Sweet Tea Cakes

In a word: Good gosh almighty.

The specs: #01079 
7414 Mineral Point Rd., 53717
Details at Yelp, official web site

Latest Sweet Tea Cakes news and reviews

JM and Nichole ate six mini cupcakes.
The bill was $, or $/person, plus tip.
JM gave Sweet Tea Cakes a B; Nichole gave Sweet Tea Cakes an A- (see our grading rubric).

Sweet Tea Cakes is tucked into a strip mall near La Baguette.  It is pricey in a Cupcakes A-Go-Go sort of way, but looks like it could do a real good wedding cake or other fancy-occasion baked good.

The store case (spare with options the day JM stopped by) included mostly cupcakes and cake pops as the ready to order foods. He picked up a set of six small cupcakes that comprised the 'chocolate package' (good choice, sir): two each of Oreo, mint, and peanut butter.

Cupcakes

We consumed the cakes within the weekend and found that they were all pretty good, but seemed like they should be under and not over a dollar a bite. We did not, in fact, pair them with tea, which may have been our downfall.  The chocolate was good and cakes moist. Ranking them: Peanut Butter, Oreo, Mint. The mint was menth-y, not our favorite flav.

We wouldn't rush back, but then, we rarely need cakes this fancy.

Sweet Home Wisconsin

In a word: Once you figure it out, it rocks.

The specs: #01078
910 Regent St., 53715
Details at Yelp, Facebook

Latest Sweet Home Wisconsin news and reviews

JM ate the BBQ bacon burger with fries.
Nichole ate the tomato ginger soup, Chicago dog with curds, and a coffee.
The bill was $31, or $15ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Sweet Home Wisconsin an A-; Nichole gave Sweet Home Wisconsin a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Before we start on the food or the history or whatnot, let's start with the name.  Sweet Home Wisconsin (and this becomes evident within 10 seconds of entering the place) is trying to tie into the classic late blues/early rock tune by Robert John (via Magic Sam via the Blues Brothers) called Sweet Home Chicago.  This is a little weird for a couple of reasons.  One: Sweet Home Wisconsin is trying to be a twist on the Old Fashioned model -- namely the genre of Sconnie dishes done right.  Their twist is that there's a little bit of Chicago on the menu.  [While the band Chicago may spring to mind here, and SHW does use an awful pop music framing structures, there is no reference to '25 or 6 to 4' all the way through to 'Look Away', et Cetera.] But this taste of Chicago just amps up the cognitive dissonance.  You can do the Old Fashioned thing and lean in to Wisconsin cuisine or the Fib's thing and lean in to the Illinois stuff.  But, Chicago dogs at Sweet Home Wisconsin.  All we were was confused for a minute.

Two: While Sweet Home Chicago may the first thing you think of, some might think rather of a different Sweet Home, namely Sweet Home Alabama.  See, Sweet Home Chicago is Sweet Home + CITY while Sweet Home Alabama is Sweet Home + STATE.  Some people may be thinking they're gonna get bratwurst change-ups with fried chicken and grits.  Perhaps you should call it Sweet Home Madison instead to ensure that the pop music you're appropriating lands firmly in the milieu you desire?

Also: A ton of Grateful Dead played during our meal. So much noodling, we thought it was a pasta place.

Now that this whole wandering is out of the way, we can get to the actual food: which, and we don't want to understate this, is really good.

Tomato ginger soup

Nichole sampled their ginger tomato soup and found it very fresh and bright.  The cheese curds, which, let's be honest, are good but are never going to top OSS curds, actually came very close to those pillowy delights. They were light and airy and came with a wide variety of sauce choices.

BBQ burger

JM's BBQ bacon burger was a perfect medium rare and the patty was clearly handmade.  His fries, like all fries, can come plain or with a rub in addition to a sauce.  Nichole got a perfectly made Chicago lacking only the relish that glows in the dark.  This dog did come with relish; it just did not seem to require a hazmat suit. Pretty good dog.

Chicago dog

This location on Regent next to the Greenbush Bar continues to confound with its lack of parking and never quite enough tables (which is only exacerbated now that they have an even fuller bar).  But the management is deeply rooted in this community as well as Madison's restaurant royalty, and the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and not in JM's pop music rants.

Swad

In a word: The subcontinent of Monona.

