Tandoori House

In a word: Savor the flavors.

The specs: #01084  
6713 Odana Rd., 53719
Details at Yelp

Latest Tandoori House news and reviews

JM ate the mixed grill.
Nichole ate the lamb korma.
We split some cheesy naan.
The bill was $44, or $22/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Tandoori House an A- (see our grading rubric).

Tandoori House, per secret Madison food ordinance, serves a lunch buffet and order-off-the-menu dinner. We went for dinner. The decor is a little spare (compared to the previous tenant, Maharaja, which with its darker decor and lower light felt a little homier than this) but the service was attentive and forgiving.

We started with cheesy garlic naan, which was truly above and beyond expectations. It was as good as any Neapolitan pizza, as far as super-hot-oven baked cheesy bready comestibles go.  (We also ate the free basic naan, of course, which was just fine.) Nichole got the lamb korma which was delightful and saucy in the way that good Indian dishes need to be to afford a use for that rice.  It was very tender and delicious.

Goat korma

JM's mixed grill was the find of the trip, however. Four delicious meats like this, garnished with onions, would make any carnivore sing. There were two kinds of chicken (roast and tandoori) as well as shrimp and sausage.  No two bites ever got same-y and while Indian restaurant meats tend to be a little dry, in JM's experience, these where especially pert and flavorful, especially the sausage.

Mixed grill

The west side does not want for good Indian cuisine with Dhaba, Swagat, Haveli and Minerva, so it is hard to know how well Tandoori House will hold up in the crowd.  But the flavors are tasty and the location convenient to the mall (and most people may be auto-pilotting Maharaja anyways).  We wish them the best.

Taiwan Little Eats

Sausage on a stickIn a word: Perfect for the Taipei personality in your life.

The specs: #01083 
320 State St., 53703
Details at Yelp, Facebook

Latest Taiwan Little Eats news and reviews

JM ate the coffin toast.
Nichole ate the cold sesame noodles.
We split a sausage.
The bill was $24, or $12/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave a Taiwan Little Eats an A (see our grading rubric).

If we ever forget why we do this, a meal like the one we had at Taiwan Little Eats is the perfect antidote to that amnesia. See, what good came from the former Mad City Frites place, trying to offer southeast Asian small plates in competition with established rivals like the excellent Rising Sons Deli? What good, indeed!

The menu is eccentric and delightfully all over the map. We ordered some sausage on a stick and scooped out some of the house brown mustard. These sausages were among the best we've had (really, only Sofra had better ones that sprang to mind, especially since RIP OSS). These were plump and filled with rich anise flavor but not in a way that drew comparisons to licorice. Each bite was a delight.

Nichole pulled up a bowl of cold sesame noodles which were worth losing your head for. These had great texture balance betwixt sticky and slippery. It came with a d6 of tofu, a neatly slice hardboiled egg (yum!) and a veg garnish that should be replicated often (nori, carrots, cukes and green onion). 

Cold noodles

JM beat Nichole to the punch, however, by claiming dibs on coffin toast before we even arrived at the restaurant. This dish bills itself as an Asian chicken pot pie, and in truth, this is a good comparison. If anything, that  understates its awesomeness.  The toast (as opposed to a pie crust) was buttery and perfectly browned. Removing the "lid" of airy bread reveals a creamy chicken filling loaded with savory veggies. The toast was amply buttered, as was the filling. Flesh eater, get yourself one of these stat!

Coffin toast

In terms of ambience, it's twee and pretty. A display of postcards and love letters from customers stands witness to many happy bellies. 

Tailgater's

In a word: Again...

The specs: #01082  
151 E. Main, Stoughton 53589
Details at Yelp

Latest Tailgater news and reviews

JM ate the burger.
Nichole ate the BLT.
We split some gouda mac and cheese bites.
The bill was $24, or $/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave Tailgater a B (see our grading rubric).

City: _____________

Verb (infinitive): ____________

Name of restaurant: ___________

Letter of the alphabet: ___________

Comparative adjective: __________

Noun: ___________

Sandwich: __________

Adjective: ____________

Job: _____________

Number: _______________

Platonic solid: ____________

Adjective: _______________

Color: _______________

Size: _____________

Fraction: ____________

Adjective: ____________

Adverb: _____________

Adjective: ___________

Time Period: _____________

Adjective: _______________

Plural noun: _____________

Pronoun: _______________

Food you can order in a bar: __________________

Adverb: ______________

Adjective: _______________

City: _______________

Burger

Tailgater in _________ opened just in time for us _________ it on this pass.  It used to be called ________ and we had just visited it when doing letter ___ . The food was a little ________ than its predecessor and the increase in ________ meant that we were able to both see and enjoy our meals.

