Monona Drive has better lunch options than Rosie’s Cafe

Rosie's Coffee Bar and Bakery
Rosie’s Coffee Bar and Bakery

Small cafes that serve up homemade pastries, quality coffee and great sandwiches are some of my favorite places, but sometimes they can be hard to find. A couple months ago I had a great lunch at Crema Cafe on Monona Drive and I was hoping to find another great place in Monona, but Rosie’s Coffee Bar and Bakery was a let down.

bakery case
bakery case
cinnamon roll
cinnamon roll

I went there with my friend Nicole and her daughter. The coffee was decent, but their bakery items weren’t great. My cinnamon roll was thick and crusty, not flaky and sweet like I expect from cinnamon rolls. And it was frosted with a thick, sugary glaze instead of a cream cheese frosting. It was one of the only times I’ve ever not finished a cinnamon roll.

tuna salad sandwich
tuna salad sandwich
tuna salad sandwich
tuna salad sandwich

They serve breakfast and lunch, but I decided their tuna salad with sprouts and tomato on a wheat roll sounded good. The tuna salad was good — not too much mayo and just the right amount of chopped onion for a good crunch. The sprouts were a nice touch, but there weren’t enough of them to matter and the bread was a little too thick.

FOOD NOTES: I had a good lunch at Rosie’s, but the company was better than the food. I would skip their cinnamon rolls all together and if you’re looking for a sandwich, go another mile down Monona Drive to Crema. There’s nothing wrong with the food at Rosie’s, there’s just a better option nearby. I’m not sure how their breakfasts are (quiche, breakfast sandwich, oatmeal), but I’d give it a chance.

Is this really the best of Madison?

I base a lot of my dining decisions on Madison Magazine’s Best of Madison results and those results have never led me astray; until today. The Pancake Cafe in Fitchburg has been voted Best Breakfast in Madison every year since 2003 so I was very excited to go with some friends this morning. I’ve been here before but only gotten a to-go order and never gotten anything other than their amazing cinnamon rolls the size of Texas. Based on the amazing-ness of these cinnamon rolls the food should have been amazing…guess not!

I did not get breakfast but based on what everyone else got at the table and the pictures on the menu I didn’t actually miss anything. I got the tuna melt, which was a traditional diner tuna melt. It was made with mayo and had a slice of cheddar cheese. The bread was way to greasy for my taste and if the cheese hadn’t been an awkwardly bright yellow I probably wouldn’t have even known it was on there. The saving grace of the dish was a slice of tomato and lettuce on the side of my plate. I peeled my sandwich apart and added those to the sandwich which really cut the grease. Thankfully one of the friends I was with gave me her lettuce and tomato so I could have them on both halves of my sandwich. The french fries were disappointingly dry and tasteless.

The grilled cheese a friend got (and got charged for a ham and cheese melt even though she didn’t get the ham) looked luke warm and not at all melty enough to justify a good grilled cheese. The cheese burger (be careful, they charge $1 for cheese!), crepes and chocolate chip pancakes looked ok but nothing to rave about. Another friend got a ceasar salad and was given a plate of warm lettuce with dry chicken and no dressing.

Other items on the menu I was considering but opted against were the eggs benedict (the picture showed a congealed, greasy mound of hollandaise sauce atop a very small piece of ham) and the homemade corned beef hash and eggs (wasn’t 100% convinced it was actually homemade…the canned stuff is nasty!).

As for the restaurant in general it looks like a newer version of a Perkins with tan walls and mauve accents. The decor is reminiscent of something a grandma would buy and there’s a random fireplace right by the entrance. Our service was lacking to say the least and I don’t think I was the only one in my group who noticed the hostess’ weird attitude about splitting up our check.

Bottom line: I think I’m safe in saying that none of us would rate the Pancake cafe best breakfast in Madison. I would recommend avoiding everything on this menu other than their amazing and fantastically tasty cinnamon rolls (Seriously, if you haven’t had one of these cinnamon rolls you need to do that like right now! You’ll thank me when you’re driving all the way to Fitchburg for a cinnamon roll you say you’ll eat over a couple of days but you’ll devor in a half a day and then realize it probably contains your total calories for a week. I know I thank my friend Hilary for introducing me to it’s amazing cream cheese frosting!) If you’re looking for a breakfast place in Madison I suggest The Original Pancake House (their corned beef hash is homemade!), The Sunroom Cafe, or Monty’s Blueplate Diner!

