Henry's Sub and Ice Cream Shoppe

Henry's Sub & Ice Cream ShoppeIn a word: Who's zoo-ing who?

The specs: #00904  
702 S. Randall Ave. 53715 (inside Henry Vilas Zoo)

Latest Henry's Sub and Ice Cream Shoppe news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM and Nichole split the ham and cheese sandwich, a root beer float, and an ice cream cone (Moose Tracks).
The bill was about $12 plus tip.
JM gave Henry's Sub and Ice Cream Shoppe a B-; Nichole gave Henry's Sub and Ice Cream Shoppe a B (see our grading rubric).

Henry Vilas Zoo, writ large, is a gem.  Its cost ($0) and location (between Monroe St. and the Park St. medical complex) make it an easy stop for anyone with a few hours to burn, especially with tots in tow.

The Sub and Ice Cream Shoppe is, therefore, automatic.  The sandwiches are stangely a step above Sysco, but still, in some way, preprocessed. The bread is tasty but still had to  be baked in the Zoo kitchen. The Schoep's ice cream is is refreshing on a warm sunny day, like we were lucky to have, but the price is a little steeper than we'd pay for a pint of it at the corner grocery.

So come for the animals, but eat here only if you get so hungry you can't make it to Zuzu Cafe.

Hazelnut Cafe

Hazelnut CafeIn a word: Go nuts!

The specs: #00903   
10985 Division St., Blue Mounds, 53517
Details at Yelp, Hazelnut Cafe on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Hazelnut Cafe news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the French toast with a ginger ale and a chocolate chip cookie.
Keith ate the Grand Hazelnut breakfast (eggs, bacon, potatoes) with a latte and an almond croissant.
Leslie ate the pulled pork sandwich with a latte and an orange-and-clove morning bun.
Nichole ate the breakfast sandwich with a coffee and a cinnamon twist.
We also bought some granola and a coconut sweet to go.
The bill was $12ish/person, plus tip.
Nichole gave Hazelnut Cafe an A; Keith and JM gave Hazelnut Cafe an A-; Leslie gave Hazelnut Cafe a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Hazelnut Cafe is a real gem in Blue Mounds.  Soon every little town on the outskirts will have a gem like this, but Hazelnut with its Driftless orientation seems like worlds away from its ilk in the city nearby.

Keith and Leslie had sampled Hazelnut's bakery at the Mineral Point farmers market and could vouch for its quality and ability to travel.  Furthermore, the bakery is very consistent from market to bakery. Nichole and JM had taken in some pizza on a prior camping excursion and we all wanted to meet up here again.

French toastBreakfast sandwich
Pulled pork, bacon, eggsBreakfast potatoes

Leslie's pulled pork was a tad too vinegary and healthful-tasting (i.e., not fatty enough). The bun was ample if even a little too big, and the whole sandwich was little bit of a letdown given how good everything else tends to be.

Keith's "Grand Hazelnut" breakfast was well prepared just the way he liked it.  The potatoes were especially noteworthy given that they were a cross between regular hash browns and shoestring potatoes.  The bacon was thick and tasty, though it was over cooked for JM's preference (we know that is in the eye of the beholder).

Nichole's homemade English muffin sandwich was really the star of the meal.  It came with a side of bitter greens coated in a thin patina of vinegar and oil dressing. On the sandwich, the egg supported a delicious slice of melty white cheddar cheese from Farmer John. It really achieved sandwich fusion for a better-than-the-sum-of-its-parts whole.

JM's french toast, though a little light for $9, was four pieces of nicely eggy bread that sopped up all the syrup. The butter was uncommonly good.  Of course, that left room for dessert which we all sampled.

Leslie gets an almond croissant whenever possible, and while this time it was slightly below average, the average is above excellent. It really is a thing of beauty: more raised than flaky, and loaded with almonds. JM got a cookie that was good enough for him, which is to say, really good.  The morning bun was an orange and clove affair that walked the line nicely between novelty and tradition. The cinnamon twist was a nice baseline and great use of some extra croissant dough.

