Lil' Buddy's

In a word: Movie theater snack bar without the price of admission.

The specs: #00947   
201 Janesville St., Oregon 53575
Details at Lil' Buddy's Popcorn on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Lil' Buddy's news and reviews at

JM ate the chili dog and the mac & cheese dog.
Nichole ate the Chicago dog.
We also bought some popcorn.
The bill was like $3/dog.
JM gave Lil' Buddy's a B+; Nichole gave Lil' Buddy's an A- (see our grading rubric).

Lil' Buddy's falls into one of those categories of place that is barely a restaurant, yet is exactly the kind of thing that we like to learn about. It's basically a popcorn store a la Rural Route 1 or Clary's. In addition to this, however, there are hot dogs, ice cream, and slushes. It is sort of like a stripped down Carnival's where popcorn is truly the star.

Mac and cheese dog

JM got a pair of dogs: the chili dog was mostly as expected except that it was a little bitter, with a chili sauce that did not quite achieve his ideal of a great chili dog. The mac & cheese dog was better with perfectly shaped and perfectly cooked noodles served with an understated but tasty BBQ sauce. Nichole's Chicago dog fell right where it belonged, which was well within the canon. She enjoyed it.

Lil' Buddy's dogs

Of course, man cannot live on hot dogs alone. We got three bags of popcorn, including a honey mustard, a salt and pepper, and a peanut butter and chocolate blend. Each flavor is truly bold, expressing itself early and often. Grabbing a bag of their popcorn means never having to guess at what the flavor is; it is obvious. Also delicious.

There are a couple of other flavors we want to try, and so we will likely be back next time we pass through Oregon. Furthermore, since Capital Creamery has closed, it seems like the best place in Oregon to stop on a warm day.

Bonus content

A couple things we wrote recently ran elsewhere. Recollection Wisconsin, the digital library portal, hosted an online exhibit on the history of McDonald's in our state. And today Isthmus ran Catching up with the Eating in Madison A to Z bloggers, in which we spill the beans about a book we wrote.

So welcome and/or welcome back, and thanks for reading!

Madison's with capitol


In a word: Greenbush survivor abides.

The specs: #00946   
1405 Emil St., 53713
Details at Yelp, Licari's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Latest Licari's news and reviews at

JM ate the bacon cheeseburger.
Nichole ate the fish fry.
The bill was about $10/person, plus tip.
JM gave Licari's a B-; Nichole gave Licari's a C+ (see our grading rubric).

Licari's is one of Madison's longest lived bars. Jerry Licari's Spot Tavern was once at 767-771 West Washington, but along with most of the rest of the businesses in the old Greenbush, it was pushed out by the Triangle Redevelopment Project in the early 1960s. In fact, Licari's and Trotter's Tuxedo Cafe were the two that held out longest. Licari's eventually moved to 1405 Emil Street and has been there since; Trotter's had trouble relocating - in short, Madison residents organized to prevent a black-owned business from moving into their neighborhoods - but eventually reopened at 1616 Beld Street.


Anyway, history. Licari's "new" spot in the Beltline area near Fish Hatchery was one of the closest places at which JM could have grabbed a quick lunch near his old office 10 years ago, and he might have eaten there before. Even so, it was our first time grabbing a table there together. 

The swivel factor was medium; we arrived again in the early end of the dinner hour when most customers were happying an hour or two. We were somewhat rushed, and so couldn't really relax into the vibe. At the time it wasn't super-chill, anyway, with a bizarre Family Feud episode on the TV above the bar - oddly clad men vs. scantily clad women (wrestling was involved). The service was fast and friendly, taking our order chosen from a large chalkboard chock-full of bar standards. We stuck to the familiar: a burger and a fish fry.

Bacon burger

JM's burger was loaded with bacon, the bun was perfectly toasted and the meat-cheese meld was great. Fresh lettuce, onion and tomato, with a you-dose-it tub of BBQ sauce, filled out his meal.

The fish fry was pretty good. Two sizeable pieces of walleye in a light crumb breading came with pickles and a creamy slaw. The tartar and typical crinkle fries tugged the edges down, keeping this plate from flying high, but overall it was decent.

