Not everything makes it into a post, I've deleted many photos for posts that never got started....that Mariscos place where I got ill, that very good fine meal with no lighting....though unless we're travelling, I usually don't even break out the camera for those type of meals. And the one's I just never got around to.... I've done these "Never Made the Cut" posts before. Here's another batch.....
Recently, "Kha" sent me an email for some Hawaii recommendations, which included some requests for the North Shore.......
One of the places was Mackey's Shrimp Truck.......I sent him a photo and realized I never posted on the place.
Which made me realize that I had photos from meals during our travels that I never posted on. Too much time had passed.....
Sometimes I even had a very good meal, but the lighting was just too bad......like this revisit to The Old Fashioned.
Pickled Pork Hock...pickled egg.....
Nice burger.....and cheese curds of course....
And an adorable Server.......
But that lighting....ick......
I just plumb forgot about our revisit to Fresh Catch....
We enjoyed the poke much more this time around....
The Missus loved the really aged poi.....which was a surprise.....it was really funky.
This last one is from Tunis. It was a surprisingly decent meal......
This was pretty inexpensive as well.... in the Airport in Tunis! Airport staff and flight crew were on the other tables....so I guess this is the place!
So that's it....another Clearing Out the Memory Card post! Have a great weekend!
You may find it difficult to believe that we don't actually post on ALL the places we visit. Usually, if the Missus and I have an upscale dinner in San Diego, I usually don't take photos, unless it's happy hour or has some other interesting tie in. There usually are too many people around and I'm a pretty low-key person.....I don't like attention. And then there are those that just "don't make the cut"...it doesn't mean the place was terrible or anything, it could be that I just never got around to doing a post....of course, if it was a stellar meal, you know I'd have done a post.
So anyway, with a minimum of my blabbing, here's a trio that just never made it until I COMC'd (Cleared Out the Memory Card).
Inka Heritage - Madison Wisconsin:
To my disappointment, I got to Mad-town during restaurant week and Inka Heritage had what amounted to a prix fix menu, so I had to go with what they had.
Ceviche 3 Ajies (3 peppers):
Pescado Inka Heritage:
Sooo much cheese...but heck, this is Wisconsin, right? What should I have expected.
Inka Heritage 602 S Park St Madison, WI 53774
The Wok Restaurant - Chiang Mai, Thailand:
The dishes looked so lovely, but just didn't deliver.....very bland, somewhat dumbed down. These folks run a cooking school I was thinking of joining....kind of glad I didn't.
The Wok Restaurant 44 Rajmankha Rd, Chiang Mai 50200 Thailand
Ucyildiz - Antalya, Turkey:
So if MickeyD's, or say ChowKing came to Turkey, I'm thinking this is what the food would look like. Sorta artificial....funny, the photos in the menu looked so lovely.
We still chuckle when we see the photos....you can't win 'em all.
Anyway, thanks for dropping by and reading....or staring, or whatever it is that you do when it;s mostly just photos!
Getting something to eat during long layovers is a necessary evil. Waiting for flights or connecting flights you're often left with a choice of fast-food joints, pre-packaged foods at high mark-ups. Over the last couple of years airports have started featuring more popular local chains and greater variety. And while I'm still convinced that something is lost in the transition (most notably a nasty Superdawg at Midway Airport) it still makes things interesting. Also, for more interesting posts check out Dennis's posts on airport meals.
Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company - Dane County Regional Airport:
In spite of all my trips to Madison, I'd only flown into the local regional airport once. Mainly because I'd be able to justify a rental car if driving from Chicago, which turns out to be a fairly relaxing drive for me. But I quickly banished the thought of driving from Chicago in February.....moi....the guy from Hawaii who lives in San Diego, dealing with the possibility of snow, sleet, ice, or worse? So there I was at the airport at 1230 for a 430pm flight because that's when the airport shuttle ran. I even skipped lunch so I go thru security and looked for something to eat.....and lo' and behold......there was a branch of the Great Dane right in front of me.
