Marcine's

In a word: Backwoods.

The specs: #00962   
8646 Davis St, Mt. Horeb, 53572
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JM ate the pizza burger with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the egg salad sandwich with cole slaw and a diet Coke.
The bill was $21, or $10.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Marcine's a C+; Nichole gave Marcine's a C (see our grading rubric).

Mt. Vernon is a tiny crossroads town that we only know anything about because of one bar's food.  This place was packed on a midday Sunday afternoon, even in the non-football season. Everyone in Mt. Vernon must have been there, because when we walked in, it was swivel factor nine. 

So there must be something to it, though our specific meal was so-so, on the whole. JM's pizza burger was messier than expected and the meat patty was a little too laid back. The cheese curds, however, were quite good.

Pizzaburger and curds

The egg salad sandwich Nichole got really epitomized the dish, with a mild preparation of eggs and mayo on package-perfect bread, and was cut diagonally with what must have been a good sharp knife. (It was way prettier and more precise than any egg salad sandwich Nichole ever makes at home, which kind could be described charitably as a hodgepodge - almost always some funky mustard, and usually some sort of relish or other crunch factor, and frequently loaded onto the heels of the loaf with the crust side turned in and if it's cut at all it's probably smushed with a butterknife.) The slaw had long ribbons of fresh-tasting green and purple cabbage in a thick but lightly applied mayo-based dressing. A few potato chips and we'd be in firm B+ territory, food-wise.

Egg salad sandwich

The folks there took really good care of us. There definitely was a Wisconsin vibe: a rolling salad bar awaited stocking for weekend suppers, and there were more sports and NASCAR posters on the walls than seemed possible for one room to hold. Some say that Marcine's has a great fish fry and wings, though we're not sure we'll be able to find out with another X00 places to visit before Z rolls around again.

Main Street Pub & Grill

In a word: Hammer down. 

The specs: #00961   
120 E. Main St., Mt. Horeb, 53572
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JM and Nichole split the round about burger with a root beer and a lemonade.
The bill was $14, or $7/person, plus tip.
JM gave Main Street Pub & Grill a B; Nichole gave Main Street Pub & Grill a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Big Duluth burger

Another trip into Mount Horeb for another (mostly) average meal.  There's some good stuff here, though the menu is pretty short and filled to the brim with Swiss cheese. 

We split the Big Duluth, which is a large meaty burger. It made us wonder what was going to happen to Chess Piece Face. The Big Duluth comes with a burger patty and a brat patty, along with some bacon. The overtones were smoke and pepper, making for some nice bites. The lemonade was pretty good and the root beer was Sprecher.

The laid-back vibe is nice and the staff is friendly - we're sure that Mount Horeb appreciates a place to go when the Grumpy Troll is too crowded to enjoy.

Main Street Lanes

Main Street Lanes In a word: Or at shops or at tea.

The specs: #00960  
1721 Main St, Cross Plains, 53528
Details at Yelp

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JM ate the deep fried chicken patty sandwich with cheese curds.
Nichole ate the Gopher burger with chive potato wedges.
The bill was $19.75, or $10ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Main Street Lanes a B+; Nichole gave Main Street Lanes an A- (see our grading rubric).

Main Street Cross Plains is undergoing the construction of its lifetime. Everything is tore up and that made getting to this unassuming bar a big challenge.  Fortunately, this meant that we had a relatively quiet meal after we ordered inside, then sat on the patio and waited for a thunderstorm to roll in.

For a corner tavern, Main Street Lanes has an extensive and tasty menu complemented by a lunchtime salad bar.   They did not, as far as we saw, have lanes for bowling.  Though, admittedly, we didn't walk around the far corner, and the building certainly looked big enough to host them.

We were too busy hauling around a massive condiment tray: three kinds of hot sauce, two big jars of BBQ, three mustards, ketchup, steak sauce, pickles, and diced onions. This is a thing of beauty and makes Main Street Lanes excel beyond a merely decent bar burger outlet into a must visit when we're in these parts.

Nichole's gopher burger was not made of gopher, but (and? so? therefore?) it did OK on the ol' Accidental Hedonist burger rubric:

  • Bun: large, plain soft white bun, lightly toasted and unbuttered.
  • Meat: Average patty, did not appear to be made in-house.
  • Bun/meat ratio: Good - the bun was just equal to the task of holding up the insides of the burger.
  • Cheese: Good Cheddar.
  • Misc.: very good bacon that bit clean (no snaking out of the sandwich because it's not done enough, no shattering into dark chips because it's too well done). Loaded with very nice lettuce, onion, and decent tomato. Too much mayo, though. About a 7.2 of 10 overall.

JM's deep fried chicken sandwich had two patties for some reason, which was overkill. But the whole thing was slathered in mayo, which he appreciated.

Wedge fries were a good choice - they came with a side of sour cream (again, in addition to the massive condiment tray), and were warm and soft inside and crisp outside.  The cheese came in great lightly battered curds which were salty, white cheese and as small and delicate as you would want to have curd be.

Main Street Lanes dinner

Cross Plains has a real winner here. We don't normally think much about Cross Plains dining, but now we have Main Street Lanes to best literally anything else in town.

Main Street Kitchen

Main Street Kitchen In a word: Nice and small, but maybe a little harrying.

The specs: #00959   
334 E. Main St., Stoughton, 53589
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Official web site, Facebook

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JM ate the meatball sub on a white roll with a bag of chips, a cookie, and a lemonade.
Nichole ate the TAB (turkey, apple, bacon) plus avocado on a cracked wheat roll with a bag of veggie straws.
The bill was $17, or $8.50/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Main Street Kitchen a B (see our grading rubric).

Main Street Kitchen in Stoughton is the kind of place you'd love to have convenient to your workplace. It is in a small, squarish room with a large kitchen beyond; in front, there's room enough for a few tables, and some outdoor seating.

SandwichSandwich

The sandwiches are the star of the Main Street Kitchen menu, with bakery and soups on the side. There's a fresh kids menu with a full complement of good ideas.

That said, when the place gets slammed, you can feel everyone's blood pressure go up a few ticks.  It just takes a few unruly kids or a gentleman pontificating loudly to his mentee, and suddenly, the raw oat treat we ordered got forgotten.

This is unfortunate, because the staff were otherwise highly attentive. It certainly seems to be a fluke that our order wasn't perfect. Plus, the place has the largest selection of potato chips that we've seen at a sandwich shop yet. 

The sandwiches were on special and were both tasty. The TAB was fresh and the meatball sub was hearty.  The patio was nice on this: summer's first truly hot day. We would certainly return for a weekend lunch meetup with Stoughton friends, but weekdays would prove tricky, as Main Street Kitchen closes before suppertime. All in all, a fine place for  sandwiches. 

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

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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

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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?

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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
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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
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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
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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.

NEWS

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