Waunakee supper club doesn’t stray from tradition

After writing a couple posts about my love for supper clubs, I started getting suggestions for great places in the area. A couple people suggested Rex’s Inkeeper in Waunakee, and after my long lost food date partner Michelle Li sent me a gift card she still had after moving to Seattle, I decided to take my mom to check the place out.

When you walk in you immediately know you’re in an old-school supper club and that you’re probably the only people the bar tender doesn’t know by name. The random floral decorations, leather bar stools and padded dining room chairs are pretty standard was far as supper clubs go. The biggest difference between Rex’s and most other supper club’s were the large TVs on all four walls of the dining room. I wasn’t mad at…it just wasn’t necessary.

Dirty Shirley at Rex’s
Grasshopper at Rex’s

Let’s start with the drinks. Both of us got a mixed drink. My mom’s was way stronger than mine, which was odd because usually supper clubs serve some pretty stiff drinks. The grasshopper we got after dinner was pretty tasty, but not very strong either.

The salad bar…that’s one of the main reasons to hit up a supper club on a Saturday night. Rex’s salad bar didn’t disappoint. They had all the salad fixings I wanted…including those tasty bar pickles…plus some premo pasta salad and potato salad. No complaints here!

Rex’s prime rib

It was Saturday…so I got the only option in my mind…prime rib. Here’s the thing about prime rib in my opinion…it’s great, but it tastes the same everywhere (Maybe that means I’m lucky and have never had bad prime rib? I don’t know!). Rex’s fits that description to a T. My prime rib was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and it was very tender. The hash browns were what they’re supposed to and what I love…hot, crunchy and salty.

FOOD NOTES: As far as fancy drinks and nice decor…Rex’s Innkeeper does not cut it, but that’s not what they do. Rex’s does what it does right…supper club favorites. I’m a sucker for some 80s decor, a salad bar and a steak, so I’ll probably be back to Rex’s. My one and only tiny issues was that the drinks could be stronger.



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!

MY PLEA: Someone open a restaurant in old Julep space

I went to Julep on Madison’s near east side last fall with two friends and their daughter. Since we were there, Julep has closed. Based on my experience, I’m not surprised they closed, but I am really hoping someone opens a new restaurant in the unique space.

First the drinks:

Mint Julep at Julep
Mint Julep at Julep

I wasn’t planning on getting a drink, but then I decided I had to get a mint julep at Julep. It came the traditional way in a metal cup with shaved ice on the top. A julep is basically bourbon, sugar and mint. And at Julep they really knew how to make a julep…it was probably one of the smoothest drinks I’ve ever had.

Onto the food:

Julep's biscuit
Julep’s biscuit
Julep's cast iron cornbread
Julep’s cast iron cornbread

We got the biscuit and cornbread to start…both were disappointing. The biscuit was dry, but the butter and jam were good. The cornbread had a good flavor but was burnt.

Blue corn crab cakes
Blue corn crab cakes
Roasted pork chop
Roasted pork chop
Julep fish special
Julep fish special

My friends got the crab cakes and pork chops. Both of them liked their entrees, but mine was disappointing. I was planning on getting the fried chicken, but the nightly special swayed me, which was a cornmeal crusted fish with roasted potatoes and a cheesy broccoli bake. The cheesy broccoli bake and potatoes were perfect. No complaints. But there were a lot of problems with my fish. The batter was soggy and didn’t have much flavor. The fish was also flavorless, and one of the filets was not cooked all the way through. The dish had a lot of potential, but the main ingredient — the fish — was a big fail. Based on my entree…I’m not surprised Julep didn’t make it.

Chocolate cake dessert
Chocolate cake dessert
Caramel apple dessert
Caramel apple dessert

As for the desserts…they were surprisingly good after the entrees. My friends got the chocolate cake and I got the apple dessert, both of which came with house made ice cream. My apple crisp with candied pecans and house made butter pecan ice cream was amazing. The ice cream was creamy and had a lot of pecans in it. The apples were still slightly crunchy (which I like way better than mushy apples) and the crust was crispy. I had zero complaints with the dessert.

Now for the location:

Julep's back patio
Julep’s back patio

Julep was in a building that was refurbished into a coffee shop, wine bar and restaurant. It was an old industrial building and they did a great job redoing it, especially the restaurant space in the back. It has big brick walls, but the inside was transformed into a warm and welcoming space. But the best part was the outdoor patio. It’s like this secret little garden right off one of Madison’s main roads. They had heaters and strings of lights…the patio made the experience. The patio is why I hope someone opens another restaurant in this spot.

