There’s nothing more Wisconsin and more Madison than deep fried cheese curds. Most restaurants in the city and the state have them on their menus, and places that pull them frozen out of box should be ashamed. There’s something special about a good homemade fried cheese curd dipped in homemade ranch dressing. When talking about cheese curds in Madison most people talk about the curds at the Old Fashioned, Graze, The Tipsy Cow, the Avenue Bar or the curds served at local breweries. I’m a huge fan of all of these places, and when I visited Gates and Brovi on Monroe Street I was not expecting to find a frontrunner for the best cheese curds in Madison.
The restaurant opened about a year ago and hasn’t made too much noise in the food scene, but I was excited to try it because of some good things I had heard about the food. The menu seems a little confused and unfocused offering salads, clams, shrimp, sandwiches, burgers, pizza and pasta. I tend to go for something other than sandwiches or burgers unless they sound super original, so I went with the roasted beet and avocado salad. But first we decided to get the fried cheese curds. They came in a little red basket, and had extremely light batter that was not greasy. The white cheese curds were extremely fresh and perfectly melty. I’m not sure what type of batter they use, but it is definitely a lot lighter than the normal beer batter on Wisconsin cheese curds. They were fantastic! And the homemade ranch dressing was perfectly tangy and creamy.
The roasted beet and avocado salad also had red onions, carrots, radishes, arugula, queso fresco and a tangy orange dressing. I don’t like citrus dressings so I got a balsamic dressing instead. The salad was plentiful and fresh, but not extremely flavorful. The balsamic dressing was fine, but queso fresco is basically a useless cheese with no flavor. I wold prefer something with a little flavor like feta or an aged cheddar. There were a ton of beets, but they were nothing special. The salad as a whole was good, but I probably wouldn’t get it again.
FOOD NOTES: Gates and Brovi is a very casual place with the vibe of a southern shrimp place. The dining room has wood plank benches and white wood paneling, and is warm and inviting. The day we went there was only one waiter, but he kept everything moving fast and was super nice. The one downfall to Gates and Brovi is that there is extremely limited parking, especially during the day. I only had to park a block away, but I got super lucky with street parking. The cheese curds were amazing. They aren’t the same as Wisconsin beer battered cheese curds but they were definitely unique and just as good as their heavier beer-battered counterparts. The batter was lighter and the curds were extremely fresh. I would go back just for the cheese curds.
Chipotle is by far my favorite fast-food/to-go restaurant, but it is kind of pricey and pretty high in sodium. So I decided to try and recreate my favorite Chipotle burrito at home to hopefully make it healthier and taste close to the real thing. My first stop in this plan was Pinterest. I found a pretty great webpage that had copycat recipes for all of the components I wanted.
The chicken copycat recipe looked too complicated for me so I just cooked mine on my George Foreman grill. I also bought my guacamole in 100 calorie packs and used canned (no salt added) black beans. I don’t like cilantro and rice has always seemed like an unnecessary filler, so I skipped the cilantro lime rice.
I did use the recipe for corn salsa and it was very good! Corn salsa is my favorite and it is surprisingly super simple to make.
FOODNOTES: All in all, my homemade Chipotle burrito bowls were nothing like the actual Chipotle bowls, but they were very good! They were also only 430 calories compared to the real Chipotle bowls, which hover around or over 600 calories. I definitely plan to make this a regular addition to my recipe rotation!
There’s something novel about a coffee shop that brews each cup of coffee to order and serves fantastic homemade food. Johnson Public House does just that. Even the best coffee shops in Madison can’t compete with the neighborhood feel of this near east side coffeehouse. The welcoming and homey space is accented by a large coffee bar, mismatched furniture and local art hanging on the wall. Both times I went to JPH there were half a dozen people visiting and hanging out on their computers. My favorite part of JPH was, what else, their focus on quality coffee!
I have been a coffee drinker since high school. I love most types of brewed coffee, but generally don’t like espresso because in my experience, espresso usually has a bitter flavor. JPH baristas told me they specialize in a cortado – two shots of espresso with a little bit of warm milk added in. I was extremely skeptical about trying one but now I crave them. The cortados at JPH are extremely creamy and have a perfect roasted coffee flavor – no bitterness in sight. I had two the first time I went and wished I had time to get a second one on my second visit! The JPH cortado definitely changed my mind about drinking quality espresso.
On top of that amazing espresso drink their pour-over coffee is fantastic. I tried a couple different types of coffee they had that day, and all of them exceeded any brewed coffee I’ve ever had. I’m not sure I’d ever pass over a cortado for their brewed coffee but it was very good.
They have a small menu of breakfast and lunch sandwich options. I was with a friend and we decided to try their original breakfast sandwich and their roast beef breakfast sandwich. The original breakfast sandwich has a hardboiled egg, local ham, mozzarella, tomato and pesto on wheat bread. I love that the sandwich has hardboiled eggs on it – it makes it very portable and hearty. But the real winning sandwich was the roast beef breakfast sandwich with a hardboiled egg, provolone cheese, local roast beef, sriracha mayo and caramelized onions on wheat bread. The hardboiled egg and roast beef pair perfectly with the spicy and creamy sriracha mayo and crunchy onions. Sandwiches come with either potato chips or greens. The chips were a good salty addition to the hearty sandwiches but I would recommend getting the greens. The actual greens are a nice, fresh spring mix but the dressing is what makes the side fantastic. I’m not sure what is all in it, but it was a light vinaigrette with small tidbits of salt and pepper throughout. The dressing made those greens ridiculously good!
To top off the great coffee and unique sandwiches, we got a small cup of the yogurt and granola. The locally-made yogurt was extremely creamy and paired very well with the fresh berries. But the shining star of the bowl was the homemade granola. The crispy oats and cashews had a fantastically sweet flavor. I loved the granola so much I asked if they would sell it to go (apparently they are working on it!). On my second visit I even passed up the roast beef breakfast sandwich for a large bowl of the yogurt, granola and fruit – of course I also got a cortado. I can’t really describe why such a simple dish was so good, but the homemade granola and the drizzle of honey on top is probably part of it!
FOODNOTES: If I lived closer to Johnson Public House I would be a very regular customer. If not for the cortados, I would stop in for a sandwich or a huge bowl of the granola. The cortado changed my opinion of quality espresso drinks. It will definitely be difficult to drive through that neighborhood without stopping for my new favorite coffee drink! Their breakfast sandwiches are great, especially the one with roast beef and sriracha mayo. Their homemade granola makes a traditionally simple and unexciting dish exceptional! My recommendation – a cortado and a bowl of granola!