Cinnamon twist

The service can be wildly inconsistent and the space is weirdly shaped for 'serious' eats.  But the Kickapoo coffee has pretty good flavor (even if the milk didn't foam up quite enough), and we've never had a bad item from the place.  Plus, it is about a half mile off the Military Ridge bike path, which makes it an ideal destination for brunch for bikers looking to refuel at the mid point before turning home.

Haveli

HaveliIn a word: Get their goat and they won't get yours.

The specs: #00902  
5957 McKee Rd., Fitchburg 53719
Details at Yelp, Haveli on Urbanspoon

Latest Haveli news and reviews at del.icio.us

Beth, Chuck, JM, John, Kami, Kim, Nichole, Stephanie, and Steve ate the lunch buffet.
The bill was $9/person plus beverage and tip.
Chuck and Nichole gave Haveli an A-; JM, John and Kami gave Haveli a B+; Stephanie and Steve gave Haveli a B; Beth and Kim gave Haveli a B-; plus some bonus As for cleanliness and service (see our grading rubric).

Haveli turned out to be a solid choice for an office lunch. Buffets generally have a logistical advantage for this type of outing in speed and ease of settling up the bill, but Haveli also had the advantage of a clean, bright atmosphere and great service. Our group ran the gamut from fans of Indian food to first-timers, and included a gluten-free diner. That everybody surveyed gave an above-average grade speaks louder than most of our alphabetical write-ups, which are inherently small in scope. So we’re glad we got to enjoy this meal with a happy crowd.

On the buffet, there was green salad, which was nice with cucumber sauce as dressing, but otherwise average verging on "nothing to write home (or even on the internet) about." The naan, while warm and plentiful, was also about the middle of the pack and also came in onion flavor. Sadly there were no papadams.

Lunch started to get interesting with soup: a tomato soup had a rich and robust flavor without the apparent aid of dairy products (although shortly before our arrival someone had spllied a serving on the floor; it was gone before our second passes). Some deep fried mushrooms led the pack among a wide variety of vegetable sides. As with most Indian buffets, the food really benefitted from liberal sampling of the various relishes, chutneys and sauces available.
 
The goat curry was definitely the star of lunch, as reportered. Or, as Steve put it, “No kidding, the goat was really good!” It was like beef stew’s smarter, more nimble cousin - fork-tender meat in delectable sauce, with the occasional bone that was worth navigating around for the boost it gave to the flavor.

The chicken tikka masala was a hit, though a bit runny - but one legend has it CTM owes its very existence to a truck driver’s wish for a lot of gravy on his meat, so no ding there. Plus it tasted good over rice. For the more sauce-averse, the tandoori chicken was a good option.

Speaking of rice, several folks praised the egg rice, one preparation of basmati loaded with diced vegetables and bits of fried egg.

For sweets, there were kheer (which John was a big salesman of), honey-heavy gajar halwa, and mango ice cream that got high marks from everyone who tried it.

Haveli re-set the record at a fifth visit to one address, but they have smartly subdivided the formerly-far-too-roomy-to-make-the-rent Fitch's location and now occupy merely the front area.  So while this palace puts on a good show, it is not as palatial as it could have been and is probably more likely to last because of it.

Harvest Grains

In a word: Best of the Batch.

The specs: #00901  
1308 W. Dayton St., 53715
Details at Yelp, Harvest Grains on Urbanspoon
Official web site

Latest Harvest Grains news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the mac and cheese with a fountain drink.
Nichole ate the turkey BLT with red potatoes.
The bill was $15, or $7.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Harvest Grains a B; Nichole gave Harvest Grains a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Harvest Grains, located in a crowded-and-quiet-finals-week Union South, has the highest quality food of any of the places in that building we've tried.  The bread is almost all from Batch Bakehouse; the menu boasts straight up four salads, each distinct, but well assembled in the abstract.