Nichole stuck by her traditional order of _________ which came on wheat bread and was mighty _________. She also asked what the ____________ would recommend out of the __________ appetizer.  We took the recommendation for gouda mac and cheese bites that were shaped like a ____________, but were __________ and fried to a perfect golden ___________.

JM got the burger, which was a _____________ slab of beef.  Given that all of their patties are _________ lb. at a minimum, you will you won't leave _____________. That said, the bun __________ stood up to the meat, becoming soggy and ___________ after only _____________.  Of course, inverting the burger by flipping it ____________ worked OK. The fries were the size of __________, but were good enough.

At this point in Madison A to Z, __________ may be expecting that reviews of basically the same __________ do not provide a lot of new detail to the dining scene.  We would _____________ agree. And except for the ____________ gouda mac and cheese bites we don't see much difference between this and the other places in _____________.

BLT

Taigu

In a word: Kit-and-kaboodle noodles.

The specs: #01081 
7610 Elmwood, Middleton 53562
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Taigu news and reviews

JM ate the pork belly with jalapeños and pickled cabbage.
Nichole ate the beef, egg and tomato noodles.
The bill was $28, or $14/person, plus tip.
JM gave Taigu a B; Nichole gave Taigu an A- (see our grading rubric).

 

Pork belly, jalapeno & pickled cabbage

 

Taigu is pretty great.  JM got pork belly with jalapeños and pickled cabbage which only had one flaw (it seemed to be headed to another table yet landed on ours, more on this in a moment). Nichole's noodles with beef, egg and tomatoes was even better, showing off Taigu's impressive housemade, handmade noodles.  The flame-grilled peppers were umami ne plus ultra.

Of course, every plus has its minus and Taigu has a rather noticeable one. We arrived at a touch before 6, thinking maybe with a spot of luck, we could make a 7 PM activity. We settled up the bill at Taigu around 8:10.  Just so you know, this good food takes time - the food here is quite good, maybe a little pricey, but good through and through. But you will wait for it, so bring the extended family, some old friends that you need to catch up with, or someone new that you want to get to know a whole lot better and just use the time for face-to-face interaction because you will likely be enjoying a nice meal out together for a while.

Taco Bell

In a word: Everything about this place should be put in "quotes."

The specs: #01080  
698 S. Whitney Way, 53711
Details at Yelp

Latest Taco Bell news and reviews

JM and Nichole ate some Taco Bell food.
The bill was cheap.
JM gave Taco Bell a C+; Nichole gave Taco Bell a C- (see our grading rubric).

Taco Bell

Taco Bell is not so much a restaurant as a commodity.  How much you like it depends on three factors: how much money you have, how much time you have, how close is it. The less of any or all of these, the more you like it.

We got a Crunchwrap, some tacos (including a Doritos loco one) and some nachos.  Really, though, it all sort of tastes the same. Beans, cheese, lettuce, shell, cheese sauce, chips.  Taco Bell is good for when you don't have time to care (which makes the slowness of their drive-thru a little problematic).

Now, we at Madison A to Z like to provide service to the public, so we'd like to pass along Alan Talaga's ranking of all Madison-area Taco Bells.  The Fitchburg one, located on PD out by the Hy*Vee, is missing (our estimated rank for that one would be #4 1/2), but the rest are presented herewith:

1. That one in Monona
2. That one over by Whitney Way
3. That one over by East Towne Mall
4. That one on the edge of Middleton as you start driving to Cross Plains
5. The Taco Bell Express in East Towne Mall
6. The Taco Bell Express in West Towne Mall
7. That one on State Street
8. That one on Mineral Point Road over by Menards
9. That one on E. Washington Ave that isn’t the one right by East Towne Mall

Know before you go.

Taco Bell

Sweet Tea Cakes

In a word: Good gosh almighty.

The specs: #01079 
7414 Mineral Point Rd., 53717
Details at Yelp, official web site

Latest Sweet Tea Cakes news and reviews

JM and Nichole ate six mini cupcakes.
The bill was $, or $/person, plus tip.
JM gave Sweet Tea Cakes a B; Nichole gave Sweet Tea Cakes an A- (see our grading rubric).

