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.

Luangprabang

LuangprabangIn a word: Thai is on my side.

The specs: #00949   
Details at Yelp

Latest Luangprabang news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the pad thai with tofu.
Nichole ate the larp.
The bill was $14, or $7/person, plus tip.
JM gave Luangprabang an A-; Nichole gave Luangprabang an A (see our grading rubric).

It was a sunny, springlike Friday the week before UW's spring break, and warm enough for us to eat out on Library Mall. So we used some vacation time to take a mini-vacation and have a rare workday date - and Luangprabang turned out to be a great lunch.

We'd heard of the massive, $2.50 veggie spring rolls here (and had similar at Fresh Cool Drinks), but today we got entrees which still made for a thrifty lunch. JM really dug the pad thai - and though he has a cautious relationship to bean curd, he said the tofu in this preparation was really tops, and (again) he doesn't even really like tofu.  Warm and fresh, it was worth the wait.

Pad thai

The larp was good enough to finish every bite - sliced instead of ground meat, lots of onions and spinach, hearty cucumber slices and generous scoops of sticky rice added up to a fine dish - but Nichole would probably try a different menu item next time. And with a baseline pad thai that good, and the promise of cheaply amazing spring rolls, there will be a next time for sure.  Enjoy them while the weather is warm.

Larp

LongHorn Steakhouse

In a word: Darden... my heart.

The specs: #00948   
418 S Gammon Rd., 53719
Details at Yelp, LongHorn Steakhouse on Urbanspoon
Official web site

Latest LongHorn Steakhouse news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the prime rib sandwich.
John ate the filet.
Nichole ate the chicken.
Rose ate the shrimp.
The bill was about $60, or $15/person, plus tip.
JM gave LongHorn Steakhouse a B-; Nichole gave LongHorn Steakhouse a C+ (see our grading rubric).

The best steak houses (let's say, Tornado and Johnny Delmonico's) are so much about the steak that is hard to truly rate them on their 'restaurant-ness'.  Implicit in steak dining is good meat selection; once the meat selection is complete, only a real foul up can cause a steak to be done poorly.

Of course, LongHorn isn't really a steak restaurant.  It lives somewhere twixt Outback and Fleming's in chain steak land.  Nice enough for a meal on their own, but not so nice that napkin color is invoked by the servers.

The other thing that most steak places don't focus so much on is value.  You're going out for steak, but LongHorn does offer some higher end food at or near the lowest end of the pricing scale. But the Red Lobster-iness of a Darden place is still present, all the way up to and including the overdecorated walls.

Salad

Salads were included with three meals.  They offer garden and Caesar varieties and our group only got garden ones.  The lettuce was robustly green, but salad is mostly pretty water, and these were no exception.

ShrimpFilet

Rose tried the shrimp skewers, which she had had before, and she liked the dish just as much this time. For a small price, you get twelve nicely grilled shrimp served over a bed of rice with choice of potato.  It was part of a 2-entree and a dessert meal deal which John fillet out with a filet. The filet was medium rare as ordered and was thick, juicy and delicious. 

Prime rib sandwichChicken

JM's prime rib sandwiches were greasy things that still tasted pretty darned good. His accompanying fries, however, seemed like a half portion at best.  He didn't use much of the dipping sauce either for the fries or sandwich as the horseradish flavor was a little one note for someone used to a mustard mix-in. Nichole's Parmesan crusted chicken more entombed than encrusted. Which, cheese, was not all bad, but was excessive. 

The chocolate stampede, though. This is worth it. It's about 2200 calories, though, so you may want to split it with several adjoining tables. Cake, mousse, ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce... the works. It is the only stampede we know of that cannot be helped even with a cattle dog; there's just too much chocolate. See?

Chocolate stampede

LongHorn is square in the middle of the diversity of dining options on the west side.  It seems to fill a need for people who steak dinner at a low price.  That said, there's about 25 places that are higher on the quality scale nearby, so that leaves this as the only reason to go.

