding. The bread pudding was what I had questions about when reading the menu and after trying it all I can say is — get the savory croissant bread pudding. It is chunks of croissant stuck together (I’m not sure with what) to make a base for the toppings, which are basically eggs benedict. The croissant bread pudding was surprising because it was still super flaky and had that dense, buttery flavor that everyone looks for in a croissant, but it was seasoned with savory spices…I picked out salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary. It was one of the best breakfast dishes I’ve had in a while…if the hollandaise had a better flavor it might have been the best.
My mom got the crostone which was kind of also like eggs benedict. It had a grilled piece of sourdough bread as a base and asparagus, prosciutto, a basil emulsion and two poached eggs on top. This version of eggs benedict was lighter than mine, but equally as good. The prosciutto added a much-needed saltiness to the eggs and the basil emulsion was super light and flavorful. And then the sourdough bread tied it all in with a great tang and char from being grilled. My mom loves sourdough bread so this one was her favorite, but mine was my favorite!
FOOD NOTES: After reading and hearing a couple other reviews of the State House’s dinner I was a little worried about their breakfast, but the two versions of eggs benedict we got were great. A savory croissant bread pudding? I’ve never heard of it, but now I crave it! The coffee was also notably good. As I already mentioned, the dining room decor seemed like it was trying too hard and the fact that parts of the building were still under construction was awkward. However, I really hope the State House is able to stay open because when we were there on a Friday morning there was only one other table of people and the prices are a bit higher than comparable places (minus the view!).
In my opinion breakfast food is the best type of food. I have never been and will never be the person who “just doesn’t eat breakfast.” On busy mornings I still make time for oatmeal and a banana, but I love all types of breakfast options – eggs, toast, bacon, pancakes! And because I love breakfast food so much I love brunch and breakfast for dinner! I know I’m not alone in my love for breakfast food, which is why I was always a little disappointed by the breakfast offerings downtown. Recently, the Bassett Street Brunch Club opened, but there aren’t other places that serve breakfast all day downtown. So when I heard that the Short Stack Eatery opened right in the middle of State Street and would be serving breakfast all day, every day I thought I’d love it. Well I love the theory, but the execution didn’t work for me.
Short Stack Eatery is in a corner building so it has a ton of windows and is super bright and cheery. The brightly colored teal walls also add to the cheeriness. Table numbers are made with old license plates and tables are littered with old letters, maps and clippings, which is a cute way to bring in some nostalgia and Wisconsin pride. There’s a big counter in the middle that serves as a place for staff to huddle and diners to sit around. The huge chandelier made of whisks was my favorite!
We went on a busy Saturday morning after the farmer’s market and actually got a table right away, but only after we ordered at the counter. That was strike number one – I don’t like having to order and pay at a counter and then fight for a table while waiting for my food. Ordering at a counter also means we had to brave the busy drink station to get our own waters, silverware and even build a bloody Mary. I realize this makes me sound lazy, but the space Short Stack Eatery is in is way too small to make diners conglomerate around a small table for their drinks and utensils.
Their menu has all of the usual breakfast suspects: eggs, pancakes, french toast, etc. But then it has two unconventional options. A Pick Three option, which is exactly what it sounds like – they have a list of options and you get to pick three. The other one is a blind special, which again is exactly what it sounds like…but if you want to know what’s in it you get charged $12.95 and if you order it in blind faith it only costs $6.95, which in theory sounds good but you really have to be open for anything. The next strike against the Short Stack Eatery was the prices. A glass of orange juice is $4.25 – it is fresh-squeezed, but holy crap that is an expensive glass of orange juice. My meal was $8.95, which isn’t bad for breakfast, but the portions were just so freaking small it wasn’t a good deal.
So my $8.95 meal was the Pick Three option on the menu. I chose bacon, scrambled eggs and pancakes from a list that also had breakfast potatoes, toast and a couple other things. I was shocked when my order came out. The two eggs barely seemed like one large egg, the two small pieces of bacon were laughable and the three pancakes were about the size of a coffee mug. Everything was good – the bacon was cooked just right, the eggs were fine and the pancakes were actually pretty good, but almost $10 for a couple bites of egg, two pieces of bacon and three small pancakes? I was very disappointed in the price for what I ended up getting. And even though their orange juice was fancy and fresh squeeze, nothing on my plate warranted the price tag.