I took this as a sign of sorts.......because of scheduling and transportation issues, I hadn't been able to complete my usual rendezvous with deep fried cheese curds on this trip. During my first visit to Madison, I'd had my first dose of those at the Fitchburg location of the Great Dane.
So even though prices were anywhere from $3 - $5 higher then the non-airport locations, how could I ignore the divine placement of the Great Dane, right?
I must say that these were rather disappointing. The curds were quite hard instead of having a nice gooey texture. These were also on the salty side, not anything like versions I'd had previously.
If you've read my previous post on the Great Dane, you realize that this ain't food for the calorie or fat conscious. With that in mind I went all in and ordered the Brat and Bacon Burger....something I also ate before.
Man, this was greasy, even more greasy than expected and I'd had this before! The grease saturated the roll cuasing it to be a mushy mess. The burger was tough and overcooked, though the brat was decent. Not particularly good eats overall.
The Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company Dane County Regional Airport
Gordon Ramsay's Plane Food:
Finding out that we'd be flying through Heathrow an acquaintance of mine told me that Gordon Ramsay had a restaurant in terminal 5. He told me that the place has changed the game with regards to airport food. I was indeed a bit curious....we'd seen the brash and bombastic Ramsay on his Kitchen Nightmare show and really wondered......"he talks a good talk, but does he walk the walk?" Since we had four hour layovers in both directions, we thought we'd try something small on our way to Istanbul, if it showed promise, we'd have more on our way back. This seemed prudent, because the prices ain't cheap folks! Personally, I'm not a big fan of Heathrow for a couple of reasons....the signage sucks, this is coming from a guy who has travelled to five continents. They make you sit around in terminal five, which lacks sufficient seating until anywhere from 1 hour to 30 minutes before your flight. Then you have to find your gates. They make you go through additional checks even though you're connecting and charge a rather exorbitant amount for wi-fi. I will say that I find the British accent and slangquite entertaining though. When the security guy wanted a red head who had just gone through the detector to stop you shouted, "hey, you there, GINGER-Girl, please move about to the side please!" Ginger-girl?
The actually entrance to the restaurant can be hard to find initially, but once down that alleyway, everything opens up to a large, wide-open seating area.
We started with something very basic, the Steamed English asparagus, pan fried duck egg , grain mustard dressing (£8.75 - about $16 US at the time).
This was pretty atrocious for a couple of reasons. First that "pan fried" duck egg was cold, had no taste, and the whites were rubbery. It had the look of "buffet eggs", eggs that were cooked in an egg ring, then placed in a hotel pan over sterno to serve during a lunch or dinner buffet. How do I know? I've made these many times during a previous career. The asparagus was tough and fibrous, the lower, very tough portion should have been peeled. The stalks were also severely under-seasoned and the mustard sauce was also fairly bland. I wonder what Mr Ramsay would have said had he come upon this dish at one of his "nightmare" restaurants? Can't fry an egg to order and trim asparagus?
The Crispy Duck Salad with Watercress, chilli, and ginger (£12.50 - over $20 US at the time) was a bit better.
The duck was flavored nicely, sweet, mild five spice flavor, made in the fashion of Chinese style crispy beef. The watercress was nice, though we found some yellowed leaves at the bottom. Couldn't really make out the ginger flavor, but the dressing was nice and we could have used a tad more of it. Still, I'm not sold that this was a twenty dollar salad, even with the airport mark-up.
In the end, we were glad we started small here and decided to skip it altogether on the return trip.
Gordon Ramsay Plane Food London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5
Cousin's BBQ - Dallas Forth Worth Airport:
In case you're thinking that I hate all airport food, that's really not the case. During another one of my trips I had a four and a half hour layover at DFW airport. Now I kinda like terminal B, wi-fi is free, there's enough interesting shops to keep me occupied, and I enjoyed most of my meal at Cousin's BBQ.
Cousin's is a DFW chain of six restaurants, so I figured if I had a meal in this airport, it should be here. Since this was Texas, I decided on the brisket.
First off, I found the sides to be mediocre; the mashed potatoes bland and the gravy like glue. The coleslaw needed a favor infusion and the Texas toast was like cold, stale, buttered bread. Not a big fan of the runny sauce either.
