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.


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.


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.

SuperCharge! Foods

In a word: Organic refueling station.

The specs: #01074  
1902 E .Washington, 53704
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest SuperCharge! Foods news and reviews

JM drank the Atwood.
Nichole drank the Shamrock shake and got a salad for later.
The bill was about $10 plus tip.
JM gave SuperCharge! Foods a C; Nichole gave SuperCharge! Foods a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Supercharge greens

SuperCharge! Foods is a funky smoothie and juice bar/community center/mini farm on East Washington Ave. Nichole got a rather filling "shamrock shake" smoothie (which included a touch if mint and cocoa) and JM got a quite tasty juice. We got to peek behind the counter into the sprouting area, filled with young greens like mustard, peas, basil and sunflowers. You cannot get much fresher than this. The greens go into the packaged salads and some salads make it to the shelves of Hy-Vee and other retailers in town.

We just popped in for a smoothie on this first visit, which itself seems like the most touristy possible way to experience the place, which has as its mission to be a community center too. They have an event space that hosts classes and workshops, a shelf of resource books, a large comfy table for enjoying prepared food, and a small grocery offering products from YumButter, Native Food Network, and more.

The near-east side would likely feel incomplete without places like this. SuperCharge! Foods is on the roster for the Madison Public Market when it opens in 2020 - til then, their earnest and healthy vibe is a great thing where it's at.

Sunrise Family Restaurant

In a word: We can go there 'til we both eat up.

The specs: #01073  
1052 W Main StStoughton, WI 53589
Details at Yelp

Latest Sunrise Family Restaurant news and reviews

JM ate the French toast with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the turkey bacon club with a decaf and a slice of butterscotch pie.
The bill was $19.30, or $10ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Sunrise Family Restaurant a B; Nichole gave Sunrise Family Restaurant an A- (see our grading rubric).

Chicken soup

Sunrise Family Restaurant is, indeed, a family restaurant, in the same genre as American Table, Dairyland, DeForest, Spring Garden, Coppertop and many others.  This means that you can get breakfast anytime, order from several different cuisine types and still get out for $10 or less per person.  Sunrise is Stoughton's version and it pretty much lines up as you'd expect.

Club sandwich

Nichole has a soft spot for places like this. She got decaf coffee, a turkey bacon club, fries, chicken soup and slab of butterscotch pie. While most of this was solid Sysco and nothing was too exciting, it was just fine.

French toast

JM was more skeptical but he chose a dish that was easier to get right.  The French toast were plentiful for the price and came with enough butter.  There's nothing exciting about that, but it was a right across the plate pitch and Sunrise got a decent double out of it.

Butterscotch pie

 The thing is: family restaurants are cheap and no one has to worry that the picky eater won't find something to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Especially if you want something from their expansive breakfast menu later in the day.

These flip menu ads, too.


Sunn Cafe

Sunn CafeIn a word: Find the time.

The specs: #01072  
201 E. Main St., Mount Horeb 53572
Details at Yelp, Facebook

Latest Sunn Cafe news and reviews

JM ate the Vegas sandwich with a Sprecher root beer.
Nichole ate the beef burrito plus avocado with a Wisco Cherry Pop and a brownie.
The bill was $24, or $12/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Sunn Cafe an A- (see our grading rubric). 

This Mount Horeb eatery is named for the Norwegian word for healthy.  The healthy eats here are quite good, but a little hard to get to for the average Madison drone, as Sunn was only open from 11-5 Mondays to Saturdays when we made our trip. If spring ever comes to Dane County this year, we'll try to remember it being good for a lunch stop on a circuit of the Military Ridge bike path, especially if we don't want something as heavy as what one would get at Grumpy Troll.

Vegas sandwich

Here JM got a Vegas sandwich, which was a delicious and filling mix of meats and banana pepper. Served with a side of potato chips, he knew he'd hit a small jackpot - it was a complete sandwich and served warm. Nichole's beef burrito was similarly filling served with chips and salsa. The burrito was sandwiched on a panini press for extra tastiness, with a rich seasoning. 


Here you can also wash everything down with a Wisco Pop, a Sprecher or a local brew, and finish with some of their delightful bakery. The brownie we got was rich and sizeable, without becoming same-y.