FOOD NOTES: I really wanted to be excited about a fun new breakfast place downtown, but unless Short Stack Eatery drops their prices or increases their portion sizes I won’t be back. I was shocked with the small amount of food I got, but the food I did actually get served was decent. Unfortunately, because people who live downtown like trendy places like Short Stack Eatery they probably won’t be changing their prices or portion sizes anytime soon, and will probably be pretty successful. The decor was cute, but I really don’t like having to order at a counter and fight for a glass of water and a napkin at a drink station.
Driving to Mt. Horeb for breakfast seems like a stretch, but I figured a friend and I could make a day of it and go antiquing after breakfast. Schubert’s in downtown Mt. Horeb was a recent addition to my list of places to visit, but it fit perfectly with our plans to dig through some antique stores so we decided to go.
The super cute diner has a bakery case right by the door that anchors a counter that’s the length of the dining room. The counter has tiny, old-fashioned stools and features chalkboard menus and old malt machines. I loved the classic copper ceiling and glass, drop pendant lights. There are booths on the side and down the middle of the dining room, which adds a unique and cozy feel to the diner.
The bakery case got us as soon as we walked in, so we split one of their sprinkle donuts. The icing was perfectly sweet and complemented the fluffy and super thick donut. My friend and I definitely enjoyed our donut appetizer! It also went really well with their old-fashioned diner coffee. Their black coffee wasn’t anything fancy, but it sure was good, hot and strong.
I got the house-made corned beef hash with sunny side up eggs. The potatoes and corned beef were crispy, crunchy and super fresh. I love that they drizzle the hash with hollandaise sauce. Hash tends to be a little dry, but a little bit of hollandaise really adds a lot of flavor to the dish. I can’t believe other restaurants don’t do that. The eggs were perfectly cooked with great crispy edges, and the toast was fresh. I would have liked to see homemade jam on the table, but I wasn’t annoyed with the individual packs of Smuckers.
My friend got the biscuits and gravy. Fair warning: she got the full order but probably should have gotten the half order. The massive biscuits came smothered in great white gravy filled with spicy sausage. Sometimes biscuits and gravy can be greasy, bland and super heavy. The biscuits had a great flaky consistency and a good butter flavor. I’m usually not a big fan of sausage gravy, but this one was deceptively flavorful with a lot of sausage in a great peppery sauce.
She also got hash browns, but they weren’t anything special. They were nice and crispy, but could have used some seasoning.
FOOD NOTES: Mt. Horeb is a good 30 minute drive from my apartment so Schubert’s will not be my go-to breakfast stop, but if I’m ever in the neighborhood again I will definitely go back. The donut and coffee were great. The corned beef hash was quality, but was elevated to amazing with the simple addition of hollandaise sauce! I still can’t figure out why more diners don’t do that! The biscuits and gravy were pretty great. The biscuits were fresh and flaky, and the gravy was peppery with a great flavor and tons of sausage. I’m usually not a biscuits and gravy fan, but Schubert’s homemade version was great. With all of the great homemade options on the menu I wold have liked to see homemade jam on the table, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.
I put a lot of stock in restaurant reviews on Yelp. I feel that the masses will reflect the actual quality of a restaurant. Usually I read the first five reviews and then a couple of the really bad ones to have a good expectation of what I’m walking in to. The first time Yelp reviews have really led me in the wrong direction was for Sophia’s on Johnson Street. The reviews said Sophia’s has the best breakfast in town, and I couldn’t disagree more.
The first strike against Sophia’s happened when I picked a friend up for breakfast on a Friday and Sophia’s was closed. Apparently, Sophia’s is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. That does not seem like a good business plan to me.
A month later that same friend and I drove back over to Sophia’s on a Saturday for breakfast. Sophia’s is in a small building on Johnson Street that is so nondescript I have driven by it dozens of times and have never noticed it. When you walk in the first thing you will notice is that there are only five tables and a small counter by the front window. I’m not against small restaurants but this takes “small” to an extreme. To get to the only open table in the place (which I didn’t think there was going to be one for us when we first walked in) we had to awkwardly climb over two people sitting at the table in front of the empty table. You order at a counter and they bring your food out to you. But the weird part about Sophia’s is that once you’ve waited in line to order, then you have to wait in line again when you’re done eating to pay, because you pay after you’re done eating. Usually if you order at a counter you do the whole ordering and paying thing in one transaction. Having to wait in line once we were done eating just to pay was super inconvenient.