The specs: #01077  
6007 Monona Dr., Monona 53716
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Swad news and reviews

Griffin, Iona, JM, Miranda, and Nichole all ate at the buffet.
The bill was $13/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Swad an A-; Miranda and Griffin gave Swad a B; Iona gave Swad a C (see our grading rubric).

We had been told that Swad, Monona's contribution to the Indian buffet lunch market, was quite good.  We found it to be so, though there were a lot of things that could stand a revisit or revisioning, depending.

Swad

To start with, one of the nice things about Indian buffets is that our pescatarian friends can usually sample a wide range of the menu.  This was true here, but not a true as it could have been.  Firstly, there were a lot of chicken dishes.  Now, JM, he likes him some chicken, and CTM and the tandoori were very nice, but the presence of chicken (and a couple of goat items) took a lot of the buffet out. And then fish was not great, which led to even more concern from our youngest diner, who primarily gets fish when her family eats Indian.

Swad

The lentil and bean dishes, however, were pretty good and the kulfi was very rich.  Swad has a chaat table which was fun.  There were several desserts and a whole section of relishes, which leads to a combinatoric approach for some diners.

Swad is much bigger than its small entrance in the strip mall indicates, though parking can be an issue especially if La Rosita is having a special day.  Swad seems like a perfectly reasonable addition to the scene, but we wouldn't necessarily drive past Tandoori House, Mirch Masala, Swagat, Maharani, Amber, Dhaba or Minerva to eat there.  Which is just how spoiled we are.

Sushi Express

In a word: Fast, affordable, good (pick three).

The specs: #01076  
610 University Ave., 53715
Details at Yelp, official web site

Latest Sushi Express news and reviews

JM ate the beef short ribs.
Nichole ate the yellowfin and eel avocado rolls.
The bill was $22, or $11/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave Sushi Express a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Given Sushi Express's neighbor A8 China, we were concerned. A8 had proven just how much campus denizens are willing to compromise for their fast Asian cuisine (answer: a lot, but hey, A8 is still open). We thought Sushi Express might be the same concept, only applied to a cuisine that is hard to get right and easier to make you ill.  We won't bury the lede: Sushi Express passes the test and then some.

Indeed, while no Fugu or Takara, Sushi Express truly lives up to its name in providing good, nourishing Japanese cuisine in short order, and the value structure is pretty much dead on.

Yellowfin roll & eel/avocado roll

Nichole got sushi (it's in the name after all) and her yellowfin and eel avocado rolls were fine. JM got the beef short ribs which were plentiful and filling, even if he did have to gnaw a little longer than he'd hoped.  Watching University Avenue bustle is always a pleasant experience and the front window counter is nice place to bask in the late winter.

Short ribs

The kitchen is hopping and even one of the chefs took our order when we didn't realize there was table service.  Everyone is really nice and pitches in to make this a low-cost alternative when time or money is in short supply and you really need your nori.

Surya Cafe

In a word: Serenity chow.

The specs: #01075  
5500 East Cheryl Parkway, Fitchburg 53711
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Surya Cafe news and reviews

JM ate the polenta with mushrooms.
Nichole ate the samosa tartlet.
The bill was $18.50, or $9ish/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Surya Cafe a C (see our grading rubric). 

Surya (Sanskrit for sun) Cafe, is a vegan restaurant in a yoga studio in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.

It took some time to navigate the setup, arriving as we did off the street (shoes? no shoes?) just as a class was letting out.  Throw in the fact that the counter service is a self-serve iPad order station, and we started out not knowing what's going on (and weren't the only ones; another couple arriving from the outside appeared similarly discombobulated). But once we touched our choices, swiped our plastic, and sat down to wait our order being called ("Jim!") things were back to routine.

We pondered the similarities and differences between Surya and our last stop, SuperCharge!, which also offers vibrantly healthy eats.  Surya seemed slicker, which is not necessarily to say less sincere, than SuperCharge!  Suyra has more expensive stuff hanging on the walls.  Both seem to be in the business of enlightenment.

Polenta cakes

JM is not the right audience for Surya.  At all.  He got polenta (grits) with mushrooms based on his rule that mushrooms will be served closest to the ways meat would be served at a vegan restaurant.  Saying it was "all right" requires several caveats and the full knowledge that he would likely never volunteer to head here again.  Surya seems, to him, more about being healthy than full, which is not why he goes out to eat.

