Don’t fail like me…get the BBQ at the Thirsty Goat

Thirsty Goat on Cahill Main

So there’s a new barbecue restaurant in Fitchburg and I hate to admit that I didn’t actually get BBQ on my first visit. The good news — everything I got was tasty so I’ll be heading back soon to try the BBQ. The Thirsty Goat on Cahill Main in Fitchburg took over an old Mexican restaurant spot I think. The building is rustic and cozy inside, but the fire pit in the back is what caught my attention. There’s a deck off the back of the building overlooking Fish Hatchery Road, and my friend Nicole and I definitely spotted a fire fit back there…I’m thinking this place will be a regular stop on my patio rotation this summer!

Cheese curds

On to the food…that isn’t BBQ (sorry!) but was still good. I must have forgotten where I was and what type of restaurant I was in when looking at the menu because we ordered broasted chicken and the sausage plate…and no barbecue. But because we work hard and deserve a treat…we started with the cheese curds. The almost overflowing basket came with what were obviously hand-breaded cheese curds. Here’s your clue: If the curds are all the same shape and size…they came out of a freezer box — if they’re random shapes and sizes…they were probably hand-breaded. These were hand-breaded, fried to a perfect golden brown, just salty enough and came with the perfect dipping sauce — housemade ranch! Nothing bad to say about the curds!

img_3837Nicole and I decided to each get an entree and split it. I got the sausage plate with mac and cheese and coleslaw. It also came with corn bread. Their sausage that week was an Italian sausage. It was perfectly grilled with crispy grill marks on the outside and had a good flavor. I appreciated that it wasn’t too greasy and you get enough to feed two! BBQ restaurant mac and cheese is never anything special and the Thirsty Goat’s was right on par with that. The coleslaw wasn’t unique, but it was good. I don’t remember much about the corn bread, but only because I ate it so fast!

img_3836Nicole got the half chicken and it was good…but it was chicken. I have zero complaints about the chicken…except that it wasn’t BBQ brisket!

FOOD NOTES: Good ahead…get the cheese curds at this BBQ restaurant…you won’t be disappointed! Our lunch at the Thirsty Goat was very good, but I do regret not getting BBQ…guess it’s just a good reason to go back again! Oh, and don’t forget about the fire pit for this summer! If it’s a Friday night, you might find me there!

Soho converted me to a calamari lover

Soho has been known as one of the go-to food trucks for dumplings in Madison for years, but now that they’ve opened a storefront in Fitchburg, they’ve expanded their menu. And boy were those good additions! Of course they still serve dumplings, but if you’re going to the restaurant in Fitchburg I would suggest some of the things they don’t serve out of the cart.

I like being Michelle Li's roadie!
I like being Michelle Li’s roadie!


IMG_3247Before trying calamari at Soho with Michelle Li, I had tried it several other times and didn’t like it — both fried and sauteed. I thought the texture was terrible and the taste was worse. But Rocky at Soho really knows how to do calamari. His secret…promise you won’t tell…is cornstarch. I could eat an entire order of it by myself. The batter is salty and crispy. The calamari is tender and not fishy. And to my surprise, the pieces with the tentacles were the best ones because they were crispier. The calamari comes with a tasty dipping sauce, but it is not necessary. All you need is a little lemon juice squeezed on top and it’s time to dig in! If you don’t like calamari, do me a favor and give Soho’s a try. They will convert you.

IMG_3250We also got to try Soho’s green beans and fried tofu. I know, you’re thinking that both of those sound boring, but trust me…they aren’t at Soho. The green beans are charred, salty and in some sort of sauce that was so good I started eating them before I even had a fork, and couldn’t stop.


IMG_3251Now for the tofu. Every time I try to cook tofu it ends up mushy and tasteless…so I usually avoid it. Well apparently the secret is to deep fry it…because everything is better deep fried! The tofu soaks up the sauce they use, so it’s soft and flavorful on the inside and super crispy on the outside. As a non-tofu-lover I was surprised that I just kept popping cubes of tofu into my mouth.

