In a word: Big flavor in big portions.
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JM ate the Louie Luau burger with fries and lemonade.
John ate the Santa Fe burger with a Capital Doppelbock.
Nichole ate the Chicago dog with garlic chili fries, a cup of chili, and an Ale Asylum Ambergeddon.
Rose ate the black and bleu burger.
We split some onion rings.
The bill was $39, or $9.75/person, plus tip (thanks, Dad!)
Nichole gave Dexter's Pub an A; JM and John gave Dexter's Pub an A-; Rose gave Dexter's Pub a B (see our grading rubric).
Dexter's is doing something interesting with the bar food genre. Taken along with Alchemy and Bradbury's, we interpret this as evidence of a fresh breeze in the mid-priced Madison dining scene with a new emphasis on earnestness and craft. These places are not catering to the masses but carving very small, but important, niches that we should be happy to see in town.
Things were off to a good start with the house chili. It was a winner, chock full of tender ground beef, velvety kidney beans, and chunky tomatoes. It didn't shy away from the heat, either - this chili had a good spicy kick.
Rose said simply "yum" to her black and bleu burger, though she admitted it might have been a tad salty with the additional bacon. JM's "Louie Luau" burger was topped with ham, pineapple and Swiss cheese. It was very good, with big flavorful toppings that were somewhat dwarfed by the large bun, but ultimately they swung like a good combo should. Both the fries and the pickle spears were of superior quality.
John's Santa Fe sandwich was spicy even with the jalapeños served on the side. Without mayo or any other sauce, the bun was too dry, but overall the sandwich was very good. John enjoyed his Capital Doppelbock as well, a recommendation from the knowledgeable bartender/server.
Nichole, too, was delighted with the beer selection, but then all it takes for her to be delighted these days is for a place to offer Ale Asylum beyond the gimme-Hopalicious. And partly because so few places do, her alcohol tolerance has been significantly reduced, so her endorsement of the hefty, fresh Chicago-style hot dog may stem more from a beer buzz than from any resonance of authenticity (notably absent: celery salt, bright green relish, yellow mustard, and poppyseeds; plus cucumbers crashed the party). The dog itself had a good snap despite having been grilled and split. The side of hot pepper relish that replaced the traditional sport peppers was a joyful medley in oil of jalapeños, onions, bell peppers for sweetness and - possibly - a Thai hot pepper or two. The chili-garlic fries were an easy but smart twist on the classic, simply tossed with garlic and chili powder while hot out of the fryer, and worth eating, every one.