Samosa tarts

Nichole got a snack of a samosa tartlet which was hearty and nicely priced.  The flavors here worked together well and the dish came together in a pleasant way to be both satisfying and nourishing.  Sometimes she doesn't know what the heck JM is talking about, but after twenty years of eating together it is what it is, and that goes both ways.

If gluten-free & vegan is something you have been looking for, Surya is likely to be your kind of place. Just make sure to arrive without all the hubbub of a class letting out.  Or go to a class, and enjoy a snack afterwards.

SuperCharge! Foods

In a word: Organic refueling station.

The specs: #01074  
1902 E .Washington, 53704
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest SuperCharge! Foods news and reviews

JM drank the Atwood.
Nichole drank the Shamrock shake and got a salad for later.
The bill was about $10 plus tip.
JM gave SuperCharge! Foods a C; Nichole gave SuperCharge! Foods a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Supercharge greens

SuperCharge! Foods is a funky smoothie and juice bar/community center/mini farm on East Washington Ave. Nichole got a rather filling "shamrock shake" smoothie (which included a touch if mint and cocoa) and JM got a quite tasty juice. We got to peek behind the counter into the sprouting area, filled with young greens like mustard, peas, basil and sunflowers. You cannot get much fresher than this. The greens go into the packaged salads and some salads make it to the shelves of Hy-Vee and other retailers in town.

We just popped in for a smoothie on this first visit, which itself seems like the most touristy possible way to experience the place, which has as its mission to be a community center too. They have an event space that hosts classes and workshops, a shelf of resource books, a large comfy table for enjoying prepared food, and a small grocery offering products from YumButter, Native Food Network, and more.

The near-east side would likely feel incomplete without places like this. SuperCharge! Foods is on the roster for the Madison Public Market when it opens in 2020 - til then, their earnest and healthy vibe is a great thing where it's at.

Sunrise Family Restaurant

In a word: We can go there 'til we both eat up.

The specs: #01073  
1052 W Main StStoughton, WI 53589
Details at Yelp

Latest Sunrise Family Restaurant news and reviews

JM ate the French toast with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the turkey bacon club with a decaf and a slice of butterscotch pie.
The bill was $19.30, or $10ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Sunrise Family Restaurant a B; Nichole gave Sunrise Family Restaurant an A- (see our grading rubric).

Chicken soup

Sunrise Family Restaurant is, indeed, a family restaurant, in the same genre as American Table, Dairyland, DeForest, Spring Garden, Coppertop and many others.  This means that you can get breakfast anytime, order from several different cuisine types and still get out for $10 or less per person.  Sunrise is Stoughton's version and it pretty much lines up as you'd expect.

Club sandwich

Nichole has a soft spot for places like this. She got decaf coffee, a turkey bacon club, fries, chicken soup and slab of butterscotch pie. While most of this was solid Sysco and nothing was too exciting, it was just fine.

French toast

JM was more skeptical but he chose a dish that was easier to get right.  The French toast were plentiful for the price and came with enough butter.  There's nothing exciting about that, but it was a right across the plate pitch and Sunrise got a decent double out of it.

Butterscotch pie

 The thing is: family restaurants are cheap and no one has to worry that the picky eater won't find something to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Especially if you want something from their expansive breakfast menu later in the day.

These flip menu ads, too.

Untitled

Sunn Cafe

Sunn CafeIn a word: Find the time.

The specs: #01072  
201 E. Main St., Mount Horeb 53572
Details at Yelp, Facebook

Latest Sunn Cafe news and reviews

JM ate the Vegas sandwich with a Sprecher root beer.
Nichole ate the beef burrito plus avocado with a Wisco Cherry Pop and a brownie.
The bill was $24, or $12/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Sunn Cafe an A- (see our grading rubric). 

This Mount Horeb eatery is named for the Norwegian word for healthy.  The healthy eats here are quite good, but a little hard to get to for the average Madison drone, as Sunn was only open from 11-5 Mondays to Saturdays when we made our trip. If spring ever comes to Dane County this year, we'll try to remember it being good for a lunch stop on a circuit of the Military Ridge bike path, especially if we don't want something as heavy as what one would get at Grumpy Troll.

Vegas sandwich

Here JM got a Vegas sandwich, which was a delicious and filling mix of meats and banana pepper. Served with a side of potato chips, he knew he'd hit a small jackpot - it was a complete sandwich and served warm. Nichole's beef burrito was similarly filling served with chips and salsa. The burrito was sandwiched on a panini press for extra tastiness, with a rich seasoning. 

