Gus's Diner

Gus's DinerIn a word: Gus-tatory middlingness.

The specs: #00894   
630 N. Westmount Dr., Sun Prairie 53590
Details at Yelp, Gus's Diner on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Gus's Diner news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the BBQ burger with clam chowder, fries and a lemonade.
Nichole ate the Monte Cristo with fries, cottage cheese and a decaf.
Rose ate the senior butterfly shrimp with baked potato, side salad and a decaf.
The bill was $32, or $11ish person, plus tip.
JM gave Gus's Diner a C+; Nichole and Rose gave Gus's Diner a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Gus's Diner is a shiny oasis out by Token Creek. It's got the simluated nostalgia of a Blue Plate, the fare of a Coppertop, and the salad bar of a spot dwelling somewheres between Wendy's and an old school supper club. The service was more than awesome. Also, the tableside juke boxes recall nothing less than a Happy Days version of the 50s.

Clam chowderStarters came out immediately, with the entrees hot on their heels. A side salad was made up of the standard greens, with plenty of dressing. Clam chowder was fine, and cottage cheese was too.

Shrimp basket

Rose opted for the butterfly shrimp with baked potato.  The six shrimp tasted good, but she said "there wasn't much to them."

BBQ Bacon Burger

JM got the BBQ burger, which had very little discernible BBQ. The onion straws seemed to be mostly breading, and didn't impart much onion flavor next to the hearty but presumably pre-patted patty and thick bun. A veritable side of lettuce appeared with a sad small tomato slice.

Monte Cristo

Nichole's knee-jerk reaction was to get the Monte Cristo. It was heavy, with thick slices of ham and turkey. Crinkle fries were floppy but fine.

The menu was huge, as it is wont to be at such places, and as we left we concluded that we'd come back if it was suggested, and that the desserts - particularly the soda fountain - are probably Gus's Diner's strong suit. We were too stuffed, though, so we'll have to leave that experience for another time or to another's teeth.

Great Scott's Pizza

In a word: Decent, Horeb-able food.

The specs: #00893   
1213 Springdale St., Mount Horeb 53572
Details at Yelp, Great Scott's Pizza on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook, Twitter

JM and Nichole ate the honey mustard chicken pizza with a couple sodas.
The bill was $20, or $10/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Great Scott's Pizza a B (see our grading rubric).

Great Scott's, a little nook on the near side of Mount Horeb, provides good pizza and great service. It has an 80's look (think: random triangle logo), though it was founded in 2006. It's mostly delivery and carryout, but there are three booths along the window, which we availed ourselves of on a snowy February night.

They've got lots of specialty 'zas, plus salads, toasted subs, baked penne (cavatini, with chicken and Alfredo, or classic, with red sauce), chicken wings and chicken bites, and Chocolate Shoppe by the pint.

It being Mount Horeb, we thought something with America's favorite yellow condiment was apropos. So we went for the honey mustard chicken on a thin crust. The theme was thin, with wafers of Canadian bacon and narrw strips of chicken breast. The toppings went all the way to the edge, and there was lots of gooey cheese. Oddly enough this was the second consecutive pizza we'd had with honey as an ingredient. Here the mustard was very sweet and almost, but not quite, all honey-flavored.

Honey mustard chicken pizza

They really stand behind their product, with a satisfaction guarantee, a competitor trade-in deal, and an assertion on the menu that their large pizzas, at 16", are 30% bigger than chain stores' large. On a square inch basis, this is true if the large is 14". The math tickled our fancy. Plus it brought to Nichole's mind her complicated formulas for buying pizza for large groups (start at 50 sq. in. per adult and go from there). The other day when someone bought pizza for a group and actually thought to ask the folks at the pizza place how much to get, she was reminded that asking an expert is also a perfectly valid form of information seeking behavior.

Grampa's Pizzeria

In a word: Bring your taste BFFs (just taste buds aren't enough).

The specs: #00892  
1374 Williamson St., 53703
Details at Yelp, Grampa's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Grampa's Pizzeria news and reviews at del.icio.us

Brian, JM and Nichole ate a bowl of soup, the puerco pizza, the barberini pizza, and three sodas.
The bill was $43, or $14ish/person, plus tip.
Brian gave Grampa's Pizzeria a B; JM gave Grampa's Pizzeria a B+; Nichole gave Grampa's Pizzeria an A- (see our grading rubric).

This meal was a treat. Not only did we get to eat at a nice place, but we had good company in Brian, another Madison dining enthusiast whose own restaurant lists have helped us with ours for years now. Cheers, Brian!

Grampa's Pizzeria would like you to know that their food has flavor. Not just a flavor, but many different flavors all coming at you from different directions. In this way, you will never be bored. Take the water that you are served, for instance. Should water have a flavor? Well, this water has both fruit and vegetable in it. Now there's some flavor. Surely, a nuanced palate admires such culinary pluck and variety? It can all be a little too much... certainly if you like lots of interesting variation in each bite then Grampa's is the place for you. But if you want a pizza that just tastes like pizza (or at least what you put on it), then there's other places. Fortunately, Grampa's flavors are usually pretty good and those who delight in such things will find much to enjoy.

