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Jolly Bob's

Update 12/3/14: Jolly Bob's is closing.

In a word: Neither one thing nor the other.

Jolly Bob'sThe specs: #0283
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp, WiSJ and more WiSJ, Cap Times, and by Christopher Robin; Jolly Bob's on Urbanspoon

Latest Jolly Bob's news and reviews

Aine and Pete shared the jerk pork.
JM ate the short beef ribs.
Nichole ate the avo cat.
Peter and Rachel ate the jerk chicken.
The bill was about $80, or $20/person, plus tip.
Aine gave Jolly Bob's a B+; JM and Nichole gave Jolly Bob's a B (see our grading rubric).

Outdoor diningJolly Bob's patio is, as you can see, a bright, summery, friendly-looking place. It's won Madison's "best outdoor dining" accolades, too. But tonight the mosquitoes were eating more than we were, so we asked to be let back inside - which they allowed, but not before checking with management.

Apparently on any given night they want to serve either inside or out, but not both. (To their immense credit they did offer us bugproof lotion.) We're just glad we didn't have to endure the bugs and the rather steeply pitched floor at the back end of the patio. On the other hand, our photos clearly suffered after we moved inside, where the ambiance was clublike and slightly cooler.

Wedge and green saladWe sat down to dinners which all came with a house salad, a combination mixed greens/wedge with jicama and carrot shavings for garnish. The mango curry dressing was a winner all around.

We also tried a couple starters. The empanadas, stuffed with raisins and ground meat, were seasoned with nutmeg and other sweet-evoking spices. Pete described them best as a cross between a Hot Pocket and a poor boy cookie. Crab cakes made their way to our table again and we all (even the pickier eaters among us) enjoyed them with the 2 mayo-based sauces.

Avo-catNichole's avo-cat (avocado catfish) had an excellent if rich and oily walnut breading. The fish fillet itself was huge and flaky, almost too light to be catfish. The avocado paste decorating the top was a nice touch (though wasn't so great reheated in the next day's lunch).

Aine said of her dinner that she really liked everything, but it was her first time having Caribbean food, and got the impression that "this style of food rocks!" more than "this particular restaurant is awesome." She did wish that there were fewer pieces of fat and bone in the jerk pork ... there was plenty of actual meat in the dish, so it just seemed sloppy to leave that stuff in there. Pete, who split Aine's entree, loved that it was so spicy and tender, and liked the interesting banana sauce that came with it. He also appreciated the rice, saying it had a good flavor.

JM chose the short beef ribs, which he found average. Caribbean food can be hit or miss, he finds, because of the range of spices involved.  There was nothing in his meal that was either 1) worth coming back for or 2) utterly repellent.  He was quite satisfied although, being a teetotaller, he found little to recommend.

Rachel and Peter both tried the jerk chicken, and agreed they liked their meals except for the sides. The potatoes were extremely spicy, and some of the dressing leaked all over the plate. They appreciated the attractive presentation (which, again, we wish we could show you, but it was pretty darn dark in there).

We had been a little apprehensive about Jolly Bob's, given that we'd heard stories about how hit-or-miss their service can be. It's true that the lack of a host to seat you makes the place feel more like a bar with an ambitious menu than a restaurant with an extensive drink repertoire. But after our brush with mosquito purgatory, all went well, if a little slow, and only a churl could complain about the pace, given the context.

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Still no host, eh?

...And not a Purple Meanie ordered among all of you. For shame.

I'm with Wagon. It's not a trip to Jolly Bob's without getting a drink. I wasn't too impressed with their food, but I love going their for cocktails.

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