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Cabana Room

Update 3/11/11: Cabana Room is now called Cafe Samba.

In a word: A little menu with a lotta promise.

The specs: #0305
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp, WiSJ 10/25/07 and 11/25/07, Daily Cardinal, Isthmus, DL Madison Restaurant Reviews, the Culinary Adventures of Jahboh and Tossy, Eating the World, 77Square, QSC; chatter at TDPF; official web site; Cabana Room on Urbanspoon

Latest Cabana Room news and reviews

JM ate the ham and cheese Cuban sandwich with fries and a lemonade.
Nichole ate the feijoada and an acai tea.
The bill was $19, or $9.50/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Cabana Room an A- (see our grading rubric).

Cabana Room is the little sister to Samba, the new Brazilian steakhouse that opened this fall in the Woman's Club Building on Gilman St. Even if you're just visiting for lunch, a peek into Samba's dining room is in order - it's quite stunning, with dark woods and dramatic colored glass everywhere. Cabana Room is nothing to sneeze at, either. It's less flamboyant, but with just as much personality.

We stopped on a snowy night for dinner and Nichole was immediately impressed that they had Republic of Tea on the beverage menu, and not just that tired old warhorse Ginger Peach, either. Another plus: the bar has a lengthy beer list. The menu is all soups, salads, and sandwiches of both the burger and Cuban variety.

Ham and cheese cubanJM's ham and cheese Cuban sandwich was properly pressed and was topped with pineapple, bell peppers and cheese, with sides of chimichurri and ketchup. On the sandwich, the peppers really dominated the flavor (a little unfortunate given the delicacy of pineapple); the cheese was ample and delightfully gooey. The fries were not too greasy and benefited from a dip in the chimichurri, which had a light citrus taste and wasn't overly cilantro-ed. The lemonade was fine but nothing special.

Nichole's feijoada was not as photogenic, but we hope it's easy enough to imagine a bowl of bean soup. Feijoada is the national dish of Brazil, ostensibly made by the poor folks with the bits of pig and cow that the rich folks discarded. The menu describes feijoada as a black bean stew with "sausage, bacon and meats." When asked what the other "meats" were, our server said they include "chicken, ham and ... other meats." (We suspect this might have been code for lengua or something just as tasty. Meats is meats, we suppose.)

The first bite of stew was quite pedestrian. It tasted just like your typical ham and bean soup. The ham, chicken and bacony bits, as well as a couple rich gobs of fatty meat, filled every bite. A hot sauce came on the side, but even that didn't have much kick; it was vaguely in the tabasco family, but sweeter, served chilled so that adding it changed the warm stew to tepid soup. It was fun to play with different ratios of stew to Basmati rice (also on the side) and all in all was a fine, if sort of boring, stew.

Samba/Cabana RoomOn a subsequent lunch visit, Nichole tried and enjoyed the Samba Salad (romaine with cukes, tomatoes, onions, heart of palm, black beans and bleu cheese - somewhat departed from the current online menu's description, but probably even better this way). Her companion tried the root vegetable stew (proof it was not JM this time) and said it was a good, fortifying winter meal.

When JM and Nichole left for their next destination in the heavy Dec. 4 snowfall, some driver from Illinois tried to make a left turn across two lanes of University Ave.  While we came close to hitting him and were justly shaken, we still felt that the trip to Cabana Room had been worth venturing out in the winter weather. 


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Oh ho! Someone's in my cabbage patch! Scrap Meat Stew? You betcha.

It's funny; I just learned how to pronounce feijoada over the New Year's holiday (thank you, Travel Channel marathon of No Reservations). And here you'd availed yourself of that very dish almost a month prior!

Shouldn'ta chickened out on the picture, though. Even if people might have wanted you to take it down out of mercy.

Heh! I blame our camera and the dim light for the crummy picture. I may have impetuously deleted it...

Hope I didn't steal some Fringe Foods thunder. I was definitely trying to go for the house dish.

