KJ's Curry Bowl

KJ's Curry BowlIn a word: Curries some favor.

The specs: #00930   
7005 Tree Ln., 53717
Details at Yelp, KJ's Curry Bowl on Urbanspoon
Official Facebook

Latest KJ's Curry Bowl news and reviews at del.icio.us

Tea and milkshakeJM ate the BBQ pork.
Nichole ate the string hoppers with black tea.
We split three curry flavor chicken satays and a vanilla milkshake.
The bill was $35, or $17.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave KJ's Curry Bowl a B+; Nichole gave KJ's Curry Bowl an A- (see our grading rubric).

KJ's Curry Bowl bounced back from a kitchen fire early in its tenure at their location across from Madison Memorial High. It is hard to believe that subcontinental cuisine appeals to 14 to 18 year old Madisonians, but KJ's seems to be taking it in stride. 

Curry chicken satay

We split an appetizer of chicken satays that we good and chewy with a nice curry flavor and good warmth for a fall night.  JM got the BBQ pork, which was just a pile of BBQ pork served over rice with a nice side of cabbage.  Hard to imagine that this was an Asian delicacy, but it tasted pretty good.

String hoppers

The string hoppers were one of KJ's weekly Sri Lankan specials. And they were really good. A nice buttery dal and tasty chicken curry came in little bowls, with the haystack-shaped rice noodles on the side and spicy, granular coconut sambol for garnish. Nichole's pretty sure she needs more practice at eating them properly (sounds like "smooshing" is involved).

BBQ pork

The vanilla shake and some of the varied menu choices (Cajun and Mexican?) may indeed be sops to the HS crowd, which is awesome.  Nothing we tasted came off as fake, and the service was really attentive, which was nice especially with as many questions as we had. Although, the pan flute music versions of song that topped the US, UK and Australian charts in 80s?  As annoying as you'd expect.  Just focus on your company and talk about how much you like your food.

Kilwin's

Kilwin'sIn a word: Not a candy spouse, more of a candy crush.

The specs: #00929   
208 State St., 53703
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

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JM and Nichole bought 3 slices of fudge, a caramel apple, and a single-origin chocolate bar. The bill was $27.
JM gave Kilwin's a B; Nichole gave Kilwin's a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Nichole stopped at Michigan-based Kilwin's on Halloween to pick us up some sweets. The State Street store has a display full of chocolate- and caramel-dipped cookies and crispy treats, lots of packaged things like malted milk balls, truffles, and caramel corn, plus an ice cream counter in back and a couple small tables. In the candy store firmament, it's probaby comparable to Chocolaterie Stam in that it's a bit upscale and more boutique, but also not as single-mindedly chocolate-based as an all-truffle place. When in need of a sweet and pretty gift, it would be a good place to consider.

After hemming, hawing, and asking for help, Nichole settled on three kinds of store-made fudge (dark chocolate, salty caramel, and maple). All were buttery (JM said not quite buttery enough) and while excellent in recipe, a bit dried out around the edges. The maple was loaded with walnuts, and the dark chocolate was excellent, with much more chocolate intensity than your average fudge. The salty caramel was a good recommendation, too.

Later on, the 80% cocoa Peruvian chocolate bar was like wow, smooth and balanced. The caramel-coated, Columbia-county-grown apple was snappy and sweet, though at a whopping $7 an expensive treat.

We'd probably stop in again for a special occasion; there's lots to like.

KFC

In a word: Whose chicken came home in a bucket...

The specs: #00928   
1516 Greenway Cross, 53713
Details at Yelp, KFC on Urbanspoon
Official web site

Latest KFC news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate two Chicken Little sandwiches, mashed potatoes, and biscuit with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the chicken pot pie and a biscuit.
The bill was $13, or $6.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave KFC a B; Nichole gave KFC a D+ (see our grading rubric).

KFC dinner

Our KFC stories go back a long, long way. JM distantly recalls the one on 53 in Eau Claire. There's a story of the worst buffet ever as a mistake of a lunch break in Bloomington, IL (two words: chicken shortage). There was the one really funny David Letterman top ten list about new names for KFC (samples: Hot Oily Hens and Big Grease Stained Bucket o' Fun). Sure, KFC is a bit of a punchline, but is it any good?