FOOD NOTES: Based on the food I had, I’m not surprised Julep is closed. Based on the location and the patio, I am very sad Julep is closed. I think a restaurant that has a simpler menu with better-quality dishes would do really well in the space. Here’s hoping someone realizes that!

Waunakee brewery has potential with unique menu

The owner told me they named the brewery The Lone Girl because they have several kids, but only one daughter.

Brew pubs are the new thing in the restaurant business. It seems like everyone wants to brew their own beer and serve food while offering a casual atmosphere for dinner or a place to watch the game. And trust me, I’m not mad at it. I love a good brew pub, but the key word there is good. There are so many of them popping up all over the Madison area that each place is going to have to offer something unique or better to bring me back. The Lone Girl in Waunakee didn’t do that with its service, but the food was good and it does have a good location and a rooftop dining room so I’ll probably be back.

I went to Lone Girl on a Saturday in November with a friend. We decided to stop in quick for lunch while we were hitting all the little shops up there, but I think we picked the wrong day. The place was packed with kids and parents — all of them wearing the same T-shirt from a charity walk/run. It turned out that Lone Girl was a big sponsor of the race so we assumed race participants were getting some sort of deal. Surprisingly we got seated right away, but that’s where it went downhill. It took almost 15 minutes for someone to bring us water and menus, and then when we finally did order (two pretty simple dishes if you ask me), it took another 45 minutes to get our food. I’m not sure if the wait seemed horrible because I was starving or because the place was so busy and loud, but by the time our food came I was not happy.

Let’s go back to the menu for a minute. For a brew pub, it has an odd menu. They have the standards you would expect: nachos, house-made potato chips, cheese curds, a burger, fish fry and a chicken sandwich. But then they add in hush puppies, albondigas (which are fancy meatballs), and what  I got — a chicken Caesar salad with grilled chicken and grilled romaine lettuce. Even some of their standards have an odd twist, like the nachos that can come chilaquiles style and their version of chicken wings that come with a tropical fruit pico de gallo. It’s hard to decide which direction the menu is going — which usually doesn’t bode well for the food because in my experience, an unfocused menu means a kitchen doesn’t know how to do anything well.

img_3869But my salad proved my assumptions wrong. Now granted, it was a simple chicken Caesar salad, but it was very tasty. The chicken was perfectly grilled and not dry. The romaine lettuce was also grilled to perfection — I love grilled lettuce! If you haven’t had it…try it. The house-made dressing was flavorful but not too heavy or prevalent on the salad, and the croutons were garlicky as promised. Other than the time I had to wait to get my salad, I was very pleased with my meal.

img_3868My friend got the buffalo chicken sandwich, which she said was good but the chicken had basically no buffalo flavor (I tried it and totally agreed). It retrospect — that was very odd since the chicken had an orange tint to it, which should indicate a buffalo spice. So odd! The sandwich came with a mix of regular and sweet potato fries, which is an awesome option for people who don’t like deciding between the two. Both types were crispy and appropriately salty.

FOOD NOTES: The Lone Girl Brewery proved to have potential during my first visit. Putting aside the odd menu options and slow service, I was very happy with my meal. I’m going to chalk the service up to the special event that was happening, but beware if you go on a busy night…it might be the same slowdown. The menu — although heading in a bunch of different directions — seems to have an option for everyone and there are things I would go back to try. The food was good enough to bring me back on its own, but if I’m being honest, I’ll probably go back for the rooftop seating because who doesn’t love eating outside in the summer on a roof!

Under dated, dusty chop house lives classic, quality supper club

You’ll have to look past the stained carpet, dusty windowsills and dated furniture to see just how great the Watertower Chop House in Sun Prairie is. You’ll also have to look a little harder to actually find the Watertower Chop House because it looks a little rundown on the outside and there isn’t really a sign. We walked in through the back and, after getting past the musky smell, I fell in love with this place.

The drinks are strong here!
The drinks are strong here!

The front room where the bar is needs a facelift and way more seating, but then again the entire place needs both of those things. The dining room is small so we had to wait for a table, but it wasn’t a long wait.

My plate from the salad bar
My plate from the salad bar

As for the menu, it’s a traditional supper club — steaks, seafood and a salad bar (my favorite). We went on a Saturday night, so obviously both of us got got the prime rib. They have three sizes of prime rib and they all come with two sides (one of which can be the salad bar). The salad bar had all of the goodies I was expecting from a good supper club — traditional salad toppings, potato salad, macaroni salad, beets, pickles, soup and rolls. I’m not sure what it is about supper clubs and salad bars — it’s probably because I used to get to go to the salad bar when I was a kid — but I love them and everything they come with.