Brownie and pop

We hope you'll schedule an afternoon in Mount Horeb and check Sunn out, it's worth the trip.

Sundown Saloon

In a word: They better take care than many spots we've eaten at here and/or there.

The specs: #01071 
57 S. Stoughton Rd., 53714
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Sundown Saloon news and reviews

JM ate the buffalo chicken sandwich with lemonade.
Nichole ate the patty melt with a diet Coke.
The bill was $19, or about $10/person, plus tip.
JM gave Sundown Saloon a B+; Nichole gave Sundown Saloon a B- (see our grading rubric).

Sundown Saloon beckons, somewhat unobtrusively, from Stoughton Road. We've found that Madison's east side still has pockets of bars that feel like they are frequented by blue-collar folks and not effete fixie riders or Epic wonks.

The staff here really do know to take care of you.  Our server was personable and friendly, answering questions and giving us just enough time to debate the pros and cons of patty melt vs. burger. Here they manage the bar and prep the food with courtesy and warmth, despite being quite busy even at 1 PM on a Friday.

Patty melt

Nichole ended up getting the patty melt, partly because a colleague of JM's had declared to him that the patty melt is the winner at Sundown. This one had 2 layers of Swiss cheese and beef, plus onions, served on toasted marble rye, and was dang good. JM was even happier with his (very very spicy) buffalo chicken sandwich.  He had been offered ranch with it, and got mayo instead, which made him 50% happier. (Seriously, what is with ranch love?)

Buffalo chicken sandwich

The fries were nicely prepared and took to ketchup quite well, but could have easily been Ore*Ida.  In fact, most everything here is just fine -- not too exciting, but well done with essential ingredients which can add up to hit or miss food.  The service is the star and, if there's some hidden highlight on the menu, we can see Sundown being in an East side bar rotation easily. 

An added perk, we stopped at the Aunt Millie's Bakery Outlet on Atlas on the way out, not because we were still hungry, but because it was open, and we have ways of disposing of massive bags of mini donuts and vast quantities of raisin bread (as one does).


SumoIn a word: Dinner and a show.

The specs: #01070  
1745 Parkside Dr., 53704
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Sumo news and reviews

David ate the scallop hibachi.
JM ate the steak and shrimp hibachi.
Nichole ate the ribeye hibachi.
The bill was $12/person, plus tip.
JM and David gave Sumo a B+; Nichole gave a Sumo a B (see our grading rubric).

Sumo (much Like the as-yet-unvisited Fuji on the west side) is a dinner-and-a-show style hibachi restaurant.  It is not a buffet (we somehow got that idea in our heads, probably because Sumo replaced Madison's only OCB/HomeTown Buffet). Sumo is instead a sushi lounge/hot grill place where you can have broccoli fired at your mouth; onion volcanoes built, erupted, and destroyed; peepee jokes made with dolls; and knives thrown and caught for your amusement.  Our party caught all of the broccoli that came our way. Win!

Onion volcano

We had the steak, the shrimp and scallops for lunch.  Lunch seems like a nice deal given that it is mostly the same show but the prices are little less, presumably since the portions are a little smaller. But because it follows a show, watch out that you do not go hangry because things could go from bad to worse.  Further, our rice arrived relatively early and entrees arrived at different times (cooking times of course vary).  But lots of butter - carved from a giant butter mountain, probably five pounds or more - was used and we all agreed that the food was better than we expected.  The yummy and ginger sauces deserve note because they both worked so well together with any meat.

That said, the hibachi menu is pretty narrow; this is fine since it would be hard to pull off of these different meats while still putting on a good show. Two of us even got to-go boxes, which stretches the $12 price across another half meal. Sumo is making a decent go of it since the east side Ginza closed, but we'd probably eat at Takara on State for our Japanese performance art cooking.


In a word: You go to Sujeo.

The specs: #01069  
10 N. Livingston St., 53703
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Sujeo news and reviews

JM ate the dandan noodles with a lemonade.
Marijka ate the squash curry with a cocktail.
Nichole ate the Korean fried chicken with a limeade.
Ryan ate the pastrami pho.
We split some cheese curds and got two ice creams. The bill was $100, or $25/person, plus tip.
Marijka, Nichole and Ryan gave Sujeo an A; JM gave Sujeo an A- (see our grading rubric).