Cafe amidst new subdivision has creative classics on the menu

Prairie Cafe and Bakery in Middleton.

On my days off I usually plan out my errands and other things I need to get done but this last Tuesday I had a couple things to do and places to stop but nothing was planned. So when I drove past a cafe on the way to the bank that I had never seen I decided to stop. The Prairie Cafe and Bakery sits in the corner of an office building in a new subdivision on the north side of Middleton. According to their website they’ve been open since 2000 and is called “the meeting place” for people in Middleton Hills (the subdivision).

The building is very industrial which doesn’t usually lend itself well to good hometown cafes but once I walked in and saw the local art on the walls and a group of women cross stitching I had more faith in the meal I was about to get. There was a little pause in my ordering process because they only take cash or check (not posted anywhere that I saw but thankfully my bank was a block away and it was nice out!). So after my ATM walk I ordered their tuna sandwich with black bean and corn salad, and a raspberry iced tea. For being noon on a Tuesday the place was packed with groups of people, people grabbing to-go orders, and people who had created little mobile offices with laptops, headphones, and stacks of stuff. I was definitely expecting something quieter but atmosphere would be great for reading or chatting with friends.

Prairie Cafe and Bakery lunch

My raspberry iced tea was the perfect combination of freshly brewed iced tea and raspberry flavor! The tuna sandwich was an interesting variation on a normal tuna sandwich with it’s lemon vinaigrette, bell peppers, olives, and chunks of potatoes and eggs. I could have done without the chunks of potatoes and eggs but the lemon vinaigrette was so fresh and light that it made up for the heavy additions to the tuna mixture. The baguette was a little too crusty to eat tuna salad with (I usually prefer a softer bread for tuna because the crustier the bread the more mess you make while you eat it) but the sandwich as a whole was delightful! The black bean, corn salad was good but I couldn’t help and wonder if it came from a container. The dressing was flavorful but oily, too liberally applied and almost too mixed together which made me think the dressing came from a can. Either way, it was a good compliment to my lemony tuna sandwich.

Bottom line: The tuna was an interesting and delightful variation and I look forward to going back for breakfast (I really hope their corned beef hash is homemade!) and to trying their ultimate grilled cheese! The atmosphere was great with the local charm complimenting the industrial feel of the building very well! Don’t forget your cash or to try their freshly brewed teas!

Food cart satisfies with unconventional tuna salad

The mark of a great summer day in Madison includes a stop at the food carts on Library Mall. So, on one of my quieter days last week I made a stop at the food carts on the way home from taking pictures around campus. There are a couple new food carts this year so I figured I should probably try something new instead of my traditional stop at the Buraka cart for some amazing Ethiopian Food and I settled on the Electric Earth Cafe food cart. I had never seen their cart before or eaten at the actual restaurant located on W. Wash so I stopped to look at the menu. The menu included standard sandwich and salad options at reasonable prices so I decided to try the tuna because I tend to judge a restaurant/food cart on the quality of their tuna salad sandwich or tuna melt.

Lunch from Electric Earth Cafe Food Cart

The price was a little over $6 which included the sandwich, a bag of chips and a small cup of noodle salad (which was extremely good and I wish I could buy just a big bowl of that! Ingredients: artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes and some other tasty ingredients that were so few and far between in the tiny portion that I couldn’t tell what they were!). And the tuna salad, which came on sturdy slices of whole wheat bread (the cart had a couple other bread options as well), was amazingly unconventional. Normally, tuna salad has celery in it and an over abundance of mayo. This tuna was light (I’m not even sure if it had mayo in it) and had shredded carrots and raisins in it! When I first noticed the raisins I was very apprehensive but they were a very interesting flavor and texture addition that I am happy to say I will be returning to the cart for again (hopefully I will be able to get a large container of the noodle salad as well!). I was surprisingly happy with the amount of tomato, onion and crisp lettuce too!

Tuna salad with raisins from Electric Earth Cafe food cart

Bottom line: this food cart passed the “tuna” test with flying colors by offering amazing sides as a compliment to an tasty, albeit unconventional, sandwich! I will return for this sandwich and others while begging for large portions of the noodle salad.