When you get right down to it, KFC is good enough fried chicken and biscuits plus a convenience factor that tips the scales. Would one rather eat at Harold's? Absolutely. Does Harold's have a drive-thru? More like a 30 minute wait. And good luck finding a  family-run place in Madison to get really good fried chicken; at any given time there may or may not be one in operation.

The pot pie was large but less than stellar on delivery of chicken. KFC's mashed potatoes and biscuits are the stuff dreams are made of, provided that your dreams require preservatives. The little sandwiches are fun, but now that there's a Chick Fil-A here (there wasn't one when we went), it'll be harder to justify those.

KFC is staple fast food -- fine when you are in a hurry, disappointing most of the rest of the time.

Keystone Grill

In a word: We had our Philly.

The specs: #00927   
206 W. Main St., Cambridge 53523
Details at Yelp, Keystone Grill on Urbanspoon
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JM ate the mac and cheese burger with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the chicken Philly.
The bill was $23, or $11/person, plus tip.
JM gave Keystone Grill a C+; Nichole gave Keystone Grill a C- (see our grading rubric).

Keystone Grill is a Philadelphia-themed bar just this side of the Jefferson county border. Now that we keep our own "wheel" of eating, we stick to Dane County; it turns out that Google Street View, while creepy, has been really helpful to us when we have to pinpoint what's in or out in border towns like Cambridge and Blue Mounds. (Which, by the way, lost a real gem when Hazelnut Cafe burned.)

Anyway. Keystone is spacious, a rambling building with many different rooms. It seemed like a solo server was working them all this Sunday night, while a bartender read the paper between orders. So dinner took a while.

Mac and cheese burgerChicken philly

If Pennsylvania-themed means "not very much cheese," then Keystone was right on. Sadly, in Wisconsin, this is not a plus. The chicken Philly came out fine but was lacking in a certain product as was the mac & cheese burger, which should have been a JM-favorite, but instead ended up being extra starch calories on a slightly better-than-average burger.

Keystone offers bottomless fries, and the ones they served were battered and pretty good.  The floor on the bottomless fries came from the overworked server, who at no time asked us if we'd like more - and a meal that should have taken 40 minutes was stretched to almost 90. 

Most good meals are simple. But if you remove a keystone from an arch, the whole thing tumbles. Metaphor!

Keg of Martinsville

The KegIn a word: Hidden valley bleh.

The specs: #00926  
7773 Martinsville Rd., Cross Plains, 53528
Details at Keg of Martinsville on Urbanspoon
Facebook

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JM ate the cheeseburger.
Nichole ate the gyro basket.
We split some cheesy tots.
The bill was $18, or $9/person, plus tip.
JM gave Keg of Martinsville a C; Nichole gave Keg of Martinsville a D+ (see our grading rubric).

Cheesy totsThe Keg of Martinsville is a tavern on a hilltop outside Cross Plains. It has a coat rack by the door, regular meat raffles, shake of the day, table service with a real menu and breakfast on Sundays.

The food is totally middle-of-the-road. The cheesy tots, while highly recommended of the aps on offer, were just OK nuggets of battered potato and cheez mixture. A $5 gyro basket was the daily special. It was light on the meat, with glassy-looking tomato slices and decent onions. There wasn't much tzatziki but a sprinkle of oregano showed some care. The burger was OK meat on a light and fluffy bun. 

GyroCheeseburger

We got waters to drink, which we might have reconsidered had we seen the (not uncommon) warning against making a habit of consuming the establishment's high-nitrate well water, posted discreetly above the sink in the women's room.

So the Keg of Martinsville is pretty much Wisconsin. If you do go, don't miss the beautiful vista from the concrete slab out back.

Scenic overlook with metal crane

The Keg

The KegIn a word: The token bar of Token Creek.

The specs: #00925   
6295 Portage Rd, DeForest 53532
Details at Keg on Urbanspoon
Facebook

Latest Keg news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the Keg Burger.
Nichole ate the grilled cheese and onion rings.
The bill was $16, or $8/person, plus tip.
JM gave the Keg a C-; Nichole gave the Keg a D (see our grading rubric).

The "wheel," such as it is, has mostly been serving up fly-under-the-radar bars with small grill menus on their walls.  This new tradition brought us to Token Creek, that crossroads you hit on 19 just outside Sun Prairie.