Fish fry

Licari's feels like it is from the time when stops at bars on the way home from work were more common, instead of taking the whole family out to pick up burger a little while later. Still, as blasts from the past go, this one was just OK.

Library Cafe and Bar

Subway and LibraryIn a word: Check it out.

The specs: #00945 
320 N Randall Ave., 53715
Details at Yelp, The Library on Urbanspoon
Official web site

Latest Library Cafe and Bar news and reviews at

JM ate the Texas burger with fries and a lemonade.
Nichole ate the corned beef sandwich with chips and a Gray's root beer.
The bill was $25, or $12ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Library Cafe and Bar a B; Nichole gave Library Cafe and Bar a 647.9577583 and an A- (see our grading rubric).


The Library is situated right at the split where University stops being University and Johnson Street starts coming the other way. Over by WID, you know? Though the Library hasn't been covered by the 070 folks much, we found plenty to report back on. The name, is of course, another of those great old bar-disguise names.

MOM: Where were you all night?

KID: I was at the Library.



The overall vibe of the Library was not 130ish at all - it was pretty warm and cozy (and that was due to more than the fact that one of the tables is actually a fireplace). Bookshelves lined all the walls and were packed with thrift-store hardcovers and the odd textbook. We had last been here, long ago, when it was Cool Runnings, and we were glad that the place is being well taken care of. Service is semi-158.1-style, order at the counter and take a seat.


Of course, in Wisconsin, drinking is practically a religion. The Library does indeed have a pretty lengthy beer list and a full bar with the requisite nightly drink specials. We were pleased to see the full coffee bar as well, though we both stuck to soft drinks - lemonade, of course, and a Gray's root beer, which was a rare treat.


Maybe decorating a bar with real books attracts nerds, but the crowd at the Library definitely appeared more studious - and more versed in 395.53 - than those at the campus area bars we've been to (Wando's, Church Key, Chaser's, etc.). The couch set-ups were great for fostering interpersonal communication.


It is hard to describe the Library's corned beef. Though delicious, the meat arrived scattered across the thin toasted bun in giant hulking cubes that made the sandwich nearly uneatable though the Swiss cheese and whole grain mustard added some enjoyment.



The bill was correctly tallied.


Now, on to the meat of this post. The salt and pepper chips arrived fresh and seemed like about the best execution of this idea available.  They were tasty and disappeared quickly. Meanwhile, JM's far more processed fries were the opposite of good. They were cold, thin and had not give.  He would have gladly traded them for Nichole's chips and he doesn't really like chips, but these were icky despite the technology that went into bringing them to this table.

The art of assembling a decent BBQ burger was, fortunately, on display.  JM's Texas Burger came with cream cheese! sautéed onions! chives! and all of these flavors did work together.  Unfortunately, a thin commercial patty is an unfit canvas for recreational burger eating and the untoasted bun was a little less than fun.  He'd eat it again, but wouldn't seek it out. Other menu items, and there are several, look maybe a little better.

Texas burger


As mentioned before, the Library was thoughtfully decorated. There must have been music, but we can't remember what was playing.


We enjoyed the Library's books - we found an old copy of Jay Leno's Headlines and had a few aimless laughs. It was like having a funny friend entertain us before dinner.


And with that, we were history.  If we found ourselves needing lunchtime coffee (Nichole) or west campus student-budget eats (JM), we might return just because the rest of the campus-area competition is so meh.  So you may want to add this location to your map.


LegendsIn a word: If you're reading this it's too late.

The specs: #00944  
439 Grand Canyon Dr., 53719
Details at Yelp, Legends Sports Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon
Official web site

Latest Legends news and reviews at

JM ate the nachos.
John at the hamburger.
Nichole ate the chicken sandwich.
The bill was about $10/person plus tip.
John gave Legends a B+; JM gave Legends a C+; Nichole gave Legends a B (see our grading rubric).

We went to Legends on a slow night at the end of January.  There was no big game on the screens, just minor NBA action. Legends is really big.  Not quite a west side Pooley's, but maybe a Damon's in its day kind of place.  We settled into the long bank of booths and were served pretty quickly.