Nichole got some celeriac soup. It was thick and creamy, and the celery root flavor shore through. The garnish of grana, a hard cheese, and parsley was perfect.

Celery soup

The pies we tried were also good. The Barberini, topped with tomato sauce, ricotta, garlic, (almost too many) calabrian chiles, watercress, and honey, had been picked as a local favorite a couple times. We're glad we tried it, as its classic status is not overstated. The combination of hot, sweet, sharp, bitter and rich lights up your whole mouth (see above).

PuercoBarberini

The puerco was simpler, with just the thick and rich tomato sauce, nice stinky gorgonzola, and fatty pork confit.

On his previous visit, Brian had really enjoyed the peperone (minus olives plus garlic). The pies on this visit were not quite as full of win. Brian also observed the profusion of flavors, and opined that in the pizzas we chose, led to a lack of cohesion.

MacaroonsWe passed on dessert, but got a lagniappe with the check, a little brown bag with three macaroons inside. The little cookies were filled with Italian marmalade.

Grampa's has made a name for itself in a short time, which says something for both its nuanced pizzas and the state of high-end dining in Madison. We recommend you try it if you like flavorful food.

Golden Days Bakery

In a word: At least as good as half a second of this.

The specs: #00891  
950 W. Main St., Sun Prairie 53590
Details at Yelp, Golden Days Bakery on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Golden Days Bakery news and reviews at del.icio.us

We ate some cookies, cinnamon rolls, and raisin bread.
The bill was about $12  plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Golden Days Bakery a B- (see our grading rubric).

Cinnamon rollsGolden Days Bakery is located in one of the many Sun Prairie Main Street strip malls. While it is not much to look at from the outside, some care has been taken inside to arrange the baked goods as you may see them in a small town bakery. But Fosdal this ain't. A chalkboard seems to indicate on which weekday certain kinds of breads are fresh. JM picked up a loaf of raisin bread, a round of cinnamon rolls, and a package of cookies.

The cookies shared with a game night crowd disappeared, but without eliciting any specific plaudits or demerits. The cinnamon rolls were loaded with lots of cinnamon and a thick frosting, but were a little dry. The raisin bread made pretty good toast.

When it comes to bakery, not bad, but there's probably someplace else we'd rather go.

Gold Nugget Bar & Grill

Gold NuggetIn a word: Somewhere between gold and the Denver Nuggets.

The specs: #00890  
109 E Main St., Waunakee, 53597
Details at Yelp, Gold Nugget Bar on Urbanspoon
Facebook

Latest Gold Nugget Bar & Grill news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the chicken cordon bleu sandwich with a soda.
Nichole ate the Chico burger.
We split some fries.
The bill was $13.50, or $7ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Gold Nugget Bar & Grill a B-; Nichole gave Gold Nugget Bar & Grill a B (see our grading rubric).

We sometimes learn stuff eating places. Today's lesson was that Waunakee was a popular train stop in the 19th century because it was "wet" where its neighbors were "dry." Gold Nugget, on Main Street, is now in a very old building which once operated as a bar and meat market called Hilgers & Bernards.

Chicken cordon bleuBurger

Most of the time, though, we just blog for the sandwiches. Both of these were ham-themed. JM broke a New Year's Day tradition and got chicken. It was worth it. Juicy and tender, the chicken breast was topped with mild Swiss and a generous slab of ham, on a very lightly toasted bun. The Chico burger was distinguished - on Accidental Hedonist's burger rubric:

  • Bun: lightly toasted, sturdy white roll. Like Wando's.
  • Meat: thick patty of hand-formed ground beef. Ordered medium, served medium.
  • Bun/meat ratio: perfect.
  • Cheese: Melty American.
  • Misc.: Ham was there for heft and salt, and didn't add much more. Served with pickle rounds. About a 6.5 of 10 for its style.

People-wise, swivel was high and so was the mood during a big f-ball game. Service was awesome - one bartender directed us to an empty table that we didn't notice at first; another brought the side of perfect crinkle fries fresh out of the fryer; and they checked on us midway through the meal.

So, yeah, a nice spot in Waunakee. Not the oldest establishment on Main Street, but we may get there someday.

Gloria Jean's

In a word: Why are you already at the mall without coffee?

The specs: #00889   
40 West Towne Mall, 53719
Details at Yelp, Gloria Jean's on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Twitter

Latest Gloria Jean's news and reviews at del.icio.us

Gloria Jean'sJM ate the peanut butter cookie and an apple juice.
Nichole ate a scone and a latte.
The bill was about $8, or $4/person, plus tip.
JM gave Gloria Jean's a grade; Nichole gave Gloria Jean's a D+ (see our grading rubric).

The best part of our visit was that the guy at the counter noticed that the scones were mislabeled, and helped us pick out the kind we wanted. That, and the coffee aroma is kinda nice as you walk by.

Gloria Jean's is just not our cuppa, what can we say. The only people who would seem to need mall coffee are mall employees.  Can there be that many to make this business model work?

Ginger Root

Ginger RootIn a word: More like the cube root.