The Keg is not really memorable.  We were there on a football Sunday after most of the games, and the place was nearly empty.

Nichole's grilled cheese was OK.  It had enough rich buttery essence.  JM got the Keg burger, a three-meat affair: brat, ham and burger patty. For as decadent as that sounds, each of the meats is aptly sized and there were not a lot of condiments on offer, so the thing ended up being more greasy than flavorful. 

One real complaint, though, were the onion rings which were as dark as a December sunset.  These had been cooked within an inch of their life, and then another 2.53 cm. It may have been unclean fry medium or too much time in the tub or both, but the effect was a little underwhelming.

They do have Galaga.

Grilled cheeseKeg burger

Kato's Cajun

In a word: Bayou something else.

The specs: #00924  
108 W. Towne Mall, Madison 53719
Details at Yelp, Kato's Cajun on Urbanspoon

Latest Kato's Cajun news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the Cajun pork and mushroom chicken with rice and a soda.
Nichole ate the black pepper chicken with noodles.
The bill was $12, or $6/person.
JM gave Kato's Cajun a C-; Nichole gave Kato's Cajun a D+ (see our grading rubric).

What can we say about Kato's Cajun? It is one of those places in the mall that is always trying to drum up business by giving away free samples. Sadly, based on our one experience, this may be the slightly overpriced way to eat their food. Even the cup said Sarku Japan: how into this can they really be?

2 Entree meal: Cajun Pork and Mushroom Chicken

There's nothing really Cajun about this food: it is essentially greasy mall stir fry and for frugal eaters (teenagers, certainly, but others too), it may scratch an itch that we cannot comprehend.

But here Cajun just seems to mean "enough red pepper flakes to melt brass."  On top of barely acceptable stir fry? No thanks.

Black Pepper Chicken

Watching Mall-Vision (or whatever the TV sets in the food court are called) we got to see two mini-episodes of Tails and Fails, which was both the best part of the meal and an accurate description of it.

Karben4 Brewing

Karben4 signIn a word: What are we Karben4?

The specs: #00923   
3698 Kinsman Blvd., Madison 53704
Details at Yelp, Karben4 brewing on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Karben4 Brewing news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the grilled cheese plus ham, with a lemonade.
Marijka ate the pick two salad plate with spring roll salad and maple spinach salad.
Nichole ate the Midwest Muffaletta with a Sprecher.
Ryan ate the ham & bacon supreme with a Fantasy Factory.
We split the deviled eggs and pretzel styx. (Welcome to Hell!)
The bill was about $55, or $14ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Karben4 a B+; Marijka and Ryan gave Karben4 a B-; Nichole gave Karben4 a C+ (see our grading rubric).

K4B is in the old Ale Asylum space on the northeast outskirts by Madison College. As Ale Asylum, the space was intimate and warm, though a bit raucous when it needed to be. Karben, not so much.

The space has been reimagined in modern industrial. It's a little like a warehouse rave with loud music, high black walls adorned with distant murals that make little impact, and TV sets, but instead of showing artsy swirls they just silently spewed minor big 10 college football. As a place to get sandwiches, it is the anti-Mildred's.

Foodwise, K4B is roughly in the Vintage family of foodie brewpubs, but lighter and healthier. For app-sample, there were good pretzels and very fun deviled eggs. We got four kinds: classic, smoked chile, fresh and bright gremolata and Hollandaise (very nice, though it could have been more citrusy).

Deviled eggs

Based on what we observed of the menu, the kitchen could be quite limited: no fryer, maybe not even a grill. But there's probably an oven.

Pretzel sticks

The subtext of the entrees at Karben4 seems to be: "What can we do with all this spinach?" The sandwiches and salads are a nice break, but unless you are looking to see Popeye exposed to something akin to 'roid rage, there's a little too much spinach in everything.

SaladMidwest muffaletta
Ham and cheeseGrilled cheese plus ham

Marijka's 2 half-salads, while appealing on paper, didn't really mix well. Despite both having a lot of spinach the flavors didn't mesh, but she said she has had worse apple walnut salads. While the grilled sandwiches were decent, the Polish sausage on the Midwest Muffaletta on a pretzel bun was awkward and hard to eat. It was also a smidge on the cold side. JM got ham & cheese and a lemonade, which may account for his higher than average grade. Ryan's ham and bacon supreme was also pretty good.