JM went for one of his standards: nachos, no olives.  These were decent, but not great.  It seemed like they had gotten a little too much heat as they were being warmed for serving and some of the chips tasted more burnt than they should have.  The toppings were mostly standard, but things that could have been fresh, or fresher, were canned in some circumstances. 


John found a pretty good burger. Served on toasted ciabatta, this cheeseburger was served at a juicy medium rare as ordered. The cheese was cheddar, though many more options were available, and the bacon, lettuce and tomato were all fresh and well prepared. 

Nichole's chicken was also pretty good. The large piece of chicken was tender and not overdone.  The bun could have been toasted, but was otherwise up to the task.

Chicken sandwichBurger on ciabatta

There's a lot we left on the table, so to speak.  With an extensive menu of apps, wraps, salads and steak dinners, Legends could be a place that is easy to take co-workers for after work drinks and food or to watch the big game.  We were not watching the game when the Badgers defeated Kentucky recently in the Final Four.  We were out and about.  And every place in Madison was dead.  But not Legends, which must have had overflow into Delaney's parking lot it was so full. So that's what it is for.

BTW, their kids' menu is called "Future Legends," which is pretty cute.

Legend at Bergamont

Legend at BergamontIn a word: A fair way to spend a meal in Oregon.

The specs: #00943  
699 Bergamont Blvd., Oregon 53575
Details at Yelp, Legend at Bergamont on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Legend at Bergamont news and reviews at

JM ate the haddock fish fry with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the BLT with five star mushroom soup.
We split a piece of cheesecake.
The bill was $36, or $18/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Legend at Bergamont a B (see our grading rubric).

Onion rolls

Tee-off: The Legend at Bergamont is a super swanky Oregon golf course. It was a long drive to get there - it's nearly as far from US 14 as Brooklyn is. The place itself was a wood-paneling and cavernous-space affair, perfect for wedding receptions and high school formals that we would have never been invited to. You'll want to use your 1 wood.

Five star mushroom soup

Fairway drive: The sound of pop hits from the last 30 years - arranged for strings - led to a fun game of name that tune, which preempted conversation (and caused us to look up the performers, the Vitamin String Quartet, later. Neat.). The entire staff seemed to be earnest 20-somethings who handled the dining room well, though it took a little getting used to the open kitchen. It felt to us a little too much like a hallway for a dining room.

Slice: It turns out that menu is upscale, too. Pricey, but not overly pricey standard Wisco fare with locally sourced ingredients. Nichole partook of the five star mushroom soup or, if you will, liquid stuffing, as it was so packed with butter, sage and thyme. It did complement the soft onion rolls that were provided for all tables.

Haddock fish fry

Out of the bunker and onto the green: JM's haddock fish fry was pretty good. Haddock can taste fishy, and these pieces were warm bursts with a hot, golden exterior. (Perch and cod were also available.). The potato pancakes did not fare so well. Dark and overly cooked, they could have been hockey pucks; potato pancakes have a limited window for excellence and these went too far beyond. His side of broccoli was OK, even though Nichole ate most of it. Her BLT was described in the menu as including sundried tomatoes, but it came with average, fresh tomato slices. The bacon was tasty, sure, and the Bibb lettuce was good, too. But the tomato makes the BLT, and the omission was a bit of a let down.

BLT and sweet potato fries

A long putt into the hole: The salty caramel cheesecake on a pretzel crust was really quite good, but wasn't enough to recapture some of the earlier glory.  For these prices and at this distance, the wind would have to be at our back to birdie here.  As it was, a double bogey - and we'll stick to the mini golf.


Legacy House Imports

Legacy HouseIn a word: Tea, ceremony.

The specs: #00942  
4221 Lien Road, 53704
Details at Yelp, Legacy House Tea Room on Urbanspoon
Official web site

Latest Legacy House Imports news and reviews at

JM, Miranda, Nichole, Phil and the kids shared a 6-cup pot of Earl Grey, a tea tray, some dessert scones, and soup.
The bill was $30, or $5/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Legacy House Imports a B (see our grading rubric).