Burrito

Here you can also wash everything down with a Wisco Pop, a Sprecher or a local brew, and finish with some of their delightful bakery. The brownie we got was rich and sizeable, without becoming same-y.

 

Brownie and pop

We hope you'll schedule an afternoon in Mount Horeb and check Sunn out, it's worth the trip.

Sundown Saloon

In a word: They better take care than many spots we've eaten at here and/or there.

The specs: #01071 
57 S. Stoughton Rd., 53714
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Sundown Saloon news and reviews

JM ate the buffalo chicken sandwich with lemonade.
Nichole ate the patty melt with a diet Coke.
The bill was $19, or about $10/person, plus tip.
JM gave Sundown Saloon a B+; Nichole gave Sundown Saloon a B- (see our grading rubric).

Sundown Saloon beckons, somewhat unobtrusively, from Stoughton Road. We've found that Madison's east side still has pockets of bars that feel like they are frequented by blue-collar folks and not effete fixie riders or Epic wonks.

The staff here really do know to take care of you.  Our server was personable and friendly, answering questions and giving us just enough time to debate the pros and cons of patty melt vs. burger. Here they manage the bar and prep the food with courtesy and warmth, despite being quite busy even at 1 PM on a Friday.

Patty melt

Nichole ended up getting the patty melt, partly because a colleague of JM's had declared to him that the patty melt is the winner at Sundown. This one had 2 layers of Swiss cheese and beef, plus onions, served on toasted marble rye, and was dang good. JM was even happier with his (very very spicy) buffalo chicken sandwich.  He had been offered ranch with it, and got mayo instead, which made him 50% happier. (Seriously, what is with ranch love?)

Buffalo chicken sandwich

The fries were nicely prepared and took to ketchup quite well, but could have easily been Ore*Ida.  In fact, most everything here is just fine -- not too exciting, but well done with essential ingredients which can add up to hit or miss food.  The service is the star and, if there's some hidden highlight on the menu, we can see Sundown being in an East side bar rotation easily. 

An added perk, we stopped at the Aunt Millie's Bakery Outlet on Atlas on the way out, not because we were still hungry, but because it was open, and we have ways of disposing of massive bags of mini donuts and vast quantities of raisin bread (as one does).

Sumo

SumoIn a word: Dinner and a show.

The specs: #01070  
1745 Parkside Dr., 53704
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Sumo news and reviews

David ate the scallop hibachi.
JM ate the steak and shrimp hibachi.
Nichole ate the ribeye hibachi.
The bill was $12/person, plus tip.
JM and David gave Sumo a B+; Nichole gave a Sumo a B (see our grading rubric).

Sumo (much Like the as-yet-unvisited Fuji on the west side) is a dinner-and-a-show style hibachi restaurant.  It is not a buffet (we somehow got that idea in our heads, probably because Sumo replaced Madison's only OCB/HomeTown Buffet). Sumo is instead a sushi lounge/hot grill place where you can have broccoli fired at your mouth; onion volcanoes built, erupted, and destroyed; peepee jokes made with dolls; and knives thrown and caught for your amusement.  Our party caught all of the broccoli that came our way. Win!

Onion volcano

We had the steak, the shrimp and scallops for lunch.  Lunch seems like a nice deal given that it is mostly the same show but the prices are little less, presumably since the portions are a little smaller. But because it follows a show, watch out that you do not go hangry because things could go from bad to worse.  Further, our rice arrived relatively early and entrees arrived at different times (cooking times of course vary).  But lots of butter - carved from a giant butter mountain, probably five pounds or more - was used and we all agreed that the food was better than we expected.  The yummy and ginger sauces deserve note because they both worked so well together with any meat.

That said, the hibachi menu is pretty narrow; this is fine since it would be hard to pull off of these different meats while still putting on a good show. Two of us even got to-go boxes, which stretches the $12 price across another half meal. Sumo is making a decent go of it since the east side Ginza closed, but we'd probably eat at Takara on State for our Japanese performance art cooking.

NEWS

Madison Food cover August 21 at the WHS Museum, we're giving a lunchtime talk on Mid-Century Madison Munchies. Come on down!

Info about our book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is here, or read it for free thanks to the library - print & ebook.


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