Nook, Madison, 5/11/23

exterior – 2138 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI 53704

Nook is a tiny 12-seat tasting menu experience.  It’s what I continually search for – a relaxed, fun-filled evening filled with wonderful flavors and textures.  The restaurant is family owned by Noah and Julie Przybylski and they cook and present the evenings’s meal.  Aided by some extra servers in the service, you can’t help but be consumed by their joyous and adventurous spirits.  The couple met in Chicago in 2005,  where the dream of opening their own restaurant hatched.  They married in 2007 and welcomed a son in 2014 (whose artwork you can see downstairs).  Now they have brought the dream to life with a restaurant that celebrates all that Wisconsin has to offer. A bargain at $125 per person for a 12-14 course meal.  Wine pairings are available, but we ordered our own bottle.  The tables each seat 2 and they’re lined up about 3 inches apart from each other.  As the evening moves on conversations begin to cross over the small separation.  Noah presented and explained each course as it came out with good pacing and portion control.  I strongly recommend this fabulous place, if you can get a reservation – they go quickly. Continue reading

Alimentari Deli, Madison, 5/11/23

exterior – 306 S Brearly St, Madison, WI 53703

Alimentari is basically Italian for food/groceries.  This deli is in an 1,800 square foot former laundromat space and sells fresh pasta, sauces, freshly cut meats and cheeses as well as sandwiches and other dry goods.  The sandwiches are made to order and there is no place to eat in the store.  They also had a gelato counter but we didn’t try it.  It looked like a great place to shop for Italian ingredients but for us we wanted a sandwich for the car.  Similar to last week, we wanted a snack before we went on a tour of a Frank Lloyd Wright site, but this time is was Taliesin.  I must say this sandwich was way better than the last both because of the filling but also the bread.  The buns for their sandwiches are made daily by Madison Sourdough.  They have a great chew with a crisp crust and a soft interior but it’s not too big that it dwarfs the fillings or hard to get your mouth around.  I actually found myself wanting to eat parts of the bread without any filling, it was that good.  If you need ingredients or just a snack, I’d head to this place right away. Continue reading

L’Etoile Restaurant, Madison, 5/10/23

building – US Bank Plaza, 1 S Pinckney St, Suite 107, Madison, WI 53703

L’Etoile Restaurant was opened by Odessa Piper in 1976.  She was an early supporter of the sustainable food or farm-to-table movement.  In 2005 she sold the restaurant to her Chef de cuisine, Tory Miller and his sister Traci.  They continued the tradition of supporting local farmers and expanded to open a bakery and a casual lunch spot also.  Dianne Christensen became a co-owner in 2007 and envisioned a new space for ‘L’Etoile and the addition of a gastropub.  Chef Miller was the recipient of the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Midwest in 2012.  The new space is in the US Bank Plaza building with 3 walls of glass looking out at the dome of the Wisconsin capital building.  The widely spaced tables are covered with white cloths, sitting on carpet with a high ceiling overhead and music in the background.  Parking is on your own, so allow extra time to make your reservation.  They offer a “5” course tasting with 2 levels of optional wine pairings as well as an a la carte menu.  The full bar and wine list has a fairly hefty mark-up but it is a good selection.  We chose the tasting menu which included multiple extras and chose a half bottle of white and full bottle of red to accompany the meal.  The food is excellent as was the service and if you have the chance this is a place I would recommend, but it’s not cheap. Continue reading

The Plaza Tavern & Grill, Madison, 5/10/23

building – 319 N Henry St, Madison, WI 53703

The Plaza Tavern and Grill is the home of the “world-famous Plazaburger.”   The burger is dressed with a Plaza sauce which is a secret recipe from 1964.   The Plazaburger is ordered separately from a regular burger but they also offer a number of other food choices.  Inside is a long bar that runs the length of the long room and booths run along the opposite wall.  The middle of the room is open but you’ll find various game machines around the room.  A number of televisions were around the room and midday they were playing an old animated show.  It’s conveniently located by the capital and UW and open Wed to Sat from noon to 2 am.  Goggle wrongly said they weren’t open till 3 pm on Wed but that is not the case.  They were super friendly and cooked our burgers on the grill right behind the bar.  It is a cash only place. Continue reading

Paul’s Pel’meni, Madison, 5/10/23

exterior – 414 W Gilman St, Madison, WI 53703

Paul’s Pel’meni is a small place near the UW campus serving Russian style dumplings.  The owner, Paul Schwoerer, once lived in Alaska and found that Russian cuisine was good for colder climates.  While there he learned to make these dumplings from a man who wanted to move back to Russia.  Now he and his wife are in their 3rd location having been in business for 18 years.  Everyday in the kitchen downstairs he rolls the dough and stuffs it with mashed potatoes or a savory ground beef mixture.  Sour cream is the standard accompaniment but they still seemed plain to him.  Now he adds a topping of yellow curry, butter, sweet chili sauce with vinegar and cilantro.  They are sold in full and half orders of the beef, potato or mix.  You order at the counter and they are out quickly.  In the next room are tables and a water jug and a room with a bar.  Later in the evening they’ll be serving lots of cocktails and draft beer to go with the dumplings.  It was a quick and very satisfying lunch for us and I highly recommend you check the place out. Continue reading

The Harvey House, Madison, 5/9/23

exterior (daytime) – 644 W Washington Ave, Madison, WI 53703 

The Harvey House is a modern take on a supper club and train travel,  located in an historic train depot.  The old Baggage Claim House and a train car next door make up the interior spaces.  Opened by Shaina and Joe Papach, he runs the kitchen and she provides the design and business development portion.  Lots of Wisconsin classic cocktails are served as well as newer craft cocktails, but the wine list is limited.  The private car, which we could see out the window in our dining room, is used mostly for private parties according to our server.  Even so, it is a large place winding around different floors and rooms with music in the background.  A parking lot outside can handle some of the cars but parking can become an issue.  There were some area rugs on the hard floor but with all the brick walls and marble-top tables, noise quickly became an issue.  The lighting is very lowered which also became difficult as the sun went down.  The food was mixed but service was fine.  I do love supper clubs, but as much as I admire what the owners bring to the dining scene I probably wouldn’t go back. Continue reading

Oakcrest Tavern, Madison, 5/9/23

exterior – 5371 Old Middleton Rd, Madison, WI 53705

The Oakcrest Tavern opened in the 1950s and it’s famous for its burger made from “steak trimmings” but they offer a number of things on their menu, including a fish fry on Fridays.  It’s a casual place with the bar counter filling half of its space.  The cooking area is inside the bar area and a parking lot surrounds the building.  There were lots of TVs around the room but the sound was muted and music was playing.  Lots of beer paraphernalia decorated the wood walls.   The staff was all super friendly and they were quick with the food and you could see it was made to order.  We enjoyed Leinenkugel’s beer, which was served nicely cold in a bottle, with our lunch.  I suggest you give this place a try if you have a chance but be forewarned – it’s said to get quite busy at some hours. Continue reading