Cheese curds

A cold winter's evening was made all the brighter by a trip to the near East side's Sujeo - another in the Tory Miller empire.  We both liked Graze and L'Etoile; we would be surprised to walk away from this meal unhappy.  Sujeo's concept is Asian noodle dishes prepared with a hearty Midwestern feel.  Indeed, hearty would be a good word to describe all that we got there.

Pastrami ramen

Ryan and Marijka had already been to Sujeo a few times (they had pointed out that cooktop booths seem to have been unnecessary for the way that Sujeo developed after initial design). They had a couple of favorites that they enjoyed including the appetizer of delicious cheese curds. Marijka contends that these are the best cheese curds in Madison and, with OSS having closed, were having a hard time arguing that point. The squash curry really is one of the better vegetarian meals to be had at this level of quality and the curry is offered in just the perfect quantity and well-balanced across the dish. Ryan's pastrami pho is just the kind of fusion cuisine that Miller is famous for. The portion was ample and both dishes were sent home for an additional lunch portion later. Remember this when you think of the bill.

Squash curry

Nichole's three pieces of Korean fried chicken, though, were things of beauty. Gigantic pieces, fried with a juicy, crispy skin. In truth, there is little way to do this chicken justice with words - it recalls nothing so much as Chicken Unlimited, but with Korean spices. It was a wonderful portion and reheated pretty well. JM was the only the CPC member of the day, having polished off his dandan noodles during the meal (his only gripe is that is was a little on the small side) -- it was nicely spicy and did a great job providing internal heat to contrast the cold wind outside.

Dan dan pork

That said, even a cold night cannot stop the soft serve action at Sujeo.  Nichole and Marijka each got one of the two flavors on offer (Mexican chocolate and Farmers Market Raspberry), it was hard to say which one was better at its goal, since fruit and chocolate ice creams have different purposes.  Both, however, were available with sprinkles... so there's that.

Ice cream coneIce cream cone

For four people, the bill came in at $100, which is fine given that it was more like seven meals of high quality (three sets of leftovers) PLUS cheese curds and ice cream. Sujeo heralds the rise of the East Washington corridor (of Festival Foods and shiny new Epicserf condos), which will be nice and add tons of value to the city.  A true jewel.

Sugar and Spice Eatery

In a word: Everything's nice.

The specs: #01068 
317 Nora St., Stoughton 53589
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Sugar and Spice Eatery news and reviews

JM ate the BBQ burger.
Nichole ate the steak and eggs.
Rose ate the Eggs Benedict.
The bill was cheap.
JM and Rose gave Sugar and Spice Eatery an A-; Nichole gave Sugar and Spice Eatery an A (see our grading rubric).

Sugar and Spice Eatery began a better-than-expected run of good restaurants that recharged our A to Z batteries somewhat. But unlike Sujeo, the next place, this one had absolutely no build up to us - we hadn't heard of the place at all! So we arrived on a cold winter's lunchtide to peruse their menu and found that almost every table was filled and it stayed that way for the duration. There's also a full-service deli which enjoyed lots of foot traffic, and offers a good-looking menu for weekday lunches.


Back in the dining room, we tried a little of both the breakfast and the lunch menu.  Nichole got the steak and eggs with hash browns, raisin toast (yay) and coffee.  The steak was thick and tasty and came with prepared mushrooms.

Massive breakfast

Rose opted for a more traditional breakfast of Eggs Benedict, and she was able to get the eggs over hard, just the way she likes them on that dish.  The Hollandaise was more cheesy than lemony, but the whole thing was satisfying and delicious.  JM has a Western burger which had, like many plates around the cafe, a slice of thin-cut ham on it.  The BBQ sauce was mighty delicious, but the curly fries were a little sparse: a shame because he was really enjoying them.

Eggs Benedict

There's not much more we can say about a place that, apart from a few quibbles, seems to be knocking it our of the park in Stoughton. They do breakfast, lunch and deli foodstuffs right and they are tres adorbz to boot.  We can think of few better places to tuck in to comfort food like this and we cannot understand why our original list eschewed this place as it has been serving Stoughton for nearly two decades. Recommended!


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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