The counter service is that: UW counter service. Doe-eyed and a little too earnest college students try to answer questions and correctly ring up the orders. Everything in our order came out just fine.

While the turkey on Nichole's sandwich was, at best, food service quality, everything clocked in at OK or better.  There were plenty of greens on this sandwich and that made for a pleasant and satisfying crunch under the toasted bread.  Nichole would try almost any sandwich on the board from the peanut butter-banana through the hummus and up to the faux banh mi.  Especially since the red potatoes that accompanied the meal were nice.

Harvest Grains

The smoked paprika in JM's mac & cheese made it more like a Big Mac & cheese without the hamburger, obviously.  The portion was decent as well, serving to fill him up.  JM is a little concerned about fountain drinks that are behind the counter as those tend to lead to refill upcharge, which he was too shy to ask about.

Nichole would likely pick Harvest Grains at Union South, while JM would waffle between here and the Sett.  For students looking for a thoughtful alternative to Subway, it is probably a blessing in plain sight.

Harley Blue

Harley BlueIn a word: Hardly.

The specs: #00900 
2961 Main St., Blue Mounds 53517
Details at Yelp, Harley Blue on Urbanspoon

Latest Harley Blue news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the bacon cheeseburger with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the Reuben.
We split an appetizer sampler. The bill was $21, or $10ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Harley Blue a C+; Nichole gave Harley Blue a C (see our grading rubric).

Bacon cheeseburgerOn the road again, this time in Blue Mounds, there is a little bar called Harley Blue. It is a "biker" bar, though in the second decade of the 21st century, that terminology implies little. It is biker friendly and veteran friendly, which is certainly understandable.

This lunchtide, though, the waitress/cook/bartender indicated that they had been slammed, which seemed to come from the only tables in the place being occupied by six folks.

Onto the food. The burger was handmade and served on a toasted, buttered bun.  For $5, it was neither especially large nor well-topped, coming with just cheese and bacon. Without fries, the sandwich felt a little lonely. 

ReubenSampler #3: o-rings, curds & mozz sticks

The Reuben was as good as you'd expect to find in a Sconnie bar such as this. Decent corned beef with the right moisture ratio served atop a marble rye.

The app sampler was OK and the mozzarella sticks reminded us how the rest of the country has to live without cheese curds. We're lucky in Wisconsin.

Harley Blue is an average Wisconsin tavern, but just doesn't suggest itself very highly among places to go in Blue Mounds.  But your bike mileage may vary.

PS - May 10, 2014 was the 10th anniversary of Madison A to Z and we spent it at spot #900.

Hardee's

In a word: Carl's Sr.

The specs: #00899  
3311 Parmenter St., Middleton 53562
Details at Yelp, Hardee's on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Hardee's news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the roast beef and fries.
Nichole ate the turkey burger with onion rings.
The bill was about $10, or $5/person, plus tip.
JM gave Hardee's a C+; Nichole gave Hardee's a D+ (see our grading rubric).

When nerdoms were handed out, JM started with geography. All manner of maps pleased his eyes and led him into strange waters.  For starters, he had the state capitals memorized prior to Kindergarten.  Maps, too, led him to name telephone poles, appreciate golf (look! a little map of the holes!) and develop a love of road trips from an early age.

His heart palpitated during a Southern road trip when he discovered a state's 'blue signs' (i.e., the signs at an exit that tell you what gas, food and lodging are at the exit).  That road trip was his first taste of data collection as he counted all of the businesses' frequencies from exit to exit.  When he got home, he nearly wrote to the DOT to have them consider adding these signs to Wisconsin exits.  They went up anyway. 

Fast food restaurants also held fascination for the boy as there were none in his hometown.  Certainly he had regular access to one of the finest roadside diners in the state, if not the region, but there was no McDonald's in 1980s Osseo, and weirder still there was no Hardee's.

Hardee's during the 80s felt like a competitor with Arby's.  They were the place that sold really good roast beef sandwiches with great BBQ sauce.  Sure they had burgers, but when JM needed California Raisins paraphernalia, a roast beef and drink would get him a figurine as well.