But I really enjoyed the brisket, which I found to have a nice, though light smoke flavor.
I loved the crisp end piece which had a nice balanced flavor, The meat was tender and moist though not falling to pieces.
I felt totally satisfied after this meal. It was probably the best thing I've eaten in an airport in a long time. If I'm ever here again, I'll probably pass on the sides and do a brisket sandwich or something.
In the end, I'm not expecting great food in an airport, decent food that I feel is worthy of the price will do it for me.
Cousin's BBQ Dallas Fort Worth Airport, Terminal B, Gate 28
I'm not sure if anyone remembers my last encounter with the rather oddly named Fugu Restaurant, which served Sichuan style cuisine in Madison. Of course, there must be explanation, perhaps the place just kept the former restaurant's name to keep the customer base, licensing issues, or perhaps something similar. But what are odds of having two restaurants with Japanese names serving Sichuan cuisine in Madison? Enter Ichiban.....yep good ol' "number 1" in Japanese. Strange thing indeed.
I had the pleasure of having my Sichuan meals with two wonderful people, YZ who is from Shanghai and YHL originally from Beijing. Having eaten at Fugu the day before, they wanted to check out Ichiban. The restaurant's tables have a slight San Gabriel stickiness to them and would not be out of place in the SGV. The clientele was a bit older than what I saw at Fugu, but almost all conversations were taking place in Mandarin.
We started with Steamed White Meat Chicken with Chili Oil.
The chicken was moist and tender, but the sauce lacked depth. It was indeed fairly spicy as the chili oil and chili flakes added heat. I'm not quite sure if this was supposed to be Ma La Ji Pian, if so, it was missing the mild sweetness or perhaps this was Guai Wei Ji Si, but then it was missing the nice sesame paste and black vinegar flavor. There was also just about no Sichuan Peppercorns at all in this.
Next up was the Zi Ran Yang Rou - Cumin Lamb:
The meat was fairly tender and the dish had some mild heat. It was better than the version I previously had at Fugu, but was still lacking in cumin. Overall, the best dish of the evening.
Next up was the Spicy and Crispy Pork Intestine:
The intestines could have been fried a bit better and the flavors were really lacking.
YHL needed a break from all the spicy food and ordered the Chicken with Corn Soup:
Coming in the middle of the meal meant the soup tasted pretty bland......
We finished up with the Shui Zhu Niu Rou, called Poached Sliced Beef in Hot Sauce on the menu. More familiar to us as Water Boiled Beef.
I really missed the Sichuan Peppercorns in this one. The Chili Paste was either quite inferior or (my guess) they really didn't use enough of it as the color looked a bit off. The beef was adequately prepared. But this wasn't very spicy.
Overall, the food was ok, not a bad try, some "La" (hot), but no "Ma" (numbing). Every dish seemed to be lacking in complexity and layering of flavors. Prices were about 15-20% higher than San Diego.
Ichiban 610 S Park St Madison, WI 53715
The next day we corrected and headed to Fugu. Funny story, before her last trip to Madison, I mentioned Fugu to YZ. she ended up eating here 3 times! Since there were the three of us we were able to sample a couple of dishes.
We started with the Liang Fen, which I think is on the menu as Sichuan Mung Bean Noodle. Liang Fen is basically a starch jelly which I like, but for many people it's more of an acquired texture than taste of which it doesn't have much.
Hooray, Sichuan Peppercorns! The sauce was a bit too watery, but this wasn't too bad.
Next up was my favorite dish from my previous visit, the "Hot Crispy Pork Intestine".
This didn't disappoint, the intestines were fried to a crisp. Like before, there was only the slightest offal flavor. As mentioned before, I could probably pass this as slightly gamey, weird looking, fried chicken skin. My preference would be for a bit more "ma la" (numbing heat), but I think this is still my favorite dish here. Both YZ and YHL agreed this was much better than the version at Ichiban.
Yu Xiang Qie Zi - Fish Fragrant Eggplant. I believe it's on the menu as Eggplant in Garlic Sauce. A classic dish. You've probably eaten this under the guise of Garlic Eggplant or perhaps Szechuan Eggplant.......
