Nau-Ti-Gal’s carefree atmosphere adds to #restaurantweek meal

Nau-Ti-Gal
Nau-Ti-Gal
Nau-Ti-Gal outside seating
Nau-Ti-Gal outside seating

There are dozens of restaurants in Madison that offer quaint and relaxing atmospheres, but in my experience none offer a place that makes you forget you’re in Wisconsin’s capital city of 240,000 people quite like Nau-Ti-Gal (pronounced like “naughty gal” TEEHEE!). The best part of Nau-Ti-Gal is its outside eating areas. There’s the area on the covered back deck and then tables in the back yard, both face a small inlet waterway on the north end of Lake Mendota. The casual seating on the back deck features colorful plastic chairs and nautical-like ropes as the railings. Even though it was warm that night, the shade of the back deck and the breeze off the water kept us comfortable.

Nau-Ti-Gal clam chowder
Nau-Ti-Gal clam chowder

For restaurant week we got to choose an appetizer, entree and dessert. For entrees we could choose between clam chowder, firecracker shrimp or a summer strawberry salad. I got the clam chowder, which was served in a big Nau-Ti-Gal mug and topped with crunchy croutons. The chowder itself was creamy, but not too heavy and had oversized, perfectly cooked chunks of potatoes and celery. Compared to other clam chowders I’ve had, Nau-Ti-Gal’s had more clams in it and a perfectly salty flavor that cut through the creaminess of the soup. My mom got the summer strawberry salad, and loved the fresh ingredients and that the kitchen was willing to substitute feta cheese for the blue cheese that was supposed to come on top.

Nau-Ti-Gal surf and turf
Nau-Ti-Gal surf and turf

For entrees we could choose between shrimp and grits, salmon, or a surf and turf. Both of us got the surf and turf, which also came with a side. We chose the garlic mashed potatoes, which were definitely mass produced but still featured red potato skins, a savory garlic flavor and had unassuming lumps – which I loved. The lobster was good, but not as good as everyone always makes lobster sound. This was my first lobster tail (I’ve had lobster in dishes, but never a full lobster tail), and I’m assuming because it was served in south central Wisconsin, it wasn’t as fresh and good as you would get on the coast. The steak was perfectly cooked, was seasoned well but not too salty, and was big enough to take half of it home for lunch the next day.

Nau-Ti-Gal rocky road brownie sundae
Nau-Ti-Gal rocky road brownie sundae
Nau-Ti-Gal key lime pie
Nau-Ti-Gal key lime pie

For dessert we could choose between key lime pie, strawberry shortcake or a rocky road brownie sundae. I got the rocky road brownie sundae, which came out in a massive serving. It was extremely simple, but that made it even better. It was an extremely well-done classic dessert with vanilla bean ice cream on top of a brownie, topped with chocolate chips, peanuts, chocolate sauce and marshmallow cream. It was an awesome end to a great meal. My mom got the key lime pie, and said it was refreshing and tasty.

Nau-Ti-Gal
Nau-Ti-Gal

FOOD NOTES: Other than being slightly disappointed with lobster in general, the meal I got at Nau-Ti-Gal was great. I loved the presentation of the clam chowder, and the soup itself was made with quality ingredients, and was perfectly creamy and salty. The surf and turf entree was a good choice. The steak was seasoned and cooked well, and the mashed potatoes were quality even though they seemed like they were made ahead of time. The rocky road brownie sundae was surprisingly simple, but extremely good. The seating was odd because you had to go inside to check in, but then also check in with someone outside to be seated, but the servers were extremely nice and helpful. I also loved the carefree, relaxing atmosphere and the casual outdoor seating. My first meal of Madison Magazine’s Summer 2014 Restaurant Week at Nau-Ti-Gal was a success!

Flavors shine through rough special menu at UW Club

The University Club
The University Club

During the amazing four years I spent at the University of Wisconsin I walked past the University Club weekly, and probably closer to daily the year I lived off State Street. But I never ate there because I thought you had to be a member. Once I graduated I looked into the club rules and found that non club members can eat there for breakfast and lunch. I had heard their breakfasts were pretty good, so when I saw a posting for a locavore lunch I asked a friend to go. Their locavore lunch is kind of like restaurant week, where you get to choose an appetizer, entree and dessert from a special menu, but during locavore week they focus on ingredients from local farms and vendors.

University Club salad
University Club salad

I  was surprised by the quality of the food, but disappointed by the continuity between the menu and what I was served. The salad I ordered was supposed to be a roasted sweet corn salad with shallot vinaigrette, micro greens, rabbit confit and radish. What I got was extremely good, but was not a sweet corn salad. In fact, there wasn’t a single piece of corn in the salad. It was a pretty good serving of arugula with a creamy vinaigrette of sorts, a small amount of rabbit confit, and and some slivers of radish. The salad itself was fantastic (especially the rich rabbit confit with the crisp radish and peppery arugula), but based on what I was expecting I was a bit annoyed.

University Club beef kabobs, grilled corn, cilantro-lime rice
University Club beef kabobs, grilled corn, cilantro-lime rice

The beef kabob was inconsistently cooked, but had a good flavor. The cumin grilled sweet corn (maybe this was the corn that was supposed to be in my salad!) was perfectly grilled and had an amazing char. The corn was billed as cumin grilled sweet corn, but even though I loved the flavor I didn’t taste any cumin. The kabob was supposed to come with a lemon-garlic rice pilaf, but it ended up being cilantro lime rice. As you may know based on previous reviews, I really hate cilantro. If I had known the dish came with cilantro-lime rice I probably would have gotten something else.

University Club baklava, ice cream
University Club baklava, ice cream

For dessert I got the baklava with Babcock ice cream. The ice cream was amazing (obviously because it was Babcock) and the baklava was great. It wasn’t too sticky or overly sweet, and it actually had a bit more cinnamon than normal, which was unexpectedly good. The serving size was also larger than the other two courses, which was unexpected, and given the quality of the dessert I was happy it was bigger than anticipated!

FOOD NOTES: I am very torn about my experience at the University Club. My salad was fantastic, but it was not at all what I ordered. The beef kabobs were fine and the sweet corn was good, but the cilantro lime rice was an unwelcome surprise. The baklava was good, and the ice cream was fantastic. I had high hopes for this iconic place on my campus, and I left mildly disappointed. The service was slow, and based on what I saw other people were ordering from the regular menu and what I got, I was not impressed. I do have a strong desire to like the University Club because of my UW pride, but I’m not sure I’ll be back for lunch. I might give breakfast a try though.