Soho pork and chicken dumplings
Soho pork and chicken dumplings

FOOD NOTES: Soho’s dumplings are good…there’s no question about it, but if you’re going to their store in Fitchburg instead of their food truck I really suggest giving some of their other menu items a try. I would venture to say their calamari tops most of the places in Madison and they really know how to serve up usually boring green beans and tofu with flare.

Too many toppings to list for burgers at Mooyah

Sometimes you just want a burger, and a decent place to get one on Madison’s far west side is Mooyah. Mooyah is in a strip mall in the parking lot of the Super Target in Fitchburg. The dining room isn’t huge and fills up fast during lunch, but they do have additional outdoor seating during the summer.

IMG_1965You order either a single or double Mooyah burger, then you can add cheese, bacon or avocado. But the best part are the extras. You can add anything from lettuce, tomatoes and pickles to grilled onions, fried onion strings or jalapenos. They also have a dozen sauce options.

IMG_1966I got lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar, bacon, mushrooms and jalapenos. It was a great custom burger. The one downfall is that with all the extra toppings and the soft buns, the burgers get pretty messy. The regular fries are decent, but rumor has it the sweet potato fries are way better.

FOOD NOTES: I don’t usually go for burgers and fries, but if you’re looking for a decent burger and fries with a lot of topping options, Mooyah is a good spot. They’re not the greatest burgers you’ll ever find, but they’re on par with Five Guys with the amount of options and tasty fries. The metal lunch trays they’re served on are also pretty fun.

Shocker: Cafe inside gym serves up tasty, healthy food

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.

IMG_1689Fit 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.

palisade acai bowl

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!

IMG_1690The 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.

Bakery’s lunch just as impressive as sweet treats

Rolling Pin Bake Shop, Fitchburg
Rolling Pin Bake Shop, Fitchburg

Bakeries are great, but bakeries that also serve food are even better. I’ve never eaten lunch at my favorite bakery, Scott’s, so I don’t have much to compare it to, but Rolling Pin Bake Shop‘s lunch impressed me. Based on my first visit with a friend and her daughter, I would totally recommend this place for a casual lunch or some fun baked goodies.

cake and cupcake case
cake and cupcake case
decorated cookie case
decorated cookie case
cookie case
cookie case

The day we went they had three full bakery cases plus a rack of bread and a spinning case full of treats. They had four different types of quiche on special, plus a homemade soup on top of their regular menu. One case was full of different types of cookies, another one had cakes and cupcakes, and a third had decorated sugar cookies. The spinning case was filled with chocolate-dipped treats and other specialty items.

apple puff
apple pastry

It took me about 15 minutes to settle on the apple pastry and a molasses cookie. The apple pastry smelled so good I definitely didn’t wait until after my sandwich was even delivered to devour it. The flaky pastry crust was super buttery, and the filling was your basic apple pie filling. I liked that the filling wasn’t too sweet and had a good cinnamon flavor. Since I ate the pastry there, I would have liked it warmed up but I forgot to ask before I finished it off. The molasses cookie (sorry…I ate it before remembering to take a picture) was perfect, but only if you like your molasses cookies soft. Some people like them crispy, but I like them chewy in the middle and just slightly crispy on the edges. Rolling Pin’s version was just that, plus it was topped with granulated sugar that helped cut the slight bitterness of the molasses. It was definitely one of the best (still not better than grandma’s though!) molasses cookies I’ve had.

turkey club
turkey club

For lunch I went with what I thought was going to be a simple turkey club sandwich, but the sourdough bread, applewood smoked bacon and other fresh ingredients elevated the sandwich above what I was expecting. The sandwich was also surprisingly large for the price ($8).

FOOD NOTES: Don’t let the strip mall or facade of a bakery fool you — the lunch at Rolling Pin Bake Shop is super good. Don’t get me wrong — they’re baked goods were great (I will totally be back for a molasses cookie), but their lunch is what stood out as surprisingly tasty for a great price. Everyone working and eating there (including a pair of cops on their lunch break — I love it when you can tell they’re regulars!) were super nice. There aren’t a ton of good restaurant options in Fitchburg (there are a decent amount of chains, but not a lot of local places)…so if you’re in Fitchburg and in need a good lunch spot, I recommend Rolling Pin.