YZ really liked this, probably because it hit some Shanghainese flavor points as I found it a bit too sweet for me. Eggplant was cooked nicely though as it melted in your mouth. Nice vinegar touches, not a bad dish overall.
We also ordered the Pao Jiao Yu - Fish with Pickled Chilies.
My initial reaction was, "where's the Pao Jiao?" Not much pickled pepper action going on and not spicy at all. The fish had a nice, neutral flavor, but was on the mealy side. The sauce was a decent balance of spicy - sour - sweet....but where's the pickled chilies????
We ended the meal with Hui Guo Rou - Twice Cooked Pork.
This wasn't as greasy as previous versions I've had. And though I would have been happier with a bit more savory flavors, the vegetables tasted quite nice.
It was great fun sharing two meals with YZ and YHL....they found my interest in Chinese food somewhat amusing and were great company. YHL did tell me that Fugu was better than the best Sichuan Restaurant in Houston, so I guess that's saying something. If I get back to Madison, I hope to see more of these types of places. Though I hope they go with a proper Chinese name......though the thought of a restaurant named Benihana serving Hunan style food does make me chuckle.
Last week I found myself back in Madison. I'd been lucky, none of my previous trips had taken place during winter. Unfortunately, this time I couldn't avoid a February trip. I'd usually drive from Chicago, but there was no way I'd be doing that this time around. Folks, finding out I'm from San Diego seemed to take pleasure in reminding me that I was "lucky" since they were having such a balmy winter, heck it was almost like summer.......weather only hitting the single digits during those rare nights. It was a lovely, summer like 29 degrees as I walked out of the hotel. In truth, in spite of the rain, snow flurries, light rain, and once hail, I never once had to use my gloves, so I guess I should count myself as lucky........
Being past eight, I ended up going to a restaurant about a mile from the hotel. I'd noticed it on my previous trips.
I thought a bowl of Pho might just be the right thing for a late(for me) dinner. The restaurant looks pretty generic, you could drop it most anywhere here in SoCal and it would seem to fit perfectly.
When I arrived, I kinda went, whoa......apparently Pho ain't cheap in Mad Town. The basic Pho Tai goes for $7.95. not quite sure about which beef choice would be best, I went with the Pho Dac Diet which went for $8.95.
While waiting for my bowl, I rationalized Pho in Madison. Well, beef is fairly abundant, so the Pho should be beefy. I'm thinking noodles, star anise, and some herbs would probably be harder to find and probably be a bit more expensive. My stream of thought was broken by the plate of herbs and bean sprouts arriving at my table.
There was quite a bit of basil, albeit wilted and rapidly turning brown. I was truly surprised to find Ngo Gai, old and dry, very soapy in flavor, but totally unexpected.
My almost nine dollar bowl of Pho arrived soon after:
The broth was low oil, pretty cloudy, and was just mildly beefy. It also lacked any anise flavor and I ended up using almost all the basil. There was a fairly strong onion flavor and the broth, which didn't seem very salty did make me thirsty.
As for the meat, well, most of it was mediocre. As expected, there wasn't much tripe, and the tendon (described as "soft tendon" in the menu) wasn't particularly soft.
The noodles were prepared adequately, but the portion size was on the small side.
Well, now that I've done my Pho due diligence in Madison, I think I'll just move on to something else, unless anyone has a recommendation. Being under eight bucks might be nice as well.
Pho Nam Noodle House 610 Junction Road Madison, WI 53717
What is in a name? I'd heard about Fugu restaurant from a person I ran into in Madison during a previous visit. After being told what type of cuisine the place specialized in I was really, really, puzzled....more on that later. I promised myself that I'd check the place out if I ever returned to Madison.....and a bit over a month ago I had that chance.
Now what kind of food do you think a place called Fugu serves? I think most people know that Fugu is the Japanese name for puffer fish, so this is Japanese restaurant, right? Here's a photo of the dining area......
