Main Moon

In a word: Tranquility base.

The specs: #00958   
4850 Larson Beach Rd., McFarland 53558
Details at Yelp, Click to add a blog post for Main Moon Chinese Restaurant on Zomato
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Main Moon news and reviews at del.icio.us

Beth, JM, John Sams, Kami, Kim, Nichole, Stephanie, and Zach ate at the buffet and each had a can of soda.
The bill was $6.50/person, plus tip.
Kami gave Main Moon an A; Beth, JM, John Sams, and Stephanie gave Main Moon a B+; Nichole and Zach gave Main Moon a B (see our grading rubric).

Buffet plate

JM's office took him out for lunch at Main Moon in McFarland, which was really nice, since it had an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for $6.50 including a drink.  Since everyone had the buffet, we thought we'd give you their words.

Kami: Main Moon Chinese is easily found in McFarland in the strip mall next to the grocery store. The restaurant is clean, orderly and the buffet was hot and plenty of options. The staff kept restocking it as we served up. I typically go for the Sweet and Sour Chicken and theirs was good. Chicken was quality white meat, good breading and the Fried rice was very good and tasty. I would rate this restaurant with an A, good food, clean and a good lunch price of $6.50. No Crab Rangoons in the buffet otherwise I would give a + with that A.

John Sams: It was quick, the kitchen was pretty decent at keeping up, and none of the food was bad, even if it wasn't usually great either. But I love pot-stickers and egg rolls in the buffet, and the value was pretty great!

Kim: The location was clean and tidy, including the restroom. Most patrons were courteous and putting dishes into tubs that were placed out. Overall the food was better than expected. Great price for a luncheon buffet that included a beverage as well. Good selection of choices on the buffet. Egg drop soup was good in color and consistency along with a better than average flavor to others. Main dish options enjoyed were Fried Rice, Cashew Chicken and shrimp, Broccoli and chicken, and sweet and sour chicken. For me the fried scallop would be one thing that I did not care for.

Zach: I would give Main Moon a solid B. The food was better than expected, especially for the budget conscious patron. $6.50 with a free soda, you can't beat that price for a buffet! Also, the staff was courteous and speedy to replace food that was out.

Beth: The restaurant was clean. The buffet area was clean. They filled empty items quickly. The food was hot. They used small plates which was a good idea because it saved on people wasting food. I had broccoli and chicken, general tso's chicken, pork egg roll. The broccoli was cooked perfect. The flavor of the sauce in the broccoli and chicken was very tasty. The general tso's chicken was good. The chicken wasn't chewy as sometimes nuggets are. Flavor on chicken was good. The Pork egg roll was so-so. It was a little cold by time I ate it so that might have something to do with it. It was a little chewy. 

Stephanie: Cheap (inexpensive) and good food; almost instantly eating once we walked in the door - after we figured out the table/chair situation. Had the sweet and sour chicken, white rice, fried rice, fried donuts, general tso's chicken, chicken and broccoli, "three ingredient" dish, and lo mein noodles. I meant to go back to try the egg roll, but the time I went back, they were out, but probably for only about 30 seconds, until they brought out more. Everything was better than expected. Temperature-wise: all good - Fresh even. Nothing appeared to have sat out for too long. Nothing was too spicy for my immature palate. I enjoyed everything. Only complaint was the white rice which was either slightly over-done or under-done (just a bit sticky/chewy/clumpy), but still edible. Good diet coke can. And finished off the meal with a fortune cookie, which I did not eat.

All in all, Main Moon is pretty decent Chinese cuisine with an affordable lunch buffet, which makes it worth it.  No one was disappointed and certainly no one left hungry.

Maharana

In a word: Pay attention to the name, because this one is good, too.

The specs: #00957   
1707 Thierer Rd., 53704
Details at Yelp, Click to add a blog post for Maharana on Zomato
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Maharana news and reviews at del.icio.us

We both had the buffet, plus a chai and a lemonade.
The bill was $30, or $15/person, plus tip.
JM gave Maharana a B+; Nichole gave Maharana an A- (see our grading rubric).