Lil' Buddy's

In a word: Movie theater snack bar without the price of admission.

The specs: #00947   
201 Janesville St., Oregon 53575
Details at Lil' Buddy's Popcorn on Urbanspoon
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Lil' Buddy's news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the chili dog and the mac & cheese dog.
Nichole ate the Chicago dog.
We also bought some popcorn.
The bill was like $3/dog.
JM gave Lil' Buddy's a B+; Nichole gave Lil' Buddy's an A- (see our grading rubric).

Lil' Buddy's falls into one of those categories of place that is barely a restaurant, yet is exactly the kind of thing that we like to learn about. It's basically a popcorn store a la Rural Route 1 or Clary's. In addition to this, however, there are hot dogs, ice cream, and slushes. It is sort of like a stripped down Carnival's where popcorn is truly the star.

Mac and cheese dog

JM got a pair of dogs: the chili dog was mostly as expected except that it was a little bitter, with a chili sauce that did not quite achieve his ideal of a great chili dog. The mac & cheese dog was better with perfectly shaped and perfectly cooked noodles served with an understated but tasty BBQ sauce. Nichole's Chicago dog fell right where it belonged, which was well within the canon. She enjoyed it.

Lil' Buddy's dogs

Of course, man cannot live on hot dogs alone. We got three bags of popcorn, including a honey mustard, a salt and pepper, and a peanut butter and chocolate blend. Each flavor is truly bold, expressing itself early and often. Grabbing a bag of their popcorn means never having to guess at what the flavor is; it is obvious. Also delicious.

There are a couple of other flavors we want to try, and so we will likely be back next time we pass through Oregon. Furthermore, since Capital Creamery has closed, it seems like the best place in Oregon to stop on a warm day.

Bonus content

A couple things we wrote recently ran elsewhere. Recollection Wisconsin, the digital library portal, hosted an online exhibit on the history of McDonald's in our state. And today Isthmus ran Catching up with the Eating in Madison A to Z bloggers, in which we spill the beans about a book we wrote.

So welcome and/or welcome back, and thanks for reading!

Madison's with capitol

Licari's

In a word: Greenbush survivor abides.

The specs: #00946   
1405 Emil St., 53713
Details at Yelp, Licari's Tavern on Urbanspoon

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

JM ate the bacon cheeseburger.
Nichole ate the fish fry.
The bill was about $10/person, plus tip.
JM gave Licari's a B-; Nichole gave Licari's a C+ (see our grading rubric).

Licari's is one of Madison's longest lived bars. Jerry Licari's Spot Tavern was once at 767-771 West Washington, but along with most of the rest of the businesses in the old Greenbush, it was pushed out by the Triangle Redevelopment Project in the early 1960s. In fact, Licari's and Trotter's Tuxedo Cafe were the two that held out longest. Licari's eventually moved to 1405 Emil Street and has been there since; Trotter's had trouble relocating - in short, Madison residents organized to prevent a black-owned business from moving into their neighborhoods - but eventually reopened at 1616 Beld Street.

Licari's

Anyway, history. Licari's "new" spot in the Beltline area near Fish Hatchery was one of the closest places at which JM could have grabbed a quick lunch near his old office 10 years ago, and he might have eaten there before. Even so, it was our first time grabbing a table there together. 

The swivel factor was medium; we arrived again in the early end of the dinner hour when most customers were happying an hour or two. We were somewhat rushed, and so couldn't really relax into the vibe. At the time it wasn't super-chill, anyway, with a bizarre Family Feud episode on the TV above the bar - oddly clad men vs. scantily clad women (wrestling was involved). The service was fast and friendly, taking our order chosen from a large chalkboard chock-full of bar standards. We stuck to the familiar: a burger and a fish fry.

Bacon burger

JM's burger was loaded with bacon, the bun was perfectly toasted and the meat-cheese meld was great. Fresh lettuce, onion and tomato, with a you-dose-it tub of BBQ sauce, filled out his meal.