Looks like a pretty generic, low-middle range, perhaps Asian restaurant, right? Open up the menu and you'll see dishes like Masaman Curry, Basil Eggplant, and Pad See Ew..... Fugu, a Thai restaurant? Look at the website and check out the most popular dishes....hmmmm, Spring Rolls, Crab Rangoon, Sesame Chicken? Sounds like perhaps a Thai - ABCDE (American born Chinese dining establishment). When I arrived, I was given two menus...the first had those Thai and ABCDE dishes. The second looked something like this:
Even though the area around State Street has it's share of Indian, Nepalese, and Afghan restaurants, a few of which I've eaten at, for some reason I'd never been motivated to eat at the Japanese and Chinese restaurants in the area. Until I heard about Fugu's Sichuan menu.
Since it was a solo eating trip, I ordered just two dishes. The first was the Zi Ran Yang Rou (Cumin Lamb ($14.95).
One of my favorite dishes, I often make it at home with cumin from Xinjiang. This however, was not a good rendition. The lamb was very mildly flavored, the meat cut really thick was tough, and I think the cumin was added to late as there was a real powdery texture to the dish.
Not a real good start. The other dish I ordered was the "Hot Crispy Pork Intestine" ($13.95), basically deep fried intestine with dried chilies.
Ordering this was a bit of an adventure of sorts....you see, I ordered the lamb in Mandarin....really bad Mandarin. I had no idea of how to order this so I just ordered it in English. The young man taking my order took a step back. He asked me, "you sure???" Of course I was sure. He walked away and placed the order....then came back to verify the order....twice!
As you can tell by the photos, this was pretty good. Not too spicy and the flavors of Sichuan Peppercorns were present, though not quite enough for my tastes. Still, the pork intestine was well prepared....and fried to a crisp. If I told you this was chicken skin, albeit a slightly funky chicken skin, you'd love it. This was a nice dish overall.......and in Madison, who'd have thunk it?
Being used to West Coast Sichuan prices, I found the cost a bit high and the portions a bit small. But those pork intestines were quite good. As I left, the place had filled up....with Chinese students, many of which were hovering over steaming cauldrons of Huo Guo (Hot Pot), the familiar and temping fragrances dancing in the air as I walked out....of a restaurant called Fugu.....with a menu of American-Chinese and Thai dishes....in Madison, Wisconsin....that serves up some decent Sichuan food.
Fugu 411 West Gilman St Madison, WI 53703
Finally.....mmm-yoso gets....Totally Naked!!!
I walked to one of those chain bar and grills for a night cap and was happy to see a couple of local brews on tap. So I got....Totally Naked!!! Well, the beer of course..... a light ale that went down real smooth and quick. A perfect end to the evening. You didn't think that I'd be..... well......you knew it was about a beer right????
One of the restaurants I had on my list from my previous visit to Madison was Lao Laan-Xang. Though it seems that many regard Lao Laan-Xang as a Thai Restaurant(and the sign does say Laotian Cuisine), the Owners are Lao, and there were more than few Lao style dishes on the menu...... and it had been a while since I've had good Lao food. Luckily, the weather had cleared by my last evening in Madison, and I was able to head down to the Williamson Street location of Lao Laan-Xang.
The tiny, but very warm and welcoming shop brought back memories of my first experience with Thai Food at the tiny Keo's on Kapahulu Boulevard back in the very early 80's. Keo's has of course gone to greater things, but my memories of that tiny but welcoming restaurant stay dear to my heart. This was before the great Thai food boom, and indeed I recall when I told one of my dates that we were going for "Thai Food", she asked me if "this was a chicken place?" (Thigh food, got it?) Which had me laughing the whole evening....... it was also on that very evening we saw a very petite woman with big hair and big.... ummm....well, anyway it turned out to be Dolly Parton. On another night, I spied Steve Perry from Journey having dinner there. And though this dining room would never reach the orchid filled heights of Keo's, there was something cozy that just reminded me of that place.