Maharana is located on the far east side, where Maharaja used to be. Madison has some really good Indian restaurants with the lunch buffet/dinner menu thing.  Fortunately, Maharana falls right into line with the rest, providing solid takes on standard foods and a few interesting variations.

The lunch buffet offered upwards of 20 warm dishes, including a tender goat curry and favorites like palak paneer, tandoori chicken and chicken tikka masala. Biryani and plain basmati rice were there, plus several noodle dishes. Cashews were common, as were yogurt and cream based sauces, which made for many hearty options. There was also a standard-plus salad bar and the regular relishes.

One fun unique item was the pani poori - puffed shells of probably chickpea batter, set out with fillings and a watery dressing. While delicious, the logistics of assembling one while standing at the buffet would have been tricky. We probably could have brought a plate of fixin's back to the table to play with. Maybe next time. Also interesting and tasty was a rich, sweet coconut soup and a hot plate of fried fish.  It smelled divine, though neither of us had any.

A plate of naan was on our table by the time we returned with our lunches, and it was fresh and hot with a light brush of butter. We'd snagged samosas, which were delightfully salty and crisp and also substantial. 

Buffet plate

Maharana enters a pretty crowded market but has the good fortune to be on a side of town with not a ton of Indian food, so it could make a good entry into the rotation for locals.

Magic Wok

In a word: Planets align so rare.

The specs: #00956

2044 Atwood Ave., Madison, WI 53704

Details at Yelp, Click to add a blog post for Magic Wok on Zomato
Official web site/sites?

Latest Magic Wok news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the chicken mushroom.
Nichole ate the ma po tofu.
We split some crab rangoon.
The bill was $24, or $12/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave Magic Wok a B (see our grading rubric).

Magic Wok replaced Wong's Garden on Atwood in January 2014. Not a super lot has changed inside, as far as we could tell from our one previous visit. The food was pretty good - we'd go back for another game of Spot-the-Difference - which, as we go around the Wheel again, gets more and more common.

We soaked in the atmosphere as we waited, briefly, for our order to come up. The chairs and tables seemed to be the same, right down to the Italian-themed vinyl tablecloths. Adapting to the neighborhood's preferences, Magic Wok had posted handwritten signs all around advertising that they now had brown rice and delivery. The portly wooden Buddha statue still stood by the door, wearing just a loincloth and a beaded garland around his neck, prompting JM to blurt out (thankfully quietly) "We don't need to ask him where he got the beads."

Magic Wok carryout

So anyway. We got our order and went out to eat part of it while leaning against the car (when coming up with the day's itinerary, Nichole had misjudged how much could be packed into the stream of the evening). We snarfed the rangoon while they were still hot, crispy, and light - very good - and had a few forkfuls of each entree. The ma po tofu had a few more tough bits of red pepper than would have been ideal, but the tofu was silky and the flavor decent. The chicken mushroom was pretty good and the sauce was better than average, but the whole didn't quite come together as well as it should have.

Magic Wok feels like serviceable take-out and dine-in.  Madison stills wants for a great Chinese restaurant; Imperial Garden being the odds on favorite still. Magic Wok may be a step above Chang Jiang, but that's about it.

Madison Sweets

In a word: Sweet cuppin' cakes.

The specs: #00955   
511 State St., 53703
Details at Yelp, Click to add a blog post for Madison Sweets on Zomato
Official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Madison Sweets news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the peanut butter cupcake.
Nichole ate the - can't even remember which cupcake.
The bill was $5, or $2.50/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Madison Sweets an A- (see our grading rubric).

Madison Sweets has been open for a few years on State Street. They sell various kinds of popcorn and caramel corn, chocolate truffles and other confections, and, of course, cupcakes. We've never tried the non-cupcake fare because the cupcakes themselves look like the best things in the store, and in most cases are pretty darn good.