I could be persuaded to forgive the cramped space and the odd payment system if the food had been great. But unfortunately it was not. The cinnamon roll we got was more like a cinnamony morning bun with an odd lemon glaze on top. I’m sorry but when I want a cinnamon roll I want it to be frosted or glazed with vanilla or cream cheese goodness…not an oddly tart lemon concoction.
Their menu, not posted online anywhere, is written on a chalkboard, which I’m assuming means it changes. When we were there they were offering a couple different omelets and breakfast sandwiches, as well as pancakes. I’m a savory breakfast person so I got an omelet. It had cheese, ham and peppers in it. The peppers were tasteless and seemed like they may have come out of a can. The omelet itself was kind of watery and the cheese was sparse. I was thoroughly unimpressed, especially because the guy sitting behind me at a different table kept rocking his chair into mine the entire time. The omelet also came with breakfast potatoes that weren’t crunchy enough for my taste and were very bland.
My friend got apple pancakes, which were the special that day (but she said the last time she was there the special was the same so my guess is it doesn’t change very often).
FOOD NOTES: My favorite restaurant in my hometown only has about a dozen tables, and I’m able to overlook the small space because the food is so good. The one thing that place does well is that even though they have 12 tables, there’s a reasonable amount of space between them so you don’t have to climb over people to get to a table. The food at Sophia’s is nowhere near good enough to make up for their annoying dining area. The lemon flavor on their cinnamon roll was not appreciated, and their omelets and breakfast potatoes were subpar. Their prices were also a bit high for the extremely cramped and rundown dining area we had to endure.
There are a lot of restaurants on my list that have been open since before I moved to Madison, but the new breakfast-focused Food Fight restaurant on campus landed on my must-visit-soon list. Food Fight rarely gets anything wrong so I made a plan with a friend to try it out. The Bassett Street Brunch Club opened this fall in the newly built Hampton Inn on the corner of Bassett and Johnson streets in downtown Madison. The Brunch Club definitely fits into the downtown boutique feel of the Hampton Inn with modern cement floors and walls, fun patterned booths and bright colored accents throughout. The menu consists of traditional breakfast options, coffee, brunch drinks, homemade donuts, and then they have lunch and dinner menu options. I started with a cup of the Colectivo Coffee they serve. I love that it comes in a big mug instead of those tiny cups most diners offer. The coffee was very good and our waitress kept it full the entire time!
I heard their donuts were homemade and they offer three or four different flavors each day. We decided to split one of the chocolate hazelnut donuts before our breakfasts came. They definitely know what they’re doing on the donut front. The donut itself was perfectly fluffy and not at all greasy. The chocolate topping was better than generic chocolate frosting, but what made the donut were the huge chunks of hazelnut covering the entire top of the donut. It was definitely worth the $1.50!
For breakfast, there are two dishes I use to measure a restaurant’s quality – eggs benedict and corned beef hash. The eggs benedict on the menu has a lot of non-traditional toppings, so I opted for the homemade hash. The hash came with two eggs and toast (I usually splurge on toast at restaurants but their jam was unexpectedly bitter so I didn’t finish my slices). Based on the size of the donut I was expecting the breakfast portions to be a bit larger than the cup of hash and two pieces of toast I got. The eggs were cooked perfectly but the hash was basically flavorless even though it had chunks of red peppers and onions. Basically, other than the donut, I wasn’t very impressed with my breakfast.
My friend got the lemon ricotta pancakes. She liked them but I thought they were too lemony and kind of mushy. She also got a side of breakfast potatoes (we also kind of measure a restaurant’s quality based on the quality of their breakfast potatoes), and these weren’t very good. Like my hash, the breakfast potatoes were practically flavorless too.
FOODNOTES: The Brunch Club is in a great location and has a fun funky vibe. Our waitress was absolutely stellar, but it wasn’t very busy when we were there and the hostess seemed to awkwardly wander and make unnecessary small talk. The donut and coffee were the highlights of the meal. I didn’t like the lemon ricotta pancakes but my friend did, and my corned beef hash was completely flavorless. They have a ton of dishes on their menu and I really hope some of their lunch or dinner options are better. I would like to give their meatloaf, pot pie or the fried chicken and donuts a try. Hopefully they still have homemade donuts to get as an appetizer when I go to try their dinner options! I really want to like this place so I will give it a couple more chances!