Pub’s kale salad better than heavy European fare

Flying Hound dining room
Flying Hound dining room

When I walked into the new Flying Hound Pub across from my old stomping grounds (the Fitchburg Super Target) I was expecting a heavy lunch littered with french fries, cheese and sauces. When our lunch came all of those expected pub food components were there, but the salad we ordered was surprisingly light, fresh, flavorful and filling.

Flying Hound schnitzel
Flying Hound schnitzel

To try out the traditional pub food at the Flying Hound we got the schnitzel, which is a fried piece of meat (I think the one at the Flying Hound is a pork chop), that comes on top of a Clausen’s bun with muenster cheese and arugula on top. It also comes with a container of housemade onion gravy. The schnitzel was tender and battered perfectly, but it was a little greasy and with the bun and cheese it was a very heavy sandwich. The onion gravy looked a little scary (it was dark brown and lumpy) but it was definitely the best part of the sandwich. Without the onion gravy the schnitzel didn’t have enough flavor and would have been very dry.

Flying Hound schnitzel and sweet potato fries
Flying Hound schnitzel and sweet potato fries

For a little extra we decided to get the sweet potato fries instead of regular fries. They were thin and crispy and not greasy, but they definitely needed more salt. The other added benefit of the odd-looking onion gravy was that it went really well with the sweet potato fries.

Flying Hound kale and salmon salad
Flying Hound kale and salmon salad

As for the salmon kale salad…I would definitely get that over the schnitzel if I go back. The salmon was perfectly cooked and came on top of a massive pile of tender kale. The salad also had walnuts, craisins, croutons, parmesan cheese and an herb vinaigrette. I’m not a huge fan of craisins, so I mostly avoided them but the couple I had with the other ingredients added a good sweet flavor. Other than the craisins, I loved the rest of the toppings. The walnuts were great with the vinaigrette, and the parmesan cheese added a nutty, savory flavor that paired well with the salmon. The one note I have is that the salad is pretty large and filling with a higher-than-normal price tag for a lunch.

Flying Hound patio
Flying Hound patio

FOOD NOTES: The new pub is in a perfect location — there aren’t any other non-franchise options in the area, plus it has a great patio. The schnitzel was made with quality ingredients, but definitely needed the housemade onion gravy to top it off. The sweet potato fries were good, but not spectacular. The surprising thing about the Flying Hound was that I was more impressed with the salmon kale salad than anything else we got. The salad had the perfect combination of yummy and healthy ingredients. If you’re heading to the Flying Hound for lunch definitely give their salad menu a look over the heavier pub fare on the menu.

New Indian restaurant serves up standard buffet dishes


If you’ve been to one Indian restaurant buffet you’ve been to them all. Most places make a decent chicken tikka masala or spinach paneer. I’ve been to some really bad Indian buffets, but most of them are pretty solid. The draw for most Indian buffets is their location — I usually pick one of the five I enjoy eating at based on where I’ll be before lunch or where I’ll need to go after. There’s one in Middleton, one on the far west side, one by West Towne Mall, one on the near west side, one right downtown and now one just opened up in Fitchburg. Haveli opened up on McKee Road in the same strip mall as Subway and Barriques.

Haveli dining room
Haveli dining room

Haveli is on the end of the strip mall so it has a ton of windows, which makes the expansive dining room nice and bright. The signs are very colorful, which grabbed my attention. The buffet is off to the side and is broken off from the rest of the dinning room with dividers, which I really liked.