The prime rib was great and I ate it so fast I forgot to take a picture of it before I had inhaled it. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare and the outside had a great char on it. I got the mashed potatoes as my other side. They also offer some healthier options like veggies, but who wants that! Oh…well my mom got the asparagus so I guess some people order the healthier options!

slightly melty grasshopper
slightly melty grasshopper

And just in case our visit to the chop house wasn’t old school enough, we ended our meal with a grasshopper. I think our waitress left ours sitting somewhere because it was slightly melty when we got it, but it was still tasty — not too minty, not too sweet and just the right amount of alcohol — and she comped it from our bill, which was not necessary but very good customer service.

FOOD NOTES: Once you get past the old building and the old smell, Watertower Chop House is really a hidden gem. There’s nothing better than a good supper club in my book and this one tops my list in the Madison area. There are a lot of supper clubs in the area, but not all of them are worth the trip. The chop house looks like it hasn’t changed or been updated in 60 years, but maybe that’s why it hasn’t changed…because it hasn’t had to. The dining room was full on a Saturday night, so this place must not be a secret. I will definitely be back, and like all supper clubs I go to, I’ll probably get a steak, salad bar and mashed potatoes because it’s what they do best!

You might have to Google stuff on Freiburg Gastropub’s menu, but it’s worth it


Joining a decent-sized list of restaurants on Monroe Street by Wingra Park, Freiburg Gastropub opened last year and is a good addition. The German-stye pub is dark and cozy even with the big windows at the front of the building. The bar takes up an entire wall, probably to accommodate the large beer menu they have.

About 1/3 of the massive pretzel
About 1/3 of the pretzel

I went with some friends and, after Googling half of the menu to make sure we knew what our options were, we got a pretzel with house mustard and cheese spread to start. The pretzel had a bit too much salt on top, but after scraping about half of it off it was perfect…dense and rich on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. The mustard had the perfect level of heat, but the cheese spread was hard to eat with the soft pretzel. I’d prefer the cheese to be dip-able, and this stuff was definitely not dip-able.

pretzel roll
pretzel roll

TIP: You also get pretzel rolls with your meal that are just as amazing, so ordering the pretzel probably isn’t necessary.

Freiburg fish fry

Since it was Friday, I decided to get the Freiburg fish fry — panko breaded rainbow trout, a potato pancake and coleslaw. I loved that the trout wasn’t heavily breaded…it was just enough to add a good crisp. The potato pancake was good, but was basically just a hash brown, and the coleslaw was good, but nothing special. All-in-all it was a very good meal.


My friends got the Schweinshaxen — beer braised pork shank with mashed potatoes and mustard — and Huhn — oven roasted half chicken, sauteed spaetzle, vegetables and riesling butter sauce. The most memorable thing about the Schweinshaxen was the size! It was probably one of the largest pieces of pork I’ve seen on a plate. I tried the spaetzle that came with the Huhn and it was what I was expecting — soft and buttery…like buttered noodles!

FOOD NOTES: If you’re willing to Google most of the items on the menu, you’ll get a great meal at Freiburg Gastropub. If you’re hungry for a good pretzel, pass on ordering one and wait for the pretzel rolls they’ll bring to your table. If you’re not super hungry, split a dish with someone because they’re huge servings. I want to go back and try their Reuben sandwich and the cheesy spaetzle with sausage. They also have a deli-style lunch menu and a brunch menu that both sound very promising.

#throwback review of lunch at El Pastor this summer

I’ve taken a couple months off from reviewing restaurants…but after a couple of my adoring fans (bahahahaha jk!) asked if I was ever going to blog again, I figured I should get back to it.

So here’s a quick review that dates back to this summer to get the ball rolling:

I went to El Pastor on Park Street for a quick lunch with two friends over the summer and was not very pleased with any part of it, except the friends part!

First of all, the entire place smelled like a stale cigarette the second we walked in. That’s not an appetizing smell, and definitely not what I want to smell walking into a any restaurant.

Now to the food.

el-pastorI’m a sucker for a good combo meal so I got the Sabor De Mexico with one chile relleno, one tamale, one pork taco, rice and beans, but I asked to swap out the pork taco for a lengua taco. The only way to describe the entire plate of food is bland. Nothing had any flavor and the hot sauce they put on the table tasted like watery tomatoes.

The chile relleno tasted like a boiled pepper with cheese in it…no seasoning, no grill flavor on the chile. The batter wasn’t salty or crispy. It wasn’t good. The tamale was fine, but nowhere near the best tamale I’ve ever had. The meat on the inside was tender, but again…didn’t have any flavor and the corn dough was dry. The lengua taco (yes…I like lengua tacos…at least I do at other places) was not good. The meat was stringy and didn’t have any seasoning on it at all so it tasted very gamey. I ate so little of the rice and beans I can’t even tell you what was wrong with them. Basically it was not a good plate of food.

