Expect quality food, pricier menu at Jacs on Monroe

Jacs
Jacs

There are countless options for a unique dining experience at upscale pub-style restaurants in downtown Madison, but there’s not very many similar options outside the isthmus. Jacs on Monroe Street is a newish addition to the near west side that is similar to what you would expect from upscale pubs on the Capitol Square. Jacs offers its own unique menu options along with dishes very similar to Brasserie V, like mussels or steak with frites.

Jacs
Jacs

The small brick building is sandwiched in between Michael’s Frozen Custard and a strip mall with a coffee stop, cat supply store and Indian restaurant. The best feature of the restaurant is its huge pair of front windows that bring in light to the dark dining room and allow for ample people watching. We showed up a bit before the dinner rush and got one of the coveted window seats. By 5:15 the entire place was packed with groups of people, couples and families.

Jac's ploughman's platter
Jacs ploughman’s platter

We started with the ploughman’s platter, which is a cheese board with interesting pairings. The platter comes with two types of cheese (I’m assuming they change because they were written on a chalk board). We got an aged cheddar and a truffled goat cheese. The aged cheddar was bold and nutty and perfect for a cheese board. I usually don’t like goat cheese, but this one was actually pretty good (although it did come out with some mold on it…we weren’t sure if that was a cheese thing or not so we just cut off the really moldy parts). The platter also came with some Bavaria sausage, honey, bread, housemade jam, grapes, sliced apple and pear, walnuts and mini tomatoes. It was beautifully presented and most of the ingredients were top-notch (I am still hung up on the mold that was on our goat cheese). Even though it was a great starter to our meal it was a bit on the expensive side for the price. I’m not sure I would want the platter to be any bigger, but I think the price should be less.

Jacs gnocchi
Jacs gnocchi
Jacs beet gnocchi
Jacs beet gnocchi

My mom got the special, which was housemade beet gnocchi with kale, hen of the woods mushrooms and pork belly. The gnocchi was denser and larger than the average gnocchi, but because it wasn’t in a heavy sauce they worked. The mushrooms and kale went really well with the earthiness of the beet flavor, and the pork belly added a much-needed saltiness to the simpler ingredients. There was a light sauce, probably mostly olive oil, that kept the dish from becoming too heavy. If there had been a creamy sauce on top it would have overwhelmed the great flavors of the simple ingredients.

Jacs steak
Jacs steak

I got the steak and frites because again, I always judge the quality of a restaurant by their steak and french fries. My steak was perfectly cooked with a great sear on the outside. It was seasoned very well, and had a little something extra that tasted like more than just salt and pepper. I love a traditional steak browned with just salt and pepper as seasoning, but this had a little additional kick of flavor that I couldn’t ID — but it was great! The sauteed spinach and kale under the steak was way too salty and tasted like it was a forgotten side. Greens can be really great when paid a little bit of attention, but these were overcooked and so salty that they were inedible alone (I took them home and sauteed them up with some egg whites for breakfast the next day…the extra salt worked well when balanced with the bland egg whites).

Jacs frites
Jacs frites

I was expecting a small plate of frites to come with my steak, but the massive cone of frites our table neighbors got as an appetizer also arrived with my entree. The cone of frites is definitely enough for two people. They were salted perfectly and had a great crunch. I’ve said for a while that my favorite fries in Madison were at Brasserie V, but the frites at Jacs were equally as crave-worthy. But the aioli at Jacs was more unique than Brasserie V. It was zesty…almost as if it was a citrus garlic aioli or another similar flavor combination. It took me by surprise at first, but the flavor combo balanced the greasiness of the frites well.

FOOD NOTES: Jacs can definitely give its Monroe Street competition, Brasserie V, a run for its money. Both seem to focus on European flavors and dishes, and both do it very well. The cheese platter we got was very well done (aside from the questionable mold), and had some interesting pairings I hadn’t seen on a cheese platter before. The housemade beet gnocchi was something special on its own, and was elevated by the other simple, ut perfectly done ingredients. My steak and frites were basically as good as steak and frites could get, but I expected more from Jacs on the sauteed greens. The biggest negative that sticks out to me is Jacs’ prices. Even though Jacs’ food is very close to the quality of restaurants around the Capitol Square, the restaurant isn’t around the Square so the prices need to be a little lower.

Stalzy’s beet salad is perfect side for flavorful sandwiches

I’ve been to Stalzy’s on the near east side multiple times but this time their special was so good I decided I needed to post about it again! I’m not sure how to describe Stalzy’s other than say they serve fresh homemade deli food. I’ve had great soups and amazing sandwiches every time I’ve been there. And their beet salad is so epic that I took some home the last time I was there.

stalzys brisket rachel
Stalzy’s Rachel sandwich with brisket

Usually when I go I get the Rachel with pastrami, swiss cheese, coleslaw and Russian dressing on rye. It is so good that I’ve had cravings for it. It is probably a good thing that I live on the completely opposite side of town. On my most recent visit their special was the Rachel with beef brisket instead of pastrami. I’m a huge brisket fan so I had to get it. The brisket’s smokiness added another flavor profile to this already amazing sandwich. Also, by itself, the brisket was one of the best briskets I’ve ever had!

stalzys pickled beets
Stalzy’s picked beet salad

My other go-to favorite at Stalzy’s is their beet salad. The beets are the perfect texture and have a good combo of spices on top of the pickling. They are an amazing compliment to the salty sandwiches at Stalzy’s. I haven’t tried any of their other sides because the beet salad is so good!

FOODNOTES: The special Rachel with brisket was the best sandwich I have ever had…ever! My goal is to visit Stalzy’s more often so I can try more of their sandwiches, sides and their brats/sausages. The one thing I will get every time I go is the beet salad. During this last visit I also found out they serve breakfast and really want to try that. They have a small deli counter and I would like to get some of the house-smoked meat at least once. FYI – they only take cash.