Wonder Bar Steak House
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Dan ate the crab bisque and a signature steak.
JM ate the wedge salad, the 6oz filet mignon with crab legs, and a lemonade.
Mark had the wedge salad and a signature steak with a martini.
Nichole ate the crab bisque, cowboy steak, broccoli in Hollandaise, and an old fashioned.
We split the crab cakes, hashbrowns, and a bottle of wine.
The bill was about $50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Wonder Bar Steak House an A; Nichole gave Wonder Bar Steak House an A- (see our grading rubric).
We headed back to Wonder Bar for the same reason we repeated Admiralty Room. Fate gave us a second chance to eat steak, and to repurpose Chris Rock's words, who says there's something wrong with that? It was especially fun when joined by new dining companions who were willing to help us sample the fare and chew the fat.
Of course, our problem with writing about steak is that we have the same opinion of steak as we always have: procuring the best hunk of meat is the challenge. Buy the right cut, and it's your game to lose by cooking it wrong. A backyard grillout can be as good as a top-notch restaurant if they share the same source (like Knoche's).
Our dining companions shared this sentiment. While we all can appreciate a good steakhouse's peripherals, we'd be making stuff up if we talked too long about the beef. So let's start there.
Wonder Bar tends to do its steaks on the rare side, which our (excellent) server pointed out. The signtature steak ("premium filet of strip loin cut from the heart of the New York sirloin"), when ordered medium-well, still had blood in it.
Wonder Bar also tends to excess. The night's specials were two ginormous steaks, clocking in at 22 & 28 ounces. If we had all ordered them, they would not have fit on our cozy four-top by the fireplace. The always-available 23-ounce Cowboy Steak (bone-in ribeye) was almost enough to tip the table - it was very juicy & fatty, and JM and Nichole ate from the leftovers for a few days.
Ever the optimizer, JM got his own petite 6 ounce filet mignon with crab legs, and the only bite of meat he didn't love was the very last one, which ended up being a hair cold. That's the sign of a decent portion.
There was a lot of crab on our table, too. The crab legs accompanying JM's steak were split in half for easy eating. The half-lemon was wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with a ribbon to keep the seedy bits out - a thoughtful touch. Also endearing was the drawn butter over a candle like 1980's Friday nights at Osseo's Chief Inn (since returned to the land).
The crab cakes were light as air yet impressively heavy on the crab:binder ratio. Diced onion and red pepper garnish plus remoulade finished the plate. The rich, buttery crab bisque had a slow-building pepper kick to it.
There were a few token vegetables at the table: JM thought the wedge salad was good, but it had only enough Roquefort & French dressing for a putter. A side of fresh, lightly steamed broccoli was not drowning in its Hollandaise (which was more cream than lemon). Technically, there were also olives, lemons, cherries, oranges, grapes etc. delivered via booze: the Old Fashioned was weakish, but the lemonade, martini and wine were fine.
Our lively conversation ranged far and wide, but paused on comparisons to Smoky's, a steakhouse we were all familiar with. Here are some fighting words: Wonder Bar's hashbrowns were as good as Smoky's. A thinner cake of hashbrowns let more crunch develop on the outside, yet the inner potatoes were silky and salty.
Bottom line, we'd keep Wonder Bar up there in our own top places for steak in Madison. Dan and Mark said they might consider Wonder Bar before Smoky's, but if they had to go past Smoky's to get to Wonder Bar, it would be a coin toss.