In the cupcake firmament of this city, we'd place Madison Sweets up high. More modest than Gigi's sugar mountains, more subdued than Cupcakes-a-Go-Go's mod podges, yet more decadent than Bloom's comfy treats, Madison Sweet's cupcakes are comparable to Daisy's in flavor range, price, and presentation. There are often many chocolate choices (a huge plus in our book - save the fruit flavors for pie, cake is best with earthier tastes that go with nuts, caramel and salt, and many of Madison Sweet's best work on those lines). Many cupcakes have a core of cookie dough or a whipped filling that complements the cake and frosting. Some can get messy, though three or four bites is as big as they get so it's not too bad.

Here's the thing, though: don't try to bring them home on a bike.

Cupcakes

Madison Labor Temple Bar

In a word: When your local is Local 139.

The specs: #00954   
1602 S Park St #106, 53715
Details at Facebook, Yelp, Click to add a blog post for Madison Labor Temple Lounge on Zomato

Latest Madison Labor Temple Bar news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the fish sandwich.
Nichole ate the cheeseburger.
We split an order of onion rings. The bill was $15, or $7.50/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave the Madison Labor Temple bar a C (see our grading rubric).

There's a little bar and grill inside the Madison Labor Temple that is open after work. We were there on Euchre night and the tables along the windows were filled with foursomes trading bowers [sic] and calling trump.

Burger and pickles

Nichole got a Knoche's cheeseburger, which was pretty good. JM's fish sandwich was basically two fish sticks with some tartar sauce served on a bun. It was fine, too. The onion rings ended up being divisive. Nichole was in favor of this thin, crispy execution, whereas JM thought they were short on onion.

Fish sandwich and onion rings

Many small-town Wisconsin bars, and even Bennett's, project a certain right-wing air. The Labor Temple is going for the opposite, but if the posters on the wall were removed, the differences would be hard to spot. It's a comfortable place for a square meal.

Mad City Frites

In a word: A side dish takes center stage.

The specs: #00953   
320 State St., Madison 53703
Details at Yelp, Click to add a blog post for Mad City Frites on Zomato
Official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Mad City Frites news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM, Miranda, Nichole, Phil and the kids ate the frites with all the sauces. JM and Nichole also tried the poutine.
The bill was about $5/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave Mad City Frites a B (see our grading rubric).

So Mad City Frites serves one thing really well: thick-cut potato fries with an array of creative sauces. They have custom-made tables and tableware to accommodate the paper cones that establish this frites shop as an earnest aspirant to Belgian-style snacking perfection.

Frites

We tried all 13 sauces on offer at our visit, plus the 'chup, yellow mustard, HP sauce and malt vinegar.  Here are our insights on MCF's prepared sauces:

Madtown Mango: The mango hangs way back in the mix and the garlic comes through more strongly than it should.

Game Day Garlic: This is fine, though a little drab.

Olin Park Parm: This ended up pleasing few, since the cheese flavor is pretty subdued.

Campus Queso: This is pretty nice. It is the only sauce that is served hot.

Bascom Hill BBQ: A favorite of the table.  BBQ sauce rarely disappoints, and this one balanced sweet and smokey well.

Isthmus Honey Mustard: Another winner.  Sweet with a nice mustardy finish. Definitely top-tier.

Sconnie Sriracha: As with all of MCF's aioli/mayo-based sauces, this one loses a fair amount of the flavor because of the oil in the base. It did have a little heat, though.

Big 10 Buffalo: Tabasco-y and a mite hotter than the prior.  Still, heat enthusiasts will be disappointed.

Mad Sauce: This was pretty good. A nice peppy take on sweet and sour.

Camp Randall Ranch: JM still doesn't understand the obsession some people have for ranch dressing. This is a classic take on it, if a little watery.

Grateful Red Pepper Aioli: Not much there there.

Wunsch's Wasabi Ginger: This tasted like a cross between a sushi plate and Dijonnaise.  There was little horseradish nose.