And amongst the Crab Rangoon, Fried Rice, and Curries, there were two of my favorite Lao dishes. The first was hard to find since it was under it's Thai name of Khao Tod Nam Som.... but there it was, what I call one of my "Death Row Dishes" - Nam Khao ($9.50):
Before I continue, let me apologize for the photos. It get's pretty dark on "The Willy" at night. This version of Nam Khao was not bad, but lacked the amount of crunchiness I enjoy. Also, it was less sour, lacking that fermented sourness I enjoy. Still this was ok, I've had worse, though it was miles behind the versions I've had at Aisa Cafe, Vientiane Restaurant in Garden Grove, and not even close to what I had in Vientiane.... as in Vientiane, Laos. It was also fairly pricey, about 30% more than what you'd pay in San Diego.
I also ordered the Mok Pa ($15.99), with some reservations, as the only decent version I had of this dish was at Vietiane in Garden Grove. But this was very good.
I had learned how to make this dish after taking a cooking class at Tamarind Cooking School in Luang Prabang, and loved the complex flavors so much that I've made this at home, though I end up steaming it rather than grilling it. This dish did not disappoint; the fish was wonderfully moist and tender, but not over-cooked, and did not have any muddy flavor at all. The flavor of dill was there, adding that refreshing clean taste without over-powering the dish. The lindering flavors of the herbs was excellent. The portion size was quite large, almost enough for two.
About the only thing not very good about the whole meal was the very low quality of the sticky rice. It was off-white and I bit into some terribly hard pieces of rice. i'm thinking it must be pretty hard to get good quality sticky rice in Madison.
I won't go into the bland steamed "gringo" vegetables, because heck, this happens everywhere in San Diego as well.
We received good service, our Server was friendly, and our waters were refilled. The food was quite good, so I'll surely be headed back here the next time I'm in Madison.
Lao Laan-Xang 1146 Williamson St Madison, WI 53703
In an email before my trip to Madison, Cathy reminded me to be careful, since it seemed that there was always something happening on every other trip we've taken..... Earthquake before our trip to Peru, riots before our trip to Thailand, and of course, having to fly through an eerie Mexico City Airport on the way back from Guatemala right when the 2009 Swine Flu Pandemic broke. Between those trips we visited Vietnam/Cambodia, I travelled to Madison, and of course our trip to China. So I guess I was due........
It wasn't anything too bad, just the strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwest. The rain and 60-70mph winds discouraged me from driving, so we decided to stick close to the hotel. A couple of those restaurants on my list would just have to wait until next time. Still, I really didn't see myself going all the way to Madison and eating at Denny's. On my first evening in Madison, during my drive back to the hotel, I noticed a pretty busy looking restaurant/bar, and the folks exiting looked local, not like folks from all the hotels in the area. The name of the place was Sprecher's, which I later found out is the same as that of a very well known Milwaukee County Brewery of the same name. According to the story, Sprecher Brewery was founded by Randal Sprecher who is originally from..... California. Sprecher had a degree in oceanography, but was unable to pursue a career in that field due to a little problem...... he got seasick! Don't know if it's true, but it's a nice story.
After making our way from the freezing parking lot we entered the dining area which looked like a Bavarian themed Rock Bottom, or something of the sort. The menu really didn't thrill me much either with items like Thai Lettuce Wraps, Crab Cakes, Seared Tuna, and Cajun Pasta on the menu. Until I found a couple of items more befitting of a place called Sprecher's.
The beer list was a bit more interesting. And I noticed that "tasters" were offered at three for $4.50 and six for $9. So I thought I'd go for the six, after all, I had envisioned 2-3 ounce pours.... but what I received seemed to be much larger than that.
Our server, named Anna was a joy.... efficient and cheerful, I had her choose my six beers, which she had arranged for me, from light to dark. She had also taken the time to list each beer in order by hand. Anna told me that they used to have print-outs for folks ordering the sampler but stopped doing that a while ago, she thought I'd like to know and remember what I was drinking.
This is the El Rey, a very effervescent Mexican Ale. My favorite was the Abbey, slightly fruity, perhaps edging on the sweet, but I enjoyed it.
If you've read my previous posts on Madison, you'll have a pretty good idea of what I was having as a starter..... it's Deep Fried Cheese Curds ($7) of course!