Haveli buffet plate No. 1
Haveli buffet plate No. 1

They had pretty standard offerings on their buffet: chutneys, spinach naan, chicken tikka masala, paneer masala, beef curry and samosa chat. The perfectly firm paneer was great, and the creamy masala sauce had a good depth of spices that went really well with the spinach naan. The spinach naan was standard (I wish buffets could figure out a way to keep their naan crispy and not soggy). The onion chutney was a surprise. It had a good kick of flavor on top of the expected pickle flavor, which went really went on top of the beef curry. Samosa chat is samosas broken into pieces served with chana masala (a chickpea dish), yogurt sauce and chutneys on top. I’ve never seen samosa chat on a buffet. First, I’m glad they put it on the buffet so I could try it…I really liked it! It is a lot of things on an Indian buffet that I like all in one dish. Second, I wish the samosas would have been a lot less mushy, but maybe that’s the only way to serve a samosa on a buffet. The sauces in all of the dishes could have used a little more spice, but none of the buffets I’ve ever been to serve up spicy dishes.

Haveli plate No. 2
Haveli buffet plate No. 2

FOOD NOTES: Haveli is a very respectable option for Indian food if you’re in the Fitchburg area. I applaud them for putting samosa chat on the buffet, which is not a typical buffet dish. Haveli’s traditional buffet offerings (chicken tikka masala, paneer, naan, beef curry) were decent, but their masala sauce had a deeper layer of flavors than most buffet masala sauces. The onion chutney was also better than normal with an extra spiciness. The other unique thing about Haveli is that their buffet is $8.95, which is a dollar less than all of the other Indian buffets…not a very significant amount, but could still be part of the decision-making process if deciding between two buffets.

Wisconsin food done right at Quivey’s Grove

Quivey's Grove
Quivey’s Grove

Stop No. 2 on my Winter 2014 Restaurant Week itinerary was Quivey’s Grove Stable Grill for lunch. Quivey’s Grove has two stand-alone dining rooms – the Stable Grill and the fancier Stone House. The Stable Grill has a rustic bar and a dining room with winding and connected staircases going up to a couple different levels. It’s a very interesting building, and the extensive use of barn wood makes the whole place feel very welcoming and homey. Because of the crazy amount of steps I congratulate all waitstaff on their work! Our waitress was very nice, fast and efficient.

Quivey's Grove sausage sampler
Quivey’s Grove sausage sampler

Generally there are multiple things on restaurant week menus that I want to try so I usually suggest the person I go to dinner with and I split everything. At Quivey’s Grove my mom and I did just that! For appetizers we got the sausage sampler that had grilled Bavaria sausage, cherry kraut and cheddar sauce. I’m a big fan of Bavaria sausage and grilling it just made it better. The kraut was perfectly sweet and sour, and the cheddar sauce was so good I kept it for my french fries that came with my entree!

Quivey's Grove tomato bisque
Quivey’s Grove tomato bisque

We also got the tomato bisque. The soup was good. I had chunks of tomato and carrots in it, but the flavor was nothing special. The thing that made the dish special was the grilled cheese crouton. When I read that on the menu I was expecting a couple small, crunchy pieces of bread with cheese on top. But instead what we got was an actual mini grilled cheese sandwich! It was two small pieces of crunchy baguette bread with a nice amount of cheese in the middle! A mini grilled cheese sandwich floating on top of tomato soup – what a cute idea!

Quivey's Grove fish fry
Quivey’s Grove fish fry
Quivey's Grove cheeseburger
Quivey’s Grove cheeseburger

For entrees we got the cheeseburger and the fish fry. The cheeseburger came with fried onions, bacon, mayo and barbecue sauce on top. It was a very large burger, and the ingredients were quality. My fish fry was excellent and a huge serving. The beer batter on the two pieces of whitefish was the perfect consistency and had a great flavor that wasn’t overpowered by the beer. The three pretzel-crusted pieces of perch tasted like super sophisticated versions of fish sticks. I loved them! The basket also came with french fries that were made even better by the cheddar sauce from my appetizer!