Wow -- glad to hear such good things about this place. A friend of mine has been in for eats & beers several times since they opened, and he has high praise as well. Prices look good, too. And I'm really excited to be able to get feijoada in Madison; I first learned about it several years ago from a local Brazilian exchange student. Anything with crazy meats in it piques my interest. Did they serve it with manioca flour on the side?

Kyle, hold up -- I had access to satellite TV for five days over Christmas and didn't know about a No Reservations marathon?! Clearly, I suck.

Oh, and way to go, IL driver. That's how we FIBS get that reputation... ;)

Sadly, there was no manioca flour - just the hot sauce, rice and an orange slice garnish. The sides are where the fun is, and I was sad that was all there was!

I went with some friends the other day, based in part on your review. One would think the service would have been pretty snappy, considering there were only two tables and all anyone was having were pressed sandwiches. But we waited about 45 minutes between order and entrees, and I had to send mine back because they forgot to put the meat on the sandwich; it took another 15 to fix.

The beers are overpriced, the decor is overbusy...I wasn't impressed.

Aw, sorry - I hate to hear that places are underwhelming (less whelming?).

I am looking forward to checking this place out tomorrow. Any suggestions on parking in the area?

Jack, in addition to street parking, there's a metered lot up and on the other side of the street. Barring those, there are parking decks further afield.

As for the restaurant: a friend and I had supper there last week prior to a show at the High Noon, and everything was very, very good. We split crab cakes (which would be a perfect lighter meal on their own, especially with a nice glass of beer or wine); she then had a portabella wrap with rice and beans and I had feijoada. Both of us were quite satisfied with the flavors, textures, and portion sizes. We look forward to returning soon!

Caught my eye - Dane Co. Farmer's Market newsletter said the Samba/Cabana Room sous-chef is the guest chef at the winter market breakfast tomorrow (Feb. 2). I often miss the DCFM news because it comes out so late, but this is interesting.

Re: Parking. There is actually a Cabana Room/Samba Parking Lot next (NE) to building. Try there first!

We made our first trip to Cabana Room during the spell of absolutely gorgeous weather that was bestowed upon Madison for the opening of the Farmers' Market. Yes, the menu is small. Yes, some of the beers are overpriced.

But they have Saturday brunch, less common than its Sunday counterpart, and said brunch features drink specials ($4 Dark'n'Stormy, yesterday) and all-you-can-eat pancakes. ALL YOU CAN EAT PEOPLE.

The sandwiches are bigger than the above picture tells. Pretty close to 9" by 5", it was too much for me to finish for lunch, alongside very tasty and simple beans and rice. The crema over the beans was exceptionally tasty.

My pork and chimichurri sandwich was great. The lady's stewed lamb and goat cheese was equally satisfying. The pickled veggies on both were a smart touch, sour and flavorful but not overpowering the tender meats. I could have done with more of the cheese spread, but that's just me. I could still taste it.

Service was very friendly; we got a plate of little triangles of fried dough with raspberry jam for free because apparently the kitchen made one too many. Yum. Outdoor seating was beautiful on such a clear, warm day.

Solid A for me.

I've been there a couple of times for the lunch specials, and they've been great. On Wednesdays they have a fabulous chicken wrap that comes with a side (fries, rice & beans, or salad) - enormous and wonderfully tasty for something like $4.95. Fridays is the all-you-can-eat fish tacos lunch for $8.95 - again with a side. Great value and very good food!

The atmosphere and beer selection alone make this a great venue, but add in the Wednesday night Jazz jam with some of Madison's favorite musicians and The Cabana Room comes to life. My husband and I frequent the Cabana Room and like their appetizers, such as the undoubtedly super-fattening cheesey bread balls (pao de queijo) w/ chimichurri, and ceviche. The burgers are good, but add-on pricing makes for a pricey burger. I was not impressed with the burrito special; the price was good, but low on flavor. All in all I like this restaurant. Parking on Gilman is usually available, too.

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