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1855 Saloon and Grill

1855 Saloon and GrillIn a word: A nice meal on the Wild, Wild East(side).

The specs: #0402
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at WiSJ, Isthmus, Madison Fish Fry, collected at del.icio.us; Madison Dining Online announcement and review, 1855 Saloon & Grill on Urbanspoon

Bryan ate the 1855 Plate with two Bloody Marys.
JM ate the onion ring burger with a lemonade.
Kat ate the lobster bisque and French dip sandwich with a raspberry lemonade.
Nichole ate the pizza and salad with a Bloody Mary.
The bill was about $70, or $17.50/person, plus tip.
Kat gave 1855 Saloon and Grill a B+; JM gave 1855 Saloon and Grill a B; Nichole gave 1855 Saloon and Grill a C (see our grading rubric).

Let's cut to the chase: 1855 is pronounced "eighteen fifty-five".  Since numbers technically fall outside of the domain of A to Z the only way to see these kind of places is to alphabetize them somehow.  This is how we have chosen to do it.  If you cannot accept that, you can safely ignore this review.

Ahem.

1855 is located in Cottage Grove and seems to be serving the somewhat upscale Wisconsin pub needs of such a community, though one wonders if you couldn't get the real deal (sans the sheen of respectability) across the street.

Byran summed 1855 up thusly:

It's a good neighborhood bar that you don't have to be embarrassed to eat at or take friends to. The beer back for a good solid Bloody Mary impressed the hell outta me. Love the cheese and sausage garnish. The food is a lot of modern American fare, fatted up to crowd pleasing levels. A few ingenious combinations, but nothing that wanders outside comfort-food-land. Very non-threatening.

Pizza and saladThe menu at 1855 seems to have a focus problem - along with pizzas and burgers, there were a few outliers (panini?) that seemed not to belong. We think it's safe to say they need to practice on the woodfired oven some more, since a major flaw at our meal was that Nichole's dish arrived a good 30 minutes after everyone else's. To be fair, the server was promptly apologetic, explaining that there had been a mishap with the oven; and she did bring a plate of bread and infused butters, but only moments before the entree finally arrived. The pizza entree itself was weird - it had been listed under "salads," but was basically a dollop of overdressed Romaine surrounded by sauceless, garlicky pizza wedges.

Oddly enough, all of our drinks seemed weak - even the iced tea was watery, and Kat guesses that if Gatorade made a raspberry iced tea, it would taste exactly like 1855's. The bloodies were spicy, at least, and at only $5 with the beer back, were a good value.

Lobster bisqueKat's lobster bisque was very rich and creamy (but not in an annoying way - the texture was just right), more shrimp than lobster, but a tad bland. It greatly improved with a little salt, but she wished the base had a little more of a seafood flavor.

French dip and zucchini fries

The shaved ribeye sandwich was fairly fatty. It probably would have a required a knife and fork to start with, but the fact that she doused it with the jus cemented the need for utensils.  Nothing about it was memorably flavorful - the bun, the meat or the jus. She's pretty sure the menu said something about the jus being a red wine sauce, but we don't think the chef got that memo - it was glorified bouillon.

However, the zucchini fries were exactly what she'd been craving - they were fried to a perfect crisp and were just greasy enough to remind us they were deep-fried, but not so greasy that they left puddles on the plate.  They too needed salt. In the interest of full disclosure, Kat adores fried zucchini, and was impressed to find it on the menu; she would have been more impressed had a dipping sauce been offered.

Onion ring burger

JM thought the onion ring burger was just too big. It was tasty, but dry; it came with no sauce, but dearly needed some.  Would it kill places to offer a barbecue or steak sauce, instead of just ketchup, with a burger? The fries were nothing too exciting but did OK. JM might venture further from the usual next time.  Although trips to Cottage Grove are rare for us, we're sure that locals appreciate a closer option when they want higher class pub grub. 

If 1855 knuckles down and polishes some of the rough spots, we could see it becoming a great spot in Cottage Grove.

Comments

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Finally made it here for Friday fish after 2 failed attempts (you'll wait at least an hour if you don't get there before 6pm). The batter fried cod was a little lacking in flavor but with a bit of lemon and some of their delicious tartar sauce, it turned out fine. The poor man's lobster (baked cod) was a bit tough, but still tasty. The default sides for fish were an average coleslaw and some darn tasty garlic/parmesan red potatoes. The draft beer selection was good (but would have liked to see Miller Lite instead of Bud Lite) and the Old Fashioned's delicious (they muddle the fruit--always nice to see). Looking forward to eating off the regular menu sometime. A place like this was definitely needed on the far East Side.

Looking at that onion ring burger, I died a little inside.

I second Karen's assessment of the fish fry - it was fine - but nothing to write home about. I'd give it a B. The potatoes that came with it were great, though - very garlicky with Parmesan cheese on top. I could have eaten a whole plateful of those....

My husband and I just went to 1855 for the first time this past weekend. LOVED the atmosphere and drinks were good, but the "good" pretty much ended there! Food came quickly after our nearly hour wait, but was SO incredibly bland as to be actually bad! Prime Rib was cooked well, but had NO taste/seasoning at all. Stuffed shrimp was small (like 16 count small), rubbery, and stuffed with crab mixture and seemingly traditional Thanksgiving seasonings.....sage, etc. which is good with turkey, but not so much with seafood! Had LOTS of leftovers for our dogs which we walked out without and went around the block, literally back in under a minute to have waitress say she tossed it in garbage already. May go back for wood-fired pizza, but not for any of the rest of the menu. Over-priced for bland food.

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