Legacy House Imports is a tea room and gift shop in a home built by one of the Lien brothers back in the 1940s. We weren't sure what to expect based on the somewhat spare web site, or from the few online reviews we found, but once we called to set up a reservation we were in for a pleasant experience.

The space feels like a cross between an art gallery, Pier 1, and someone's (much nicer than our) living room. It's like a gallery or Pier 1 in that they sell gift items that are more in the "want" than "need" category. However, Legacy House's collection is better curated than the big chains, and they provide fewer opportunities to ask "why would you ever own this?"  In the back there are a few tables where, either by appointment or drop in, where small groups can have a Victorian-style tea. 

Tea tray

The tea selections cover the preferences of the western hemisphere pretty thoroughly (though we're still sad Madison lost Ma-cha as a place to learn about tea traditions from the eastern hemisphere). We settled on a pot of Earl Grey which did what no Earl Grey had been able to do before, namely, change Nichole's mind about Earl Grey. Some early experience with a stale tea bag had put her off the whole idea for years, but - as with so many A to Z experiences when we've tried something new prepared in capable hands - this time it was excellent. And all the accoutrements were fun, from tea strainers to delicate pots of honey.

The sandwiches were adorable, crusts cut off and all. Finely ground ham salad; open-faced butter, cucumber and dill; carrot and raisin (or currant?) with cheddar; and mild egg salad were all served on a soft, nutty wheat bread. The carrot was probably the star, though the egg salad disappeared first. The orange slices used for garnish were wonderful, at the peak of the citrus season.

Tea sandwiches

We tried a cup of soup, one of Legacy House's more substantial offerings. The winter squash and carrot blend was well-seasoned and flavorful, but more pureeing and more cream would have made it great.

Soup to mints

One level of the regular tea tray included quick breads and scones with cream, jam and lemon curd. Of these, the lemon curd was most coveted while the jam and cream lingered, though all were finished by meal's end. Desserts included a rich chocolate confection, a delicate walnut-topped cupcake, and a cream puff swan that remained until the end because it was too pretty to eat and too hard to divide. The eclairs and scones were yummed up quickly. We also got an extra plate of sweets to share, which meant more lemon curd for everyone, which was awesome.

Scones and jam and stuff

We had kids along and, since they liked tea, it was a fun outing to be at with kids. We all wandered around the store after our meal and looked at the wares and the collections on display. For the right kids and even the right adults, a tea party could be a fun way to gather and loll over beverages and dainty, lovingly-prepared foods while sharing moments and memories.


Layla's Persian Food

Layla'sIn a word: Makin' it.

The specs: #00941   
141 S. Butler St., 53703
Details at Yelp, Layla's Persian Food on Urbanspoon

Latest Layla's Persian Food news and reviews at

JM ate the lamb kebab.
Nichole ate the fesenjoon with a soup.
The bill was $25, or $12.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Layla's Persian Food a B; Nichole gave Layla's Persian Food an A- (see our grading rubric).

Layla's Persian Food sits in the drafty basement formerly occupied by Café Costa Rica.  There's room for maybe six tables, yet the one bathroom is larger than both combined at Irish Pub. The front door doesn't really close all the way, and in January this can make a bit of a difference. 

Though the cold air made it feel like a tiny Kollege Klub, the similarities ended there. The meal itself was the opposite of bleak. The server/chef/owner was friendly. Indeed, perhaps too much so. Certain that she'd seen us before, she engaged us to find out where she may have known us from. We don't think it was from here. Along with the food and a free pot of tea on account of the frigid temperature, she provided us with small handfuls of her life story, which led us to consider if this wasn't all meant to be part of the experience in a place this size. Intimate space leads to intimate sharing, even from the owner whose 'dining room' we were sitting in.  That said, she was affable and friendly and we were never uncomfortable, just a little agog.

SoupDown to the food itself, Nichole started with a dark green vegetable and lentil soup in a teacup. Very tasty! She also loved the fesenjoon - chicken, walnut and pomegranate stew - which was such a hot commodity that another, later-arriving table could not get enough orders to go around. The chicken was tender yet kept together, and the yellow rice, while cool-ish, was good too.

