Monthly Archives: June 2009

Eating Well in Wisconsin

Hey y’all! Once again, I dropped off the face of the planet and still am behind on updates. But hey! I’m in a new state for the summer and will be sharing with you all my crazy adventures in food and drink in Madison, Wisconsin! Try not to get too excited 😉

Why Wisconsin, you must be asking. After all, yours truly is a bicoastal baby– I shuttle between the northeast and SoCal with reckless abandon– and have never been to the Midwest (not even Chicago!) before now. But I’ll be here, and for two whole months too, as I’m taking language classes at UW Madison this summer before jetting off to the Philippines with the hubs at the end of August. So until then, it’ll probably be Wisconsin all the time… and maybe with some Chicago thrown in too.

So, just to start: some greatest hits from this week’s noshing in downtown Madison:

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Sirwota with injera from the Buraka cart, located on State St right at the mouth of UW.
One of the cutest things I’ve ever seen in street food: every day, all day, several mobile carts decorated like little houses sit at the main entrance to the UW campus, serving up foods and drinks from around the world. There’s a Puerto Rican/ Caribbean cart, the Buraka (the local Eritrean/Ethiopian restaurant) cart, a smoothie and juice cart run by an adorable Hmong woman, and a Chinese cart, among others. $7 got me this portion of sirwota, a beef stewed in a spicy sauce with potatoes, over injera. I wasn’t expecting greatness but I gotta say, it was pretty damn tasty. Good job, cart!

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Brats with mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, and applesauce at the Great Dane.

The Great Dane is something of a local institution here in Madison. It’s a sprawling brewery pub, complete with a sweet game room with gorgeous wood pool tables and a damn classy shuffleboard deck (is it called a deck? A table? Whatever.) Given the omnipresence of brats in Madison, I figured I might as well order some here. They didn’t disappoint. Very clean and smooth filling, clean casing, and all around solid. The sauerkraut and mash were perfect, too. I wasn’t in love with the applesauce, because I just realized that I like the cheap Motts variety better than the real deal. So sue me. Some things you just get used to even if they are mass-produced and shelved!

I also had a very nice “Scotch-style ale” brewed by Great Dane in-house. Loved this. Nice and dark without feeling too heavy. It had a clean finish, with a hit of nut flavor without tasting like a nut brown ale or like a porter. I’ll definitely be ordering this if it’s on tap again the next time.

While I enjoyed my dinner, I noticed the food and beer selection at the Great Dane is a bit hit-or-miss. Some friends made the mistake of ordering their “Chai spice lager” which tasted nothing like Chai nor lager and totally like a jalapeno-flavored batch of pisswater. I’ve honestly never tasted a beer quite this intentionally terrible. The only thing I could say is: this is definitely a case of a brewmaster gone a little too far. Maybe he was stoned when he thought this up? In any case, stay far far away from any “spiced” beer here and stick to their regular line-up!

I also had two meals at Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry this week– the other, more oddly named, institution here in Madison. They’re known for their burgers, and they didn’t disappoint. A little on the greasy side, with regular old white buns, these little burgers do the job. They’re made of high quality meat, no muss no fuss, with a lot of different cheeses and toppings as options. The fried cheese curds– my first experience with cheese curds ever– were disappointing, but only because I expected them to “squeak.” Otherwise, they were also a yummy batch of friend deliciousness. To complete the trifecta of fried-ness, you must try the fried mac and cheese wedges. Seriously- these were YUM. Sadly, I have no photos of my meals here (two already, I need to slow down!) but they are forthcoming once some people decide to email me their copies. Ahem.

Something tells me that I’m going to have to try really, really hard this summer to be a healthy eater. There are definitely lots of fresh options available (and I’ll be posting about that next!), but the preponderance of cheesy and fried foods here is staggering, not to mention the wealth of local brews on tap. Good thing I’ll be walking everywhere (car-free summer!), but I think it’s time to invest in a good pair of running shoes, too…


Great Dane Pub

downtown Madison location:
123 East Doty Street
Madison, WI 53703
608.284.0000

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