The specs: #00888   
1308 W. Dayton St., 53715
Details at Yelp, Ginger Root on Urbanspoon
Official web site

Latest Ginger Root news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM, John, Nichole and Rose ate four stir fries and some pork buns.
The bill was $36, or $9/person, plus tip.
Rose gave Ginger Root a B-; JM, John and Nichole gave Ginger Root a C+ (see our grading rubric).

It was finals week when we stopped by Union South for carryout at Ginger Root, and it was a popular spot - students were queued up at the gate ten minutes before it opened. It has a pretty small selection of stuff, mostly mix-and-match stir-fry, but it's got nice variety and value for food court-type fare.

We ordered four stir fries, some special pork buns, and crab rangoon to go. Back at the ranch:

Ginger Root carryout

We were sent for sweet and sour chicken, and the chicken with red peppers in sesame sauce was the closest approximation we could contrive. Ginger Root's dish was way better than the average nuggets-in-batter that that dish usually is, though, with fresh red peppers and a modest amount of sauce. Also AWOL was broccoli, so we got beef with green peppers. Why are such common ingredients lacking at a build-a-bowl place?

More green peppers and mushrooms went into the pork with Szechuan sauce, which was on the dry side; so was a red curry tofu with bamboo and mushrooms. The pork buns were OK. The creamy slaw was a nice touch.

We probably didn't do the menu justice (why were we so fixated on bell peppers that night? Who knows.) We might not make a special trip, but we'd stop in again if something's going on at the Union, or maybe to try the noodle bowl.

Gigi's Cupcakes

In a word: Thank heaven for little swirls.

The specs: #00887   
554 N. Midvale, 53705
Details at Yelp, Gigi's Cupcakes on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Gigi's Cupcakes news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the wedding cake cupcake.
Nichole ate the chocolate cupcake and a latte.
We got a cookie for the dog, too.
The bill was $8ish.
JM gave Gigi's Cupcakes a B; Nichole gave Gigi's Cupcakes a B- (see our grading rubric).

Gigi's cupcakesGigi's is at Hilldale, where you can sit down to cupcakes and coffee beverages or grab a box to go. These cakes are showy. Most are topped with beehives of frosting almost as tall as the cakes themselves (the flat-topped, creme-filled chocolate tribute to Hostess was an exception). When we've been there, the selection has been pretty big, with at least a dozen flavors in a good mix of chocolatey, fruity, and traditional cake-y choices.  These are merely calorie bombs or, rather, calorie grenades.

Gigi's is fine for a splurge, but for destination cupcakes we'd probably sooner head to Bloom, Cupcakes a-Go-Go, Daisy, El Bolillo...

Get Some Burritos

Get Some BurritosIn a word: Puts the cart behind the door.

The specs: #00886   
309 N. Henry St., 53703
Details at Yelp, Get Some Burritos on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Get Some Burritos news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the beef nachos supremo with a soda.
Nichole ate the pollo asada burrito.
The bill was $15, or $7.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Get Some Burritos a B+; Nichole gave Get Some Burritos a C+ (see our grading rubric).

Get Some Burritos is out to put its walking-around bar time food in the hands of Midwestern college kids. The naughty name and the "Badger burrito" (with fries in the wrap!) reminded us of places that used to be further down State Street. Their next branch is already planned for Ann Arbor. With a small menu of tacos, burritos, flautas and nachos, a good pedigree, and the right prices and hours for bar time splurges, they're on their way.

Vegetarian choices are the quesadillas or bean and cheese burritos. As for the meat, the beef was good - as noted at Eat Drink Madison, it's better than ground - but the chicken was unpleasantly rubbery-feeling, maybe from something in the salty marinade. There were notes of Kikkoman, and the onions were sharp.  For $7, you could probably find a better burrito on State St., though at bar time less so.

JM's nachos started out kind of dry and unpleasantly separate.  About a third of the way in, everything fused and the meal was saved.  The chips were very cripsy, verging on tough, and salt salt SALT.  Indeed, it seems that Get Some Sodium Chloride would be a fitting name.  Perhaps they are looking to absorb liquids.

BurritoNachos

Their sauces were good and the guac was tasty, so there's a little bit of leaven in the loaf. Anyone who sauces their meat this much may have something to hide (for some reason, this feels like a double entendre). But San Diego burritos for grab and go? Why not?

Gerk's Junction

In a word: The star bar of Bristol.  

The specs: #00885   
2710 CR-V, Sun Prairie, 53590
Details at Yelp, Gerk's Junction on Urbanspoon

Latest Gerk's Junction news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM and Nichole ate the cheese curds and a soda.
The bill was $6, or $3/person, plus tip.
JM gave Gerk's Junction a D+; Nichole gave Gerk's Junction a D- (see our grading rubric).

Gerk's does its thing. It's near the hot night life, there's been meticulous attention paid to its decor, the swivel factor is high, and their menu is focussed.

Curds at Gerk's

These cheese curds were a little salty and by the end of the night, so were we.  Bristol is a long way from anything, but this crossroads feels more like our trip to Ashton than the gems of Roxbury or Paoli. Even people in Bristol could probably find better.


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