Picnic Park Pesto: A decent pesto sauce, in truth. Worked better than expected on frites.

The frites themselves were thick, seasoned, fluffy as promised: squishy greasy goodness.

JM and Nichole also tried the poutine, fries topped with roast beef gravy and fresh white cheese curds, but honestly the fries with sauces were better - simpler, and less insanely filling.

Poutine

We actually like one-menu-item places (better than one-word-name places, usually) and, having tried all the sauces, we've whittled the list back to what we would get again if we go.  If our descriptions don't go far enough, we recommend bringing some extra friends and trying the menu so that next time you'll know just which half to a third you should order next time.

MacTaggart's Market & Deli

In a word: Diamond in the rough.

The specs: #00952  
230 W Lakelawn Pl., 53703
Details at Yelp, Mac Taggarts Market on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest MacTaggart's Market & Deli news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the ham & cheese.
Nichole ate the reuben.
The bill was about $15, or $7ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave MacTaggart's Market & Deli a B+; Nichole gave MacTaggart's Market & Deli an A- (see our grading rubric).

In the bowels of one of those student apartment buildings tucked in along fraternity row (where Lakelawn Pl. runs twixt Langdon and Lake Mendota) sits a wee convenience mart a la Corner Store. Tiny, and crammed full of campus essentials (ramen, red Solo cups, Bud Light, toothpaste), MacTaggarts also has a full service deli counter serving Boar's Head meats. It's like the lowest-rent Artamos possible, plus free popcorn.

MacTaggart's

Our sandwiches were, in fact, really good. They were prepared exactly to spec with fantastic ingredients.  There's no place to nosh inside unless you want to sit on undercleaned stairs, overlooking everything. 

Sandwiches

So if you find yourself seeking a campus/downtown sandwich, MacTaggart's is off the beaten path and will provide you with a far better story than Subway. Also, their sandwiches taste better than Subway's.

Macs

In a word: Artisanal Kraft.

The specs: #00951  
2804 Prairie Lakes Dr. 106, Sun Prairie 53590
Details at Yelp, Macs on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Macs news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the Big Memphis with a fountain drink.
Nichole ate the small chipotle with a wedge salad and a fountain drink.
The bill was $28, or $14/person, plus tip.
JM gave Macs an A-; Nichole gave Macs a B (see our grading rubric).

When every other kid in elementary school polled said their favorite food was pizza (and it really felt like this was true), JM stood firm.  It was macaroni & cheese. And while Nichole loves it as well, she is not "in love" with it quite as much as JM. Which leads us to MACS, which is a acronym for Macaroni and Cheese Shop. 

On offer are 12 different varieties of the iconic dish with various meats and spices thrown in to offer something for nearly every eater.  They come in two sizes: the small (or: probably about a normal serving and if anything a little big) and the large (carb bomb). Each is served with a couple pieces of bread and cheese and cheese and cheese. There are also a handful of wrap options available.

Big Memphis

JM's Memphis was wonderful, with tender meat and a zingy sauce without straying too far into heat for heats sake.  The cheese that comes with dishes is pretty mild.  This is probably because the sauces and meats are meant to be the stars of the show and the mac & cheese serves as a canvas.  But if you're specializing in it, maybe you should go the extra mile and make the cheese a little sharper and flavorful and less on the non-descript white end. That said, it was a lot of food.

Small chipotle

Wedge saladNichole's chipotle mac was also spicy but pretty good. The sauce was creamy and the chicken really shone through. The salad, however, is easily worth avoiding. It ended up as a bitter and pale experience caused by bitter and pale greens.

The service is great and, despite the high price tag, MACS would be  a good place to take a couple of children for a "nice" bowl of mac & cheese.  The little frying pans that they are served in offers an opportunity to reflect on the food freshness and cooking technique, while also being cool like Pizza Hut personal pans were cool back when JM had to fight against the tide.

It should be no surprise, then, that MACS is kind of a reverse Ian's: taking mac & cheese and treating it like pizza. 8-year-old JM would have certainly approved.