Sweet Tea Cakes is tucked into a strip mall near La Baguette.  It is pricey in a Cupcakes A-Go-Go sort of way, but looks like it could do a real good wedding cake or other fancy-occasion baked good.

The store case (spare with options the day JM stopped by) included mostly cupcakes and cake pops as the ready to order foods. He picked up a set of six small cupcakes that comprised the 'chocolate package' (good choice, sir): two each of Oreo, mint, and peanut butter.

Cupcakes

We consumed the cakes within the weekend and found that they were all pretty good, but seemed like they should be under and not over a dollar a bite. We did not, in fact, pair them with tea, which may have been our downfall.  The chocolate was good and cakes moist. Ranking them: Peanut Butter, Oreo, Mint. The mint was menth-y, not our favorite flav.

We wouldn't rush back, but then, we rarely need cakes this fancy.

Sweet Home Wisconsin

In a word: Once you figure it out, it rocks.

The specs: #01078
910 Regent St., 53715
Details at Yelp, Facebook

Latest Sweet Home Wisconsin news and reviews

JM ate the BBQ bacon burger with fries.
Nichole ate the tomato ginger soup, Chicago dog with curds, and a coffee.
The bill was $31, or $15ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Sweet Home Wisconsin an A-; Nichole gave Sweet Home Wisconsin a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Before we start on the food or the history or whatnot, let's start with the name.  Sweet Home Wisconsin (and this becomes evident within 10 seconds of entering the place) is trying to tie into the classic late blues/early rock tune by Robert John (via Magic Sam via the Blues Brothers) called Sweet Home Chicago.  This is a little weird for a couple of reasons.  One: Sweet Home Wisconsin is trying to be a twist on the Old Fashioned model -- namely the genre of Sconnie dishes done right.  Their twist is that there's a little bit of Chicago on the menu.  [While the band Chicago may spring to mind here, and SHW does use an awful pop music framing structures, there is no reference to '25 or 6 to 4' all the way through to 'Look Away', et Cetera.] But this taste of Chicago just amps up the cognitive dissonance.  You can do the Old Fashioned thing and lean in to Wisconsin cuisine or the Fib's thing and lean in to the Illinois stuff.  But, Chicago dogs at Sweet Home Wisconsin.  All we were was confused for a minute.

Two: While Sweet Home Chicago may the first thing you think of, some might think rather of a different Sweet Home, namely Sweet Home Alabama.  See, Sweet Home Chicago is Sweet Home + CITY while Sweet Home Alabama is Sweet Home + STATE.  Some people may be thinking they're gonna get bratwurst change-ups with fried chicken and grits.  Perhaps you should call it Sweet Home Madison instead to ensure that the pop music you're appropriating lands firmly in the milieu you desire?

Also: A ton of Grateful Dead played during our meal. So much noodling, we thought it was a pasta place.

Now that this whole wandering is out of the way, we can get to the actual food: which, and we don't want to understate this, is really good.

Tomato ginger soup

Nichole sampled their ginger tomato soup and found it very fresh and bright.  The cheese curds, which, let's be honest, are good but are never going to top OSS curds, actually came very close to those pillowy delights. They were light and airy and came with a wide variety of sauce choices.

BBQ burger

JM's BBQ bacon burger was a perfect medium rare and the patty was clearly handmade.  His fries, like all fries, can come plain or with a rub in addition to a sauce.  Nichole got a perfectly made Chicago lacking only the relish that glows in the dark.  This dog did come with relish; it just did not seem to require a hazmat suit. Pretty good dog.

Chicago dog

This location on Regent next to the Greenbush Bar continues to confound with its lack of parking and never quite enough tables (which is only exacerbated now that they have an even fuller bar).  But the management is deeply rooted in this community as well as Madison's restaurant royalty, and the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and not in JM's pop music rants.

Swad

In a word: The subcontinent of Monona.

The specs: #01077  
6007 Monona Dr., Monona 53716
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Swad news and reviews

Griffin, Iona, JM, Miranda, and Nichole all ate at the buffet.
The bill was $13/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Swad an A-; Miranda and Griffin gave Swad a B; Iona gave Swad a C (see our grading rubric).

We had been told that Swad, Monona's contribution to the Indian buffet lunch market, was quite good.  We found it to be so, though there were a lot of things that could stand a revisit or revisioning, depending.

