In a word: Literally.

The specs: #01027   
14 W. Mifflin St., Madison 53703
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Rare news and reviews

JM ate the sirloin with mushrooms.
John ate the NY strip and a chopped salad.
Nichole ate the farmer's market plate.
Rose ate the wet-aged filet and wedge salad.
JM sirloin with mushrooms
The bill was $175, or $44/person, plus tip.
Rose and John gave Rare an A; JM gave Rare an A-; Nichole gave Rare a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Hey, folks!  This is a fancy steak place.  Like really fancy.  The customers mostly seemed to be celebrating, with a handful of the VIP set (both in the capital sense and in the cluhb sense).

Rare treated us well.  Our waiter could have taught an intro course for the Meat Sciences department at the UW (a real thing). We had never learned as much about the differences in preparations and fat content than we did that night. These people talked about steak like people at the Great Taste talk about beer.  It was all a little much, and yet at no point were we left helpless.

Popover Wedge salad Chopped salad

But first came the free bread, which was: popovers?  Yes, indeed.  It was nice to eat a lighter, buttier bread so that you don't over do it.  And they came with flavored butters. The salads arrived next and these were substantial without being altogether filling: the wedge was nice prepped with candied pecans and the chopped salad was filled with wonderful morsels.  Both were very nicely dressed as well.

On to the meat, Rose's wet aged and filet and JM's sirloin were both quite delicious and of a good portion that you weren't tired of it by the time you were done.  JM's mushrooms provided additional earthiness (and butter) that made his steak quite tasty.  Rose's steak was medium and she preferred it that way; John and JM got theirs medium rare and were delighted.  John's NY strip steak was basically the best steak that he or JM (who had a couple of nibbles) had ever had (sorry, Delmonico's, but it was). Every steak edge was perfectly crusted as well with delightful flavors rubbed onto the outside of the meat.

Steak Steak Steak

RisottoNichole opted for the farmer's market plate (which might as well have been called "The Farmer Refuted"). It was a sundried tomato risotto. The vegetarian option at a steak place is almost always what a Tofutti option at the Chocolate Shoppe would be, if they offered one.

There were no prices listed on the tempting dessert menu, but we were too stuffed and already taking home doggie bags, and so did not partake. Were they free? We'll never know.  

Rare is meeting the needs of its patrons, though: real steak in the dairy state presented by knowledgeable and expert staff for a small truckload of money.  If going to a special occasion spot means a steakhouse, it's worth it here for the marginal cost relative to the West side chains.  But it isn't funky or Madison-nice like Tornado, so choose wisely.

Ramen Station

In a word: Almost all aboard.

The specs: #01026  
1124 S Park St., 53715
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Ramen Station news and reviews

JM ate the curry chicken with a Mello Yello.
Nichole ate the shoyu ramen with a ginger cooler.
We split some bacon enoki mushroom skewers.
The bill was $31, or $15.50/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave Ramen Station a  B+ (see our grading rubric).

Ramen Station is very unassuming.  Its location was once a Cousins Subs, and while everything has been replaced and the dining room is well-appointed, nothing here is too ostentatious or gaudy. The emphasis is on the simple rather than the blatant, but with character.

Ramen Station seems to have a deeper menu (than Madison's other Japanese restaurants) of 'things Westerners have not likely tried.' This did cause JM a small amount of dithering, but Nichole appreciated the choices available. One wonders if this was perhaps more like comfort food - none of that touristy stuff.

Bacon enoki mushroom skewers

Nichole's ginger cooler was nice and, well, cool. It arrived shortly before our wonderful bacon and mushroom skewers.  These were hot upon arrival but were consumed in short order. Each bite was a wonderful chewy balance between the stringy, earthy mushrooms, and the bacon, which was exactly like a nice chewy piece of bacon.  Plus they smelled really good.

Chicken curry

JM eschewed ramen this time in favor of the curry chicken kotsu. (He didn't want any surprises lurking just beneath the top of the broth.) The curry flavor was unparalleled and the chicken was quite well prepared, but there were a lot of veggies, like potatoes, that felt like filler given the relative amount.  Nichole overheard another table being informed that sauce was from a packet.  Who knows?

Nichole got the same meal she tried at Ramen Kid, which allowed her to compare and contrast.  On the plus side here were the noodles, which were more substantial and less likely to flop around.  Sadly, though, the pork and, more importantly, the broth was better at the Kid.

Shoyu ramen

Will there be more additions to Madison's ramen scene?  It seems possible, given that neither of the two locations we visited needed a large footprint and both seemed to have enough customers. You can certainly get full on a bowl of soup here.


Madison Food coverOur book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is out. More about it here. Read an excerpt on Carson Gulley and some bonus bits on Porchlight, Argus, Sunshine Supper, and Babcock.


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