As Fried Cheese Curds go, these were just ok. Not even close in flavor or texture to those at the Old Fashioned, but serviceable. More gooey and stringy then other versions I've had.
And just because I'm so predictable, of course I had the Sprecher's Brat with Beer Cheese Potatoes ($9):
This was just ok, and really tasted like concept brew pub food, being very corporate in presentation and flavor. The brat really didn't catch my attention, and it was covered with a load of flavors....whole grain mustard and sauerkraut I can take, but the caramelized onions with what seemed to be bacon was a bit much. I really couldn't taste much beeriness in the beer cheese potatoes, in fact it was pretty bland as a whole.
Perhaps in the end, the corporate chain-like food didn't impress me very much; but the service was excellent, the prices not bad, and I really enjoyed the company. It sure beat being out in the wind and the rain.
Sprecher's Restaurant & Pub 1265 John Q Hammons Road Madison, WI 53717
The Old Fashioned in downtown Madison was on my list from my previous visit. One person I ran into told me that some of the dishes served; stuff like beer soup, weisswurst, knackwurst, and creamed herring. I was also told that the prices were reasonable.... and that there was always a nice selection of local brews on tap...... need I say more?
I made my way from Chicago, checked into my hotel, and took a nice drive to downtown Madison. Since this was a Sunday evening, I didn't encounter any traffic, and found parking with minimal effort. I parked in the shadow of the Capitol, and had a chance to enjoy the autumn colors...... something we don't really encounter here in San Diego.
The Old Fashioned is located right across the street from the Capitol building.
In spite of the looks, this place was packed to the gills, so I decided to grab a stool at the bar. Unfortunately, it's basically almost pitch black dark, so this will be a "PWTSDS" ("putz" - places where the sun don't shine) so I must apologize in advance for the lousy photos. As soon as I sat, a very chipper young lady named Ashley took my order. Friendly and efficient, always striding with a purpose, I gotta say, Ashley was awesome. There were thirty different brews on tap, Ashley asked me if I like "hoppy" IPAs. She suggested I try the Tyranena Brewing Company Bitter Woman IPA, especially since it was only $2.50. It was "not a big investment". To my very uneducated palate, it was quite hoppy, but not very bitter, with a hint of citrus. It turned out to be fairly refreshing.
Since I was in Wisconsin, where Germans make up the largest ancestry group, known as home of the Bratwurst.... of course I had a Brat. I had a single Miesfield's Market Sheboygan "Grand Champion" Bratwurst ($5.95):
Served on a hard roll, with a nice brown mustard, onions, and pickles, this was quite good. The brat was unlike anything I've had in San Diego..... less strong herb flavors, a bit sweeter, a very balanced flavor overall.
And just because I could, I had a side of Beer Battered Cheese Curds ($3), Ashley recommended getting the Horseradish Dip (50 cents) with these......
These were the best battered cheese curds I've ever had... not that I've had a bunch of them in my life. It wasn't too gooey, with a hint of cheddar flavor, and even a bit of a "squeak" to them. The batter was crunchy, yet light.
In spite of watching the Chargers lose on the television; this was probably my favorite meal in Madison. I'd come here again in a second. Nothing fancy, unpretentious, great service, and relaxing in spite of the crowd, I really enjoyed this meal.
The Old Fashioned 23 North Pinckney St. Madison, WI 53703
I'm not quite sure what to make of the "eating for sport" kinda thing...... I used to be able to put it away when I was younger (on a wager, I once finished Beth's Cafe challenge). But it's been decades since I've even given though to doing anything close to what I did during my youth. Now it seems a bit silly, something that was great during my college days, but a recent spate of shows like "Man vs Food" have made such gastronomic excess/stress popular. For instance, when an acquaintance of mine found out I was going to Madison, he quickly told me, "hey, there's a Quaker Steak and Lube in Madison." To which I replied, "what.... a gas station?" He quickly explained that it was Quaker S-T-E-A-K, a chain which featured his favorite wings back in Ohio. So far, Quaker Steak hasn't made it West of Colorado, so there were no shops on the West Coast. Knowing how I enjoy chicken wings he soon got my undivided attention. As a kicker he threw in something called the "Atomic Wing Challenge"...... I explained that while I enjoy spicy food, I enjoyed varied nuances with regards to heat, not just the sensation of having skin burnt off my body. I recently sampled a ghost pepper, and decided that it was like a bad neighbor, any contact is painful and is something you'd like to avoid as much as possible. Even worse was some Naked Shrimp from the Original Sab E Lee with MrC and friends. MrC is Lao, and ordered it "Lao spicy"...... man that was tough. By the end of the meal, I had a ring of first degree burns around my mouth. Luckily for me, even though sweat pours down my face, I've never had problems with my stomach.
