In a word: You should eat here at least once a year.
The specs: #0419
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JM ate the chicken strips and lemonade.
John R. ate the chicken sandwich.
John S. ate the Monte Cristo.
Nichole ate the Monte Cristo and a bloody Mary.
Rose ate the Reuben.
Sue ate the salmon burger.
Tom ate the feta burger.
We split the nachos.
The bill was ??? - happy birthday, Mom!
John S. and Tom gave the Nitty Gritty an A; JM and Nichole gave the Nitty Gritty an A-; Rose gave the Nitty Gritty a B (see our grading rubric).
What can we say about the Nitty that hasn't been said in its storied Madison history? It's the place for birthdays in this town, and generally lives up to its reputation. We've seen it packed to the gills with revelers, but on this occasion, early for dinner on a Sunday at the less-traveled Middleton location, we had the back room virtually to ourselves.
Our party of seven took on a huge plate of loaded nachos and almost didn't win.
There was great rejoicing when Nichole and John S. found the Monte Cristo. (This sandwich, ubiquitous just 90 miles east, is hard to find on Madison menus.) This interpretation used moist, thin cold cuts of ham and melted Swiss on a none-too-eggy bread, syrup on the side. This being John's first, he was impressed; he called it "a breakfast sandwich with legitimacy."
Rose, Sue and Tom each chose something to try the Nitty's beyond-basic-bar fare. Rose's Reuben was good, though she was disappointed that for some reason the pasta salad wasn't offered as a side option for her. Sue's salmon burger was excellent, and Tom's feta burger, served in a pita, featured excellent meat and gyro-style toppings.
Back on the more standard side of the menu, JM's chicken tenders were good and hot; JM was just a little full from lunch and couldn't finish them. This was OK, because the tenders and even the fried reheated pretty well. John R.'s burger must have been good because he was so busy eating it that he didn't leave comments. Both showed off the vaunted "Gritty sauce," a secret recipe with a sour cream base.
Throughout dinner we got great service - nary a glass was seen empty - and for dessert the birthday guest (Rose didn't want us to make a big deal of it then, so we won't mention her now) received a free "world's tiniest sundae" complete with candle.
When you're wishing for a place where most everybody can find something, the Nitty may just be a place for your wish to come true.