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Alchemy Cafe

Alchemy CafeIn a word: Earnest while finding its feet.

The specs: #0342
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at WiSJ, Isthmus, Cap Times, Isthmus again, Yelp, 77 Square, Wisconsin Fish Fry Reviews Madison Fish Fry, Ayos Living Rearrangements; official web site, Alchemy on Urbanspoon

Latest Alchemy news and reviews

JM ate the Buffalo melt with fries and a lemonade.
Nichole ate the stuffed grilled cheese with wasabi green beans and a diet Sierra Mist.
We split a piece of the apple pie.
The bill was $23, or $11.50/person.
JM gave Alchemy Cafe a B+; Nichole gave Alchemy Cafe an A- (see our grading rubric).

Alchemy Cafe's gotten some good press as it continues to be a neighborhood hangout, and the vibes are certainly pleasant there. We went for early supper on a Tuesday and were the only folks eating, but the bar was well-attended for the time of day. This is no surprise given the good beer selection.

Stuffed grilled cheeseIt took Nichole forever to choose, since everything on the menu looked like something she would try to put together herself. Eventually she opted for the stuffed grilled cheese, which was great. Emphatically un-greasy (toasted, in fact) it came loaded with excellent cheddar, slightly pale tomatoes, broccoli, spinach and parboiled yet firm carrots that made for easy noshing. Nichole has a love-hate relationship with basil, hence the pesto mayo on the side, but this treatment was worth letting the kitchen spread it. The now-famous wasabi green beans were cooked crisp but could have used a bigger horseradish flavor.

We can't exactly remember, but we think JM's buffalo burger was doubly eponymous: fresh mozzarella on a bison patty, the sandwich was well-thought-out and balanced. The meat was especially tasty, if not superb, but lean like good prairie meat should be. On a fry-by-fry evaluation, the thicker fries were better, since the thin ones had gotten a little overdone. Maybe the fry grease was too old or too hot. After finishing his entree, JM had the nagging feeling it had been a little costly for a rather light supper.

Buffalo burger

Apple pie was the only dessert on offer, but we'd heard good things. Maybe it was an off night. We don't care that the piece fell apart. We liked that it arrived warm without us even having to ask. But the filling was just too dry, and the crust tended too much to doughiness, for us to endorse it 100%.

Apple pie

While Alchemy may not be turning lead into gold, it is at least turning high quality, mostly local, ingredients into a well-formed menu with something for just about everyone.


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The food is EXCELLENT but the customer service level is zero.

If you want to stay in business, I would suggest training your bar and wait staff to understand the importance of good customer service because Alchemy Cafe lacks it.

The economy doesn't take down a good restaurant, the lack of customer service does. Make it a great day for your customers and they will return, other wise they will go elsewhere.

Agreed. Weak service, tasty eats. Plus, good beers--if you can read the bizarrely-chosen copper beer menu on the wall. Almost completely illegible in low light.

Just got back from another trip (there have been more between 4/09 and now).

Service: definitely better
Beer menu: now printed and inserted, a la Brasserie V
Green beans: significantly more wasabi-ish (actually got a little sinus shot from one of 'em)

The BLFT is still incredible, and the Friday fish fry is arguably spectacular--certainly very, very good.

Oh, and for fries (or beans), cole slaw, a wheat roll, red pepper tartar sauce and 12 oz (4 planks) of fried cod, $10 is a friggin steal.

Alchemy recently changed their menu...for the worse. All of our favorite meals are gone, replaced with what we can only describe as pandering fast food. Buffalo wings? Really? The point was to go local, but to do that, they got rid of the staple items that kept my friends and I coming back for more (ie. wasabi green beans.)

I agree Lyndi. I live in the 'hood. I've been there over a dozen times. Since they've changed the menu, I've been there twice, and I will never go back for the food. It used to be SO good. Now...meh.

The interesting thing about the menu change I think, is that is was supposed to represent a more seasonal menu. Green beans are not in season in fall/winter and I'd imagine hard to find in Wisconsin by local farmers this time of year. I applaud them for trying to cook seasonally and buy from local farmers...not many local bars w/ food are willing to do that. I think they're back on the menu now though, aren't they?

Thanks for linking to my blog post. Love Alchemy for trying new, interesting beers!

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Listen to The Corner Table podcast "Remembering Restaurants," aired December 24, 2020, where Chris and Lindsay talk with us "about the menus and memories left behind when restaurants go away."

Madison Food coverInfo 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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