Great location doesn’t = great food at Waypoint Public House

The saying ‘Location, Location Location’ is popular for a reason, but every location has to be backed up by quality product — in my opinion. Waypoint Public House in Monona definitely has the location, but the food needs a little work. The dining room and decor are the perfect mix of industrial and cozy with some local charm thrown in. I loved the mismatched chairs, different types of wood and funky decorations. The restaurant is at the end of a new apartment building on West Broadway, which is where the location factor comes in. Some people might not like it, but I think that spot is cool because you get the hustle and bustle of the Beltline and the calm and relaxing feel of the Yahara River. It was raining the day I went with a friend so we didn’t get to try out their patio, but it looks like it has the best seats in the house.

Waypoint Public House cheese curds
Waypoint Public House cheese curds

Now on to the food. We got the cheese curds and jalapeno poppers. Both of them could have been better. The cheese curds were fresh and should have been good, but they were super super greasy. I always expect cheese curds to be at least somewhat greasy because they’re fried, but these were so greasy I didn’t want to finish them. The homemade ranch was pretty stellar though.

Waypoint Public House jalapeno poppers
Waypoint Public House jalapeno poppers

The jalapeno poppers were not traditional poppers, and while I get what they were going for, I didn’t like them. When I order jalapeno poppers I want the crispy, fried jalapeno bites. But at Waypoint their jalapeno poppers are grilled instead of being breaded and fried. They might be healthier, but I wanted the unhealthy ones (to be fair — our waitress told us what to expect when ordering them). Besides not being breaded, the cream cheese filling didn’t have any flavor…every bite basically tasted like jalapeno.

IMG_1942Their main menu had a lot to offer, but I couldn’t decide what to get so we asked the waitress and she suggested the pulled pork quesadilla. The quesadilla has house smoked pork, queso fresco, jalapeno, tomato, onion, sour cream and guac. The quesadilla had all the right ingredients (including a ton of tender pork) to be good, but a couple factors derailed it. 1) The smokiness of the pork overpowered all of the other ingredients so I couldn’t taste any of them. 2) It was super greasy…greasier than the cheese curds. It was so greasy the first thing I noticed when picking it up was grease dripping out of it. And 3) The guac was really bad…like out of can bad. I only ate one of the wedges, but the other three were OK the next day for cold leftovers.

FOOD NOTES: In the case of Waypoint Public House, it isn’t all about the location. They do really have the location part down, but their food leaves something to be desired. Everything was way too greasy and didn’t have great flavor. I’m not sure exactly when they opened, but I know they hadn’t been open very long when I went in August. I will probably give them a second chance, but not anytime soon.

The Spot Restaurant is well-kept neighborhood secret

The Spot
The Spot

Driving down Johnson Street always involves a mixture of emotions for me: I really want to go to Forequarter, I really don’t like how close together the lanes are, is this what all of the construction was for over the summer, I wish I lived closer to this neighborhood to visit the Johnson Public House, etc. But I never noticed The Spot Restaurant on the south side of the road smooshed in between a couple other odds-n-ends stores. After getting to take a look around and try two entrees, I have to say: It’s small name and unimpressive curb appeal definitely hides a neighborhood treasure.

The Spot dining room
The Spot dining room

the spot boothWalking into The Spot I didn’t expect much because the exterior of the building looked a little rough and the entryway wasn’t much better. But once inside the main door I was blown away. The entire front dining room consists of seven beautiful wood booths. The two front booths offer great corner seats with a full view of the dining room and an elevated view of Johnson Street — perfect for people watching. There’s a little bar in the back of the building, but the front seats are definitely the primo spots. The deep red walls, black and white photography on the walls, and the beautiful two-toned wood floors all made the tiny space feel upscale, but still warm and welcoming.

Now on to the food: Head Chef David Post Jr. describes the food as mediterranean and eclectic with some gluten free and vegan options sprinkled throughout the menu. We got to try two dishes, a vegetarian option from the menu and a great special he’s been trying out.

The Spot pulled pork
The Spot pulled pork

We started with a pulled pork sandwich with bacon braised cabbage and tomatoes on top. The sandwich was pretty close to perfect. The barbecue sauce was tangy and had a great spicy kick to it. The tomatoes added a freshness to the sandwich, and the bread was sturdy enough for the ingredients, but not overly crusty. The one thing that I noticed was the pork could have been shredded a bit more, but the big pieces were so tender it didn’t really matter that much. The braised cabbage was good on it’s own, but it was lost in the sandwich under the spicy barbecue sauce. The sandwich came with some sauteed kale, which was a bit too salty. I would actually have preferred the bacon braised cabbage as a side instead of the kale.

The Spot risotto
The Spot risotto

The butternut squash risotto, which is on the menu and can be made vegan, was a surprising dish. I usually don’t order butternut squash dishes from restaurants because they tend to be made with sweet flavors and spices, and I’m not a fan of sweet vegetables. But this dish was as hearty and savory as you can get without adding meat. The barley and brown rice were cooked perfectly (almost to a creamy consistency), the spinach was hidden well by other flavors (just the way I like spinach in savory dishes…there for the nutrients but you can’t really taste it!), and there were hearty chunks of butternut squash throughout the dish. I can’t really explain the flavor, other than to say that it was creamy (but not heavy), rustic, hearty, perfectly seasoned and probably one of my favorite new dishes I’ve tried in a while.

FOOD NOTES: I learned something today during my visit to the Spot Restaurant: The saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” also applies to restaurants. The Spot is an extremely well-kept secret in the Johnson Street neighborhood that I wish I knew about sooner. The butternut squash risotto is a fantastic dish, but next time I go I want to try the paella…unless I go for brunch in which case I want to try the Rumchata French Toast and the PB&E…who wants to go with me?!