And between Eau Claire and the Dells every single exit that had fast food, had a Hardee's.

So what happened?

Hardee's hit hard times during the 1990s. (JM moved to Hudson at the same time but is hardly to blame... Hudson had a Hardee's, too.) By the end of the decade, they had sold off many locations and eventually sold the whole shebang to Carl's Jr.  Upon moving to Madison for his first real job, JM's last breakfast with his move in companions (Nichole, parents, BFF) was at the Hardee's on Fish Hatch.  It closed within three months.

It is hard to find many Hardee's these days.  Middleton has the one we ate at, while there's also one at East Towne.  Those blue signs between here and Eau Claire only offer a few Hardee's and even the one that first broke through in Osseo and opened that exit up to McDonalds is greatly diminished.  Hardee's shtick of giant burger sandwiches doesn't work when you can just go to Culver's (80s Hardee's true spiritual descendants).

Enough gauze wrapped childhood nostalgia; should you go to Hardee's today?  Enh, not really. JM got the roast beef for old times sake and Arby's product is better and you can get it with cheddar.  Nichole's turkey burger was fine, almost classy for fast food, topped with trimmed lettuce leaf and swaddled in white paper.

Hardee's

Are we the only ones who find the Hardee's star a little sinister? (Norm MacDonald notwithstanding.)

Salute to the Mustard Winners, May 3 & 4

This weekend, May 3 and 4 from 10 to 5, stop by the National Mustard Museum in Middleton and taste the 2014 World-Wide Mustard Competition Medal Winners. This is the good stuff, Maynard!

The grand champion is Bornier Dijon, a classic recipe from a historical brand. Inglehoffer's new Sriracha mustard is a lightbulb moment, and it's nice to see our state fruit represented in Beaver Cranberry mustard. Some other notables to taste are the perennially delicious Three Monkeys sweet-hot and Earth & Vine Tangerine Habañero. All three Exotic category medal winners deserve a spot in the fridge: Gourmet du Village Maple Balsamic Mustard for a fancy Monte Cristo sandwich; Robert Rothschild Sesame Honey Mustard to balance a classic hot on, say, egg rolls; and HerbnZest Caramelized Apple Champagne Mustard for the cheese board.

It's a great weekend to visit the Museum. Stop at Hubbard for pie or Sofra for brunch, and you've got a fun Middleton day out.

Happy Grill

Happy GrillIn a word: Feels like a room without a roof, and not in a good way.

The specs: #00898   
2810 E. Washington, 53704
Details at Yelp, Happy Grill on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Google+

Latest Happy Grill news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the enchiladas verdes.
Nichole ate the hurarache with tilapia. 
The bill was $18, or $9/person, plus tip.
JM gave Happy Grill a C-; Nichole gave Happy Grill a D+ (see our grading rubric).

Happy Grill huaracheThere must be some configuration of Mexican buffet that would work.  Most dishes come with a side of beans and rice.  Red sauce, green sauce, tomato and corn salsas in abundance.  Maybe a taco bar concept or a Chipotle style build-your-own burrito place with a worker to dispense the meat. 

Happy Grill is not that place. The place was nigh deserted at dinner time and we saw only one couple brave the heat trays to actually partake of the $11 buffet. Our visit made it seem like the name "Happy Grill" was an example of litotes.

The meals we got were mostly okay, but far on the bland side of Mexican. The huarache made a heavy footprint and the fish was scant, but the other toppings (lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and shredded cheese) were good, especially the really nice avocado on top. JM's enchiladas were small and almost immediately forgotten after consumption; the green sauce was neither spicy nor tasty.  The rice and beans were both a little under temperature but otherwise fine, despite the fact that he picked at them rather than eating them. 

Happy Grill enchiladas

There was also a sign taped up by the cash register offering to sell the whole business. So if you know anybody...