M-N-M Coffeehouse

In a word: Mellow and middle-of-the-road.

The specs: #00950   
509 West Main St., Waunakee 53597
Details at Yelp, M&M Coffee House on Urbanspoon
Official web site

Latest M-N-M Coffeehouse news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the ham and cheese croissant sandwich.
Nichole ate a scrambler.
The bill was $18, or $9/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave M-N-M Coffeehouse a B+ (see our grading rubric).

M-N-M Coffeehouse, just off one of the two main intersections in Waunakee, has comfy couches, a large central fireplace, meeting rooms, and Colectivo coffee -  many desirable traits in a coffee shop. It's near the post office and Doughboys, and we'd go back if we were nearby.

They serve a small menu of hot breakfast and lunch items. We went all out, partly because none of the muffins and scones in the bakery case really jumped out at us.

JM's ham & cheese (we know, we know) croissant was prepared with cheddar and green peppers and some nice lettuce. It did have a whole lotta ham, and the croissant was flaky, but somehow it just failed to be greater than the sum of its parts. It may be that it was served sans condiments which can make or break a sandwich.

Breakfast croissant

Nichole got a scrambler with broccoli, tomato, cheese, bacon, sausage, green pepper, onion, and spinach laid on top - the works. It was very good, and served with fresh bread and butter. The cappuccino was just OK - mostly because she's picky, but paper cups are always a minus, especially for a dine-in order. 

Breakfast scrambler

M-N-M's food will likely neither melt in your mouth nor your hand. But large windows and a relaxed atmosphere are as welcome in Waunakee as anywhere. So while it ain't Firefly, it ain't bad.

Edible Book Festival 2015

The Edible Book Festival is coming to Memorial Library on April 13! Come see and vote for your favorites - and if so inclined, make your own edible book! The entry deadline is Friday, April 10. More details are on the event's website.

You can check out our reports of previous years here - 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 - and below, enjoy a brief history of the event that we wrote up for our book, but that sadly just didn't fit.

The Edible Book Festival is a free public event put on each April by UW-Madison Memorial Library in celebration of National Library Week and the International Edible Book Festival.

The Edible Book Festival first came to UW-Madison in 2006 for the centennial celebration of the University's School of Library & Information Studies. Two years later, Memorial Humanities & Social Sciences Library began hosting the event. Anyone can submit an entry, and past edible books have been made by a diverse assembly of community members, organizations, and University faculty, staff and students. The public is encouraged to attend and vote for their favorite entries. Figures from the Madison food community are also invited as guest judges to award prizes in categories such as "Most creative use of ingredients," "Best entry based on a children's/teen book," and “Funniest/punniest.”

Entries celebrate some aspect of books and reading. Some interpret the plot, characters, settings or themes from books in ingenious ways with fruits and vegetables, bread, pretzels, cookies, and candy. Others take the concept literally, crafting book-like objects from cake (a common format) or even using phyllo dough, matzoh, or custom-made bologna as "pages." Even ebook readers have appeared in recent years. Humor is often a part of the best entries, from the highbrow to groan-inducing wordplay.

The history of the "edible book" festival goes back to Thanksgiving 1999, when librarian Judith A. Hoffberg was at a dinner with some artists. Their common interest in book art fired their imaginations, and they started talking about making books out of real food. The themes of eating words, playing with food, and sharing stories inspired the idea of a loosely-organized festival, which grew into an international event. Edible books have been celebrated annually around April 1st since 2000; the date is both a wink at April Fool's Day and a nod to French gastronome and wit Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Béatrice Coron, a cut paper artist, was instrumental in creating an online home for sharing in the "ephemeral global banquet." Today edible books are created in dozens of countries and shared on the Books2Eat website and Facebook page.

NEWS

Madison Food coverOur book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is out. Updates here.

And we're doing Bike the Barns again with Team Madison A to Z - more info, or pledge here. Thank you!


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