Pub’s kale salad better than heavy European fare

Flying Hound dining room
Flying Hound dining room

When I walked into the new Flying Hound Pub across from my old stomping grounds (the Fitchburg Super Target) I was expecting a heavy lunch littered with french fries, cheese and sauces. When our lunch came all of those expected pub food components were there, but the salad we ordered was surprisingly light, fresh, flavorful and filling.

Flying Hound schnitzel
Flying Hound schnitzel

To try out the traditional pub food at the Flying Hound we got the schnitzel, which is a fried piece of meat (I think the one at the Flying Hound is a pork chop), that comes on top of a Clausen’s bun with muenster cheese and arugula on top. It also comes with a container of housemade onion gravy. The schnitzel was tender and battered perfectly, but it was a little greasy and with the bun and cheese it was a very heavy sandwich. The onion gravy looked a little scary (it was dark brown and lumpy) but it was definitely the best part of the sandwich. Without the onion gravy the schnitzel didn’t have enough flavor and would have been very dry.

Flying Hound schnitzel and sweet potato fries
Flying Hound schnitzel and sweet potato fries

For a little extra we decided to get the sweet potato fries instead of regular fries. They were thin and crispy and not greasy, but they definitely needed more salt. The other added benefit of the odd-looking onion gravy was that it went really well with the sweet potato fries.

Flying Hound kale and salmon salad
Flying Hound kale and salmon salad

As for the salmon kale salad…I would definitely get that over the schnitzel if I go back. The salmon was perfectly cooked and came on top of a massive pile of tender kale. The salad also had walnuts, craisins, croutons, parmesan cheese and an herb vinaigrette. I’m not a huge fan of craisins, so I mostly avoided them but the couple I had with the other ingredients added a good sweet flavor. Other than the craisins, I loved the rest of the toppings. The walnuts were great with the vinaigrette, and the parmesan cheese added a nutty, savory flavor that paired well with the salmon. The one note I have is that the salad is pretty large and filling with a higher-than-normal price tag for a lunch.

Flying Hound patio
Flying Hound patio

FOOD NOTES: The new pub is in a perfect location — there aren’t any other non-franchise options in the area, plus it has a great patio. The schnitzel was made with quality ingredients, but definitely needed the housemade onion gravy to top it off. The sweet potato fries were good, but not spectacular. The surprising thing about the Flying Hound was that I was more impressed with the salmon kale salad than anything else we got. The salad had the perfect combination of yummy and healthy ingredients. If you’re heading to the Flying Hound for lunch definitely give their salad menu a look over the heavier pub fare on the menu.

Alchemy’s popular sweet potato fries were disappointing

A couple of months ago I went to Alchemy specifically to try their sweet potato fries because I had heard they were great, but when I went they weren’t serving them because it was a Friday night. So recently I went back with a friend on a Saturday night specifically for the fries. The menu says they are house-sliced, twice-fried sweet potato fries served with tarragon mayo and blackberry/jalapeno jam.

Alchemy sweet potato fries
Alchemy sweet potato fries

Our order of the much-lauded fries came out pretty quickly. The large half circles were hot, but nowhere near crunchy. When the menu said twice fried I was expecting them to be nice and crispy, but the fries we got were limp, soggy chunks of sweet potato that really didn’t resemble what I consider to be “fries.”

The tarragon mayo was good, but I would have preferred a garlic mayo or maybe some seasoning on the actual fries that would have added some flavor. The jam was also a pretty big letdown. It didn’t really taste like jalapeno or blackberry, so it was basically a sweet dipping option.

FOOD NOTES: The food I got during my first visit to the Alchemy was super great and I had high hopes for the popular sweet potato fries, but they were a disappointment. The fries were soggy, didn’t have any seasoning and were cut into over-sized chunks. The dipping sauces were bland and didn’t add anything to the flavor. When I get sweet potato fries I expect small, crispy, well seasoned fries served with a creamy garlic mayo or jalapeno jam that actually has a little spice; at Alchemy I didn’t get any of those things.

Alchemy makes up for Friday nights without sweet potato fries with mind-blowing sandwich

Alchemy
Alchemy

I have been trying to eat at the Alchemy at the north end of Atwood Avenue for a couple years now, but because they don’t take reservations the wait time was always 30 minutes or more, and during previous visits that didn’t work with our plans or our stomachs. This time, I decided I had waited long enough to try their lauded sweet potato fries so we waited the 30 minutes or so for a table. The restaurant itself is smaller than I think it should be, considering how long their wait times usually are, and it is extremely crowded with nowhere to wait for a table except directly in front of the door, in the main walkway for servers, basically on top of a full table or right next to the ATM. Oh yeah…they have an ATM in the restaurant because they only take cash. While I understand that credit card machines and fees are expensive, I think that in 2014 all businesses should take plastic, especially with so many options to take them via a smartphone or tablet. Usually a restaurant looses my business if they don’t take plastic, but we awkwardly waited by the ATM for our table anyways — luckily I had cash with me!

I already knew I wanted to order the house-made sweet potato fries so when our menu didn’t have them listed I was super confused. When I asked the waitress she explained (in an annoyed tone) that they don’t serve the sweet potato fries after 5 p.m. on Fridays. What!?? How does that make any sense!? I’m assuming it’s because they use their sweet potato fryer to make their fish fry, but that little tidbit of information is not posted online anywhere, and it really doesn’t make any sense at all. Why can’t the sweet potato fries be fried in the same frier as normal fries, which we were able to readily get at 6:30 on a Friday night. Needless to say, I was very disappointed.

Alchemy brisket sandwich, fries
Alchemy brisket sandwich, fries

The only thing that could make up for my extreme disappointment in Alchemy’s odd business decision regarding their sweet potato fries would be a great meal. Well, they delivered. I ordered the brisket sandwich and the picture I have doesn’t do it justice. The description of ingredients is what got me. It says the beer braised brisket from Black Earth Meets comes with mustard BBQ sauce, a house made pickled egg, swiss cheese, mixed greens and red onion. I love every single one of those ingredients and especially love pickled eggs. I know, they sound absolutely disgusting but they are actually really great. They are very popular at bars in Wisconsin, yet I have never seen one on a sandwich anywhere. The sandwich came with a couple of side options, but of course I went for the Alchemy fries in hopes that they might resemble the sweet potato fries. The Alchemy fries were large chunks of potato cooked to a perfectly fluffy consistency, and were seasoned perfectly. I’m not sure if they were baked or fried, but if they were fried they weren’t greasy at all. The sandwich itself was a huge success. The soft, toasted bun could barely contain the serving of perfectly smokey and flavorful brisket on the sandwich. The mustard BBQ sauce helped cut through the heaviness of the brisket, but the real show-stopper of the sandwich was the sliced up pickled egg. That tangy, rich flavor really added a great contrasting flavor. The fresh greens and red onions added a much-needed freshness to the massive sandwich. I loved it. My one suggestion would be to add a bit more of the mustard BBQ sauce.

Alchemy menu
Alchemy menu

FOOD NOTES: Despite being very crowded and not taking reservations or credit cards, I loved my food at Alchemy. Their odd cessation of making sweet potato fries after 5 p.m. on Fridays really angered me, but the brisket sandwich made up for it very quickly. I’m going to say something bold: I haven’t had every sandwich in Madison, but the Alchemy’s brisket sandwich is the best one I’ve had so far and it is going to take a masterpiece to dethrone this sandwich. I will 100 percent be back for that sandwich, and one of these days I will get to try their sweet potato fries! What do you think the best sandwich in Madison is?