The fish fry was pretty good. Two sizeable pieces of walleye in a light crumb breading came with pickles and a creamy slaw. The tartar and typical crinkle fries tugged the edges down, keeping this plate from flying high, but overall it was decent.

Fish fry

Licari's feels like it is from the time when stops at bars on the way home from work were more common, instead of taking the whole family out to pick up burger a little while later. Still, as blasts from the past go, this one was just OK.

Library Cafe and Bar

Subway and LibraryIn a word: Check it out.

The specs: #00945 
320 N Randall Ave., 53715
Details at Yelp, The Library on Urbanspoon
Official web site

Latest Library Cafe and Bar news and reviews at del.icio.us

JM ate the Texas burger with fries and a lemonade.
Nichole ate the corned beef sandwich with chips and a Gray's root beer.
The bill was $25, or $12ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Library Cafe and Bar a B; Nichole gave Library Cafe and Bar a 647.9577583 and an A- (see our grading rubric).

000 GENERALITIES

The Library is situated right at the split where University stops being University and Johnson Street starts coming the other way. Over by WID, you know? Though the Library hasn't been covered by the 070 folks much, we found plenty to report back on. The name, is of course, another of those great old bar-disguise names.

MOM: Where were you all night?

KID: I was at the Library.

Scene.

100: PHILOSOPHY AND PSYCHOLOGY

The overall vibe of the Library was not 130ish at all - it was pretty warm and cozy (and that was due to more than the fact that one of the tables is actually a fireplace). Bookshelves lined all the walls and were packed with thrift-store hardcovers and the odd textbook. We had last been here, long ago, when it was Cool Runnings, and we were glad that the place is being well taken care of. Service is semi-158.1-style, order at the counter and take a seat.

200: RELIGION

Of course, in Wisconsin, drinking is practically a religion. The Library does indeed have a pretty lengthy beer list and a full bar with the requisite nightly drink specials. We were pleased to see the full coffee bar as well, though we both stuck to soft drinks - lemonade, of course, and a Gray's root beer, which was a rare treat.

300: SOCIAL SCIENCES

Maybe decorating a bar with real books attracts nerds, but the crowd at the Library definitely appeared more studious - and more versed in 395.53 - than those at the campus area bars we've been to (Wando's, Church Key, Chaser's, etc.). The couch set-ups were great for fostering interpersonal communication.

400: LANGUAGE

It is hard to describe the Library's corned beef. Though delicious, the meat arrived scattered across the thin toasted bun in giant hulking cubes that made the sandwich nearly uneatable though the Swiss cheese and whole grain mustard added some enjoyment.

Reuben

500: NATURAL SCIENCES AND MATHEMATICS

The bill was correctly tallied.

600: TECHNOLOGY (APPLIED SCIENCES)

Now, on to the meat of this post. The salt and pepper chips arrived fresh and seemed like about the best execution of this idea available.  They were tasty and disappeared quickly. Meanwhile, JM's far more processed fries were the opposite of good. They were cold, thin and had not give.  He would have gladly traded them for Nichole's chips and he doesn't really like chips, but these were icky despite the technology that went into bringing them to this table.

The art of assembling a decent BBQ burger was, fortunately, on display.  JM's Texas Burger came with cream cheese! sautéed onions! chives! and all of these flavors did work together.  Unfortunately, a thin commercial patty is an unfit canvas for recreational burger eating and the untoasted bun was a little less than fun.  He'd eat it again, but wouldn't seek it out. Other menu items, and there are several, look maybe a little better.

Texas burger

700: ARTS & RECREATION

As mentioned before, the Library was thoughtfully decorated. There must have been music, but we can't remember what was playing.

800: LITERATURE

We enjoyed the Library's books - we found an old copy of Jay Leno's Headlines and had a few aimless laughs. It was like having a funny friend entertain us before dinner.

900: GEOGRAPHY & HISTORY

And with that, we were history.  If we found ourselves needing lunchtime coffee (Nichole) or west campus student-budget eats (JM), we might return just because the rest of the campus-area competition is so meh.  So you may want to add this location to your map.

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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