FOOD NOTES: On top of the terrible cigarette smoke smell, the food at El Pastor was pretty bad. It wasn’t inedible, but I definitely was not happy with my lunch. My lunch dates weren’t as critical of their lunches, but I won’t be back.

Hidden atop downtown hotel, The Blind has many something specials

It takes something special for new restaurants in downtown Madison to last, and the new one on top of the Graduate Hotel has a couple something specials.

Reasons I love The Madison Blind:

  1. It’s on a roof where you can see State Street, Lake Mendota and the Capitol.
  2. No matter where you sit, inside near the wall of windows or outside on the patio, you have a great view!
  3. The drinks a great. They do the classics well and their specials are super tasty.
  4. The fries are extra crispy and served with great aioli.
  5. The beet salad is an A+.

Those are some pretty great reasons to check out the Blind, but I can’t say enough about the view, especially on the patio…I have repeatedly forgotten to take a picture of the view because I was too busy enjoying it in real time!

IMG_3316The food is also pretty great. I’ve tried most of their appetizers and none of them disappointed. The poutine is phenomenal. I’m usually not a fan of poutine because it usually tastes like a pile of mush, but the poutine at the Blind is cheesy, the fries are crispy and the gravy is super flavorful. The fish tacos are super fresh and light, but they are very tiny. The cheese curds are a great version of the Wisconsin classic.

IMG_3314Like I said, the beet salad with chicken is top notch. If you get the poutine and cheese curds to start, the beet salad is a great entree option. It’s tasty and hearty, but not heavy.

IMG_3318As for dessert, they serve the hand pies sold downstairs in the hotel’s cafe Portage Pi. I got the apple pie a ‘la mode. The turnover-like pie was hot and crispy, but the crust was a little dry and there could have been more filing and ice cream

Based on its location, the corner of Langdon and Francis, and it’s great drinks and food, it’s not a surprise the Blind is usually very busy. I’ve had to wait for a table every time I’ve been there, but the view and food are worth the wait. It is a small dining room, but based on my experience I think part of the wait time has to do with the service. Every time I’ve been there our waiter has either taken forever to come to the table the first time or disappeared halfway through. It also feels like there are no assigned tables because all three times I’ve gone I had a couple different servers.

FOOD NOTES: The Blind is one of my new favorite places in Madison. If the food and drinks don’t keep you coming back, the view should. The service could be faster and more organized, but there are too many other goods things at the Blind that will keep me going back. I’m a sucker for their beet salad so I’ve never tried their burgers, but they look and smell amazing!

Cafe hidden behind East High School features unique sweet dishes

IMG_3288Hidden behind East High School is a Milio’s sandwich shop and hidden behind that is 4 & 20 Bakery and Cafe. The space is small and industrial, but very warm and inviting. There are only a couple tables, but from my understanding students pack those tables every day.

Michelle doing her thing!
Michelle doing her thing!

They have a pretty typical coffee and cafe menu with baked goods, breakfast options and sandwiches. The day Michelle Li and I got to try the place out we had the place to ourselves, and we got to try the chef/owner’s favorites: lemon bread blueberry french toast, and a very interesting turkey sandwich.

Lemon bread blueberry french toast
Lemon bread blueberry french toast

IMG_3292The lemon bread blueberry french toast was quite a dish. They use lemon bread for the french toast and then top it was lemon curd, blueberry compote and fresh cream. I don’t like french toast or super sweet breakfasts, so this dish had two strikes against it before I even tried it. So to be honest, I didn’t like it because of how sweet it was, but there were some up sides. The french toast was crispy, the blueberries were sweet and fresh and the cream added a much needed lightness to the dish. If you like sweet breakfast dishes and lemon curd, you will totally love it.

IMG_3301IMG_3299The  sandwich had all of the regulars: greens, cheese, crispy bread…and cranberry spread on it. I wasn’t sure if I’d like cranberry spread, but it was a good tangy addition to the heavy sandwich. There was also a mustard on it that I really liked. Based on reviews I’ve read online…I would suggest trying their breakfast options before the turkey sandwich. It was interesting, but not something I would get again.

IMG_3294FOOD NOTES: The location of 4 & 20 Bakery is perfect for East High School students and people who live east of First Street, but otherwise you might not know it’s even there. The dining room is super cute and inviting, and I love the succulents on the tables. The lemon blueberry french toast wasn’t my jam, but Michelle liked it and if you like sweet dishes you will also love it. The turkey sandwich was better than I was expecting, but it wasn’t something I’d order again. There are a ton of other things I’d like to try on the menu if I ever make it back over 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.