Hanson's

Hanson'sIn a word: Great in Dane.

The specs: #00897   
115 E. Main St., Dane 53529
Details at Yelp, Hanson's on Urbanspoon
Facebook

JM ate the McHanson basket with a Specher root beer on tap.
Nichole ate the BLT basket with a jalapeño egg and some decaf.

They split an order of cheese curds.
The bill was $20, or $10/person, plus tip.
JM gave Hanson's an A; Nichole gave Hanson's an A- (see our grading rubric).

Truth be told, we went into Hanson's fully expecting the worst.  The drive to Dane took longer than necessary and even though spring was in full swing, there was the usual dread of a rural Sconnie bar with limited food and more swivel than nibbles (cf: Gerk's Junction).

We were so wrong on every account.  The waitress indicated that Hanson's was up for sale. So run, don't walk to this gem before it closes.

When we got the menus, we were blown away.  First off, the breadth was something to behold.  Sure there were burgers, and even cowboy and McDonald's iterations thereof, but there were also ribeye steak sandwiches, shrimp by the count, Reubens and so much more.  Furthermore, some prankster has set the prices all really low.  The burgers clocked in starting at $5 and the highest couldn't get to be more than $7.50 with only a $1 upcharge to a basket. Baskets include fries or chips, natch, but also cole slaw or three bean salad.

CurdsFor drinks, we got a Sprecher and a decaf.  The decaf was freshly brewed and Nichole did her best to finish the pot. JM was savoring his root beer from the tap slowly... down to just a few mouthsful when the waitress appeared to tell him that one refill came on the house. Tap root beer with a free refill. How awesome.

Our curd basket was reasonable (again only $4) and was made with good stuff.  The order was a good size though as so much food was to follow and the curds were white, which means that they were not from a certain large scale supplier. They were accompanied by a 6-pack of sauces - peppery Ranch, bitter Bourbon, creamy Tabasco Boom Boom, smoky BBQ, mustard, and ketchup.

Hanson's coffee mug and jalapeno pickled egg

Nichole snagged a jalapeño hard boiled egg, which was delicious and made her lips burn. It also rounded out the BLT meal. This sandwich was loaded with thick-cut bacon, fresh iceberg lettuce and a decent tomato on wheat toast. The three bean salad was the classic sweet and sour, kidney/wax/green medley, in a little plastic cup. JM's burger (the McHanson with Thousand Island dressing) tasted better than a comparable fast food burger would have.

BurgerBLT

We hear that the breakfasts on weekends are not to be missed and with these prices and food volume, we would not be surprised.  It is just a shame that this little gem had escaped everyone's notice for so long.

Edible Book Festival 2014

On April 10, the Edible Book Festival took over Room 116 at Memorial Library, attracting over 200 visitors and viewers of many creative, clever entries. The Libraries News & Events article recapped the event. In case you didn't get to see it this year, here are some more pictures - useful for inspiration for next year, too!

Deep End of the Ocean by Nancy McClements was some of the prettiest Jell-O ever.

The Deep End of the Ocean by Nancy McClements

In the Cut was a bologna flip-book like we've never seen, by Jeannine Shinoda, the artist behind (m)eat.

In the Cut by Jeannine Shinoda

Also fantastically clever was the Reference Department's Chicago Manual of Style.

Chicago Manual of Style by Memorial Reference Department

Kids' books inspired many entries, including the towering Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! by Stephanie Unertl.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! by Stephanie Unertl

Stinky Cheese Man by Team ILL was a multi-sensory experience; Charlotte's Web by Willow, Autumn and Nola Walker was gorgeous.

Stinky Cheese Man by Team ILLCharlotte's Web by Willow, Autumn and Nola Walker

A Day no Pigs Would Die by Erin Anthony and A Game of Scones by Deb & Hannah Nies elicited many an LOL.

A Day no Pigs Would Die by Erin AnthonyA Game of Scones by Deb & Hannah Nies

Even more pictures are on Flickr. Enjoy!


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