JM's lamb kebab was tasty with nicely prepared vegetables and tender meat, but was served over some of the coldest rice he'd ever eaten. It was especially difficult given how cold the room was, but it is probably served that way intentionally, so he's stuck just thinking it is not his favorite. His plate was garnished with a dusting of sumac and some pickled carrots and beets, which Nichole stole. His loss!


For dessert, we picked up some baklava for JM's dad, who enjoyed it.

Layla's also participated in "MACN Week," which was a big deal. With the warmth of spring around the corner, we'd probably recommend Layla's just because it is so singular an experience.

Las Islas del Mar

Lucky tableIn a word: Better living through pez.

The specs: #00940   
696 Monona Drive, 53716
Details at Yelp, Las Islas Del Mar on Urbanspoon

Latest Las Islas del Mar news and reviews at

JM ate the fish burrito with an orange Jarritos.
Nichole ate the grilled shrimp with a grapefruit Jarritos.
The bill was $27, or $13.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Las Islas del Mar an A-; Nichole gave Las Islas del Mar an A (see our grading rubric).

Mexican seafood has always been a rare catch in Madison and, other than the brief experiment of El Pescador, the town has had to mostly make do with fish tacos on a handful of menus. Monona's Las Islas del Mar is out to change all of that.

First came the complimentary chip basket, which overflowed with goodies. Sure there were crisp tortillas and a kicky green salsa, but also there was a small spicy crab salad and Saltines. A generous serving of lime was also provided. We were already hearing their siren song.

Chips and seafood dip

The server recommended the grilled shrimp for Nichole. This was an awesome thing: several big, well-seasoned, grilled shrimp came out and had excellent flavor.  Served with a scoop of rice with veggies, fries, and a small salad, the presentation paralleled the quality of the food itself.

Grilled shrimp

JM opted for the most staid choice, a fish burrito, which he described as a "Mexican fish fry" in a tortilla.  It came with the spiciest Thousand Island dressing he's ever had.  The burrito came packed with the unexpected, like tons of small red kidney beans and huge slices of avocado.  The fried cod, though, was pretty good, but the whole thing ended up a little dry without a lot of meat grease to cement it together.

Fish burrito

The service was fantastic and we were one of three tables there for dinner, so it could have gone either way (too attentive, too distracted).  They have some really cool outdoor seating that for an end-of-the year outing did not appeal, but as spring is coming and warm nights beckon, we can see taking another dip off the coast of Las Islas del Mar.

Ladonia Cafe

In a word: Another actual healthy cart lunch.

The specs: #00939   
Usually at Mifflin & Pinckney for weekday lunches
Details at Yelp
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Ladonia Cafe news and reviews at

JM ate his words.
Nichole ate the pot pie, soup, and a ginger limeade.
The bill was about $10.
JM gave Ladonia Cafe a B+; Nichole gave Ladonia Cafe an A- (see our grading rubric).

Ladonia lunch

December at a food cart is always a tough time, and we visited Ladonia on one of those bitterly cold days before Christmas. JM may not have brought the best attitude in checking out a vegan food cart and, when his preferred food wasn't available (chocolate chip waffles), he kind of panicked and pouted. So, let's just say that, upon reflection, he would like to have tried Ladonia under better circumstances. His beverage was quite tasty and his bites of Nichole's pot pie were good, so he imagines that this place meets its needs well, as multiple Best of Madison awards attest. His B+ reflects this critical distance.

Nichole, on the other hand, loved the meal. The pot pie was the epitome of comfort food - warm, with lots of herbal flavors and a rich creaminess. The soup got jostled so the pepitas on top sank, but its pumpkin-y goodness was still evident. A thick slice of sesame-topped bread, and Ladonia's delicious ginger limeade (best cold prevention formula), rounded out the meal.

On a previous preview, the tempeh bacon proved preternaturally tasty too: chewy, sweet-smoky-salty and thickly cut. Summer BLTs are in the cards.

Since the demise of Dandelion, a warm set of meals with vegan and veg options are most welcome. If that's what you are looking for, here's where you'll find it, and even non-vegans who give it a try will be pleased. 

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