Quivey's Grove turtle pie
Quivey’s Grove turtle pie
Quivey's Grove hot fudge brownie
Quivey’s Grove hot fudge brownie

There were three options for dessert: turtle pie, caramel apple steamed pudding and a hot fudge brownie sundae. The hot fudge brownie sundae was simple but good. The brownie was chocolatey and chewy, and the ice cream was great with the hot fudge. It was definitely the perfect ending to a good Wisconsin meal. The turtle pie was huge. It was basically a caramel pecan pie with a lot of bavarian chocolate cream on top. It was good but very sweet.

Quivey's Grove Stable Grill
Quivey’s Grove Stable Grill

FOOD NOTES: I have zero complaints about my Restaurant Week meal at Quivey’s Grove Stable Grill. The appetizers were clever and extremely tasty. The entrees had quality and quantity going for them, and I absolutely loved the pretzel crusted fish! The desserts were unapologetically simple, just the way I like desserts!I definitely hope to go back again for their regular menu!

Liliana’s serves up flavorful Cajun dishes


The only things I know about Cajun food is that it originates from Louisiana, uses seafood and should be spicy. I’ve never had anything near authentic Cajun food before so I’m not going to claim I know what’s good Cajun food. But, I do know what good food is in general, and can say without a doubt that the food at Liliana’s was fantastic! I looked at the menu a couple times the day before and still hadn’t decided what to get when I got there. The menu is an interesting mix of Cajun recipes, traditional restaurant offerings and a couple Wisconsin favorites. I knew I wanted to go the Cajun route but couldn’t decide what dish I wanted to try more. After rereading the menu multiple times I decided on the Jambalaya…probably the most Cajun dish I can think of!

lilianas corn bread
Liliana’s cornbread

While we were still deciding on what to get the waitress brought over a plate of cornbread. I don’t eat cornbread very often because it’s not readily available but I absolutely love it! We ate two plates of it with the super good whipped jalapeno butter. The jalapenos were at the bottom so you could get regular butter or spicy butter based on what your preference is. The cornbread was perfectly moist and sweet, a perfect compliment to the rich, spicy Cajun food.

My friend got the red beans which came in the same large serving and had vegan sausage in it. It was pretty good but the sweetness of the dish was a little unexpected. I think both of us were expecting a hearty, spicy flavor. The consistency was also interesting. The beans were cooked down to mush so there wasn’t much texture.

lilianas jambalaya
Liliana’s jambalaya

My large bowl of jambalaya came out smelling like wonderful spices and smokiness. I’m not the biggest fan of rice so I was pretty happy with the limited amount of it in the bowl. The four large shrimp were perfectly cooked, and the rest of the dish was a prefect combination of tomatoes, peppers, onions, ham, bacon strips and sausage. I loved that the sauce wasn’t too heavy and didn’t overpower any of the other ingredients. It wasn’t too spicy but had a super good flavor with a ton of depth!

The dessert menu had a couple regular restaurant options, bourbon pecan chocolate pie tarte, and then beignets. Beignets are a traditional Cajun dessert so we decided there was no other option. The beignets at Liliana’s are made with house-made brioche, fried and topped with powdered sugar. The beignets I’ve seen on TV are about the size of donut holes…these were basically the size of half a piece of bread. The order of three came with about an inch of powdered sugar on top. The powdered sugar made them kind of difficult to eat but totally worth it. They were super light and airy, and very flavorful! I’m definitely a fan of the beignet!

lilianas beignets
Liliana’s beignets

The atmosphere was not what I was expecting. The bar was dark and intimate. The dining room was smaller than expected and decorated very simplistically. I was expecting a more elaborate dining room with big booths for some reason! There was a jazz ensemble playing the night we were there that really added to the atmosphere. Their website says they have music most nights of the week so make sure to plan your visit on a night with music! The oddest thing was a water fountain in the middle of the dining room that wasn’t running and seemed out of place.The outdoor patios look really nice and I love eating outside so I really want to go back when they are open.

FOODNOTES: I know absolutely nothing about the authenticity of Cajun food but my jambalaya was very good. The flavor was amazing and the ingredients were very plentiful. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the red beans but the amount of vegetarian options was good to see. The corn bread and the beignets were the highlight of the meal! Both were exceptional and will probably bring me back to try other Cajun dishes!