That said, there are a lot of nice hints toward something more solid - Underground meat, Stalzy's bread, homemade dressings and pretzels. Heck, maybe an Madison College student in the kitchen?

And of course there's beer. K4B quickly made a name for itself (not least for its fire-breathing unicorn ridden by a gun-wielding cat) in the beer trade. But their tap menu is small and mostly ossified against change. This wouldn't be terrible if there weren't so many other places in Madison to have a beer, even their beer.

Karben4 mostly uses this sammy shop as a showroom for their signature beverages, and we cannot fault them taking an incremental approach. But there's a not a lot going on here, and in this genre, Vintage, Dexter's or Ale Asylum probably have more to offer the average food enthusiast.

Journey Sushi & Seafood Buffet

JourneyIn a word: Stop believin'.

The specs: #00922   
4325 Lien Rd., Madison 53704
Details at Yelp, The Journey on Urbanspoon
Official Facebook

Latest Journey Sushi & Seafood Buffet news and reviews at del.icio.us

Anne, JM, John, Nichole and the kid ate the buffet.
The bill was $10/person, plus tip.
JM gave Journey Sushi & Seafood Buffet a C; Anne, John and Nichole gave Journey Sushi & Seafood Buffet a C- (see our grading rubric).

Buffets in Madison tend to be in mostly the same class. Some are a little more clean, others scary, still others tend to remind us of better places. The Journey, located in the old Damon's by the east side Target, was a little of all three. 

First, though, Journey is popular and almost inexplicably so. With the closure of China Buffet on East Washington, this may be due to the lack of East side buffets Chinese (though QQ still exists [edit: nope]). The place is a barn, and yet when we were there for a Saturday lunch, lots of tables were full.

The food was decidely just OK. There were lots and lots of varied dishes, and bubbling water underneath the steam tables conveyed freshness, but the food never did.  Some tasted old and some tasted a little underdone. No dish out of the more than three dozen we tried was something that we wanted to share with someone else or recommend to someone on another trip around.

It did have some unqiue stuff, like whole flounder and other fish, and did have lots of sushi rolls constantly being refreshed by guys behind glass. But nothing was really drool-worthy.

Single shrimp

The price is, as they say, right and the place doesn't give off the dank vibe Jade Garden did back in 2007.  But still, there's better version of each of these things less than 5 miles away in any direction. Just not all under one roof.

Jordandal Cookhouse

In a word: The best sliver of food in Verona (we presume).

The specs: #00921   
600 West Verona Ave., Verona 53593
Details at Yelp, Jordandal Cookhouse on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Jordandal Cookhouse news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the fish tacos with cheese and sausage for a side, plus a grape soda.
Nichole ate the beef and peanut soup, jerk chicken sandwich with curry carrot slaw on the side, and butterscotch pudding in a jam jar.
The bill was $30, or $15/person, plus tip.
JM gave Jordandal Cookhouse a B+; Nichole gave Jordandal Cookhouse an A (see our grading rubric).

Jordandal Cookhouse carryout

Remember fall? It was great. It was the perfect time to visit Jordandal Farms' outlet, though Nichole suspects it's always a perfect time for Jordandal. She went overboard ordering since every single thing on the menu looked delicious and, while we're on the first pass of the "wheel," how often do we get to eat good food?

Her curry carrot slaw was an interesting take on the same old grated carrot salad, plus the cranberries made it nice. The nicely thick beef peanut soup was brimming with vegetables (carrots, red peppers, cabbage) while still maintaining a pleasant bite. Most of the jerk chicken sandwich went home for later, but the first bites proved their tastiness with smoky meat and a sweet jalapeño jam. Her elementary school throwback of butterscotch pudding was a tad thin, but tasty.

JM's fish tacos were quite an affair as well, though the orange-flavored mayo they were awash in may not have been the best citrus choice, but it was definitly distinct.  And, though they fell apart, he hasn't found any fish tacos anywhere that actually maintain their structural integrity throughout.

Here's the thing: everything was fresh, good and packed with thoughtful ingredients. This place does a pretty good trade just selling uncooked meat to the west side's picky consumers. We're not sure how many Epic folks wander away from campus to find food, but if only 2% make their way to Jordandal, they should be sitting pretty.


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