Swad

To start with, one of the nice things about Indian buffets is that our pescatarian friends can usually sample a wide range of the menu.  This was true here, but not a true as it could have been.  Firstly, there were a lot of chicken dishes.  Now, JM, he likes him some chicken, and CTM and the tandoori were very nice, but the presence of chicken (and a couple of goat items) took a lot of the buffet out. And then fish was not great, which led to even more concern from our youngest diner, who primarily gets fish when her family eats Indian.

Swad

The lentil and bean dishes, however, were pretty good and the kulfi was very rich.  Swad has a chaat table which was fun.  There were several desserts and a whole section of relishes, which leads to a combinatoric approach for some diners.

Swad is much bigger than its small entrance in the strip mall indicates, though parking can be an issue especially if La Rosita is having a special day.  Swad seems like a perfectly reasonable addition to the scene, but we wouldn't necessarily drive past Tandoori House, Mirch Masala, Swagat, Maharani, Amber, Dhaba or Minerva to eat there.  Which is just how spoiled we are.

Sushi Express

In a word: Fast, affordable, good (pick three).

The specs: #01076  
610 University Ave., 53715
Details at Yelp, official web site

Latest Sushi Express news and reviews

JM ate the beef short ribs.
Nichole ate the yellowfin and eel avocado rolls.
The bill was $22, or $11/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave Sushi Express a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Given Sushi Express's neighbor A8 China, we were concerned. A8 had proven just how much campus denizens are willing to compromise for their fast Asian cuisine (answer: a lot, but hey, A8 is still open). We thought Sushi Express might be the same concept, only applied to a cuisine that is hard to get right and easier to make you ill.  We won't bury the lede: Sushi Express passes the test and then some.

Indeed, while no Fugu or Takara, Sushi Express truly lives up to its name in providing good, nourishing Japanese cuisine in short order, and the value structure is pretty much dead on.

Yellowfin roll & eel/avocado roll

Nichole got sushi (it's in the name after all) and her yellowfin and eel avocado rolls were fine. JM got the beef short ribs which were plentiful and filling, even if he did have to gnaw a little longer than he'd hoped.  Watching University Avenue bustle is always a pleasant experience and the front window counter is nice place to bask in the late winter.

Short ribs

The kitchen is hopping and even one of the chefs took our order when we didn't realize there was table service.  Everyone is really nice and pitches in to make this a low-cost alternative when time or money is in short supply and you really need your nori.

Surya Cafe

In a word: Serenity chow.

The specs: #01075  
5500 East Cheryl Parkway, Fitchburg 53711
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Surya Cafe news and reviews

JM ate the polenta with mushrooms.
Nichole ate the samosa tartlet.
The bill was $18.50, or $9ish/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Surya Cafe a C (see our grading rubric). 

Surya (Sanskrit for sun) Cafe, is a vegan restaurant in a yoga studio in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.

It took some time to navigate the setup, arriving as we did off the street (shoes? no shoes?) just as a class was letting out.  Throw in the fact that the counter service is a self-serve iPad order station, and we started out not knowing what's going on (and weren't the only ones; another couple arriving from the outside appeared similarly discombobulated). But once we touched our choices, swiped our plastic, and sat down to wait our order being called ("Jim!") things were back to routine.

We pondered the similarities and differences between Surya and our last stop, SuperCharge!, which also offers vibrantly healthy eats.  Surya seemed slicker, which is not necessarily to say less sincere, than SuperCharge!  Suyra has more expensive stuff hanging on the walls.  Both seem to be in the business of enlightenment.

Polenta cakes

JM is not the right audience for Surya.  At all.  He got polenta (grits) with mushrooms based on his rule that mushrooms will be served closest to the ways meat would be served at a vegan restaurant.  Saying it was "all right" requires several caveats and the full knowledge that he would likely never volunteer to head here again.  Surya seems, to him, more about being healthy than full, which is not why he goes out to eat.

Samosa tarts

Nichole got a snack of a samosa tartlet which was hearty and nicely priced.  The flavors here worked together well and the dish came together in a pleasant way to be both satisfying and nourishing.  Sometimes she doesn't know what the heck JM is talking about, but after twenty years of eating together it is what it is, and that goes both ways.

If gluten-free & vegan is something you have been looking for, Surya is likely to be your kind of place. Just make sure to arrive without all the hubbub of a class letting out.  Or go to a class, and enjoy a snack afterwards.

NEWS

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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