So I declined.... which led to a bit of heckling, during which I was called something that rhymes with "fussy". Even though giving in to my inner-machismo has often had terrible results, I decided to go with the Atomic Wing Challenge, after all..... it really seems like the dude on "Man vs Food" is doing a bit of (very bad) over-acting at times. 150,000 Scoville Units? That's just a mild Habanero......
Instead of the Madison location, I went to the Middleton location, just outside of Madison, and closer to where I was staying.
As you can figure by the name, the restaurant is Gas-station themed.... with a sportsbar-meets-corporate chain restaurant type of atmosphere (think Jiffylube crossed with TGI Friday's). The folks here were indicative of the service I received in Madison, friendly, laid-back, but efficient.
Having a seat and perusing the menu, I found what I was looking for.
So there it was...... until I read the top of the menu....
Now I had read up a bit on the Quaker State Atomic sauce..... rumor had it, that the restaurant Atomic Sauce sauce was made by the folks who make Endorphin Rush Hot Sauce, and the bottled Quaker State Brand Atomic Sauce was basically cayenne and tabasco. But here was something supposedly clocking in at 500,000 Scoville Units, which is about a 100 times hotter than a Jalapeno. So why not???
When I ordered the wings, the nice young lady asked me if I wanted a blindfold and a cigarette.... just kidding.... I was asked if I wanted to do "the triple atomic wing challenge". When I asked her what I got by doing the challenge, I was told I'd get my photo on the wall and a bumper sticker..... nah, not for me. I'd just settle for my six triple atomic wings without the fanfare. And I really could have done without the flashing police light they put on my table....
And of course a "waiver" confirming that I'm a total knucklehead is all part of the show.....
I'm sure that when my Server went to place my order of wings, someone pointed out that I look like a classic sufferer of Hyperhidrosis, and was given a good amount of extra napkins......
Since the wings at Quaker Steak come six to an order, I decided to try something else just to see how the wings are. The young lady told me that the Arizona Ranch Wings were her favorite.
These wings are not battered, but were decently fried, the skin was fairly crisp. The sauce was fairly mild, not too spicy (supposedly, 2,050 Scoville Units), and did have a mild buttermilk-ranch flavor that edged on onion soup base. Nothing really that special though.....
Of course I know that you really don't care about those wings, you really want to see what Triple Atomic Wings look like, right? Well here it is, in all of it's anti-climatic glory.....
These were hot.... or maybe I should type Hot.... but were definitely not HOT, if you know what I mean. The capsicum smell was pretty strong, and the heat was in your face, and sweat was dripping down my face, but no hallucinations, not even the usual tingling scalp that occurs when I eat something super-spicy. The heat was tempered with a bit of sweetness, and the oil content, which usually just plain kills you by keeping the heat applied to your tongue, lips, and everything else that it comes in contact with, was relatively low. I recently had a couple of drops of Mad Dog's Revenge Habanero Extract, which clocked in at 1,000,000 Scoville Units, and actually made two of my FOYs (Friends of Yoso) MrQ and PeterL jump out of their seat and run out to the parking lot. This was nowhere near that. As a wing, it was hot, totally in your face, and not something I'd order again.
The wings at Quaker Steak are decent, better then most chains, and I'd probably drop by and have them again if one was in the area. It's nothing I'm going to crave though. I did text TammyC and told her that MrC would eat this stuff like it was candy......
One of the manager's came and spoke with me after I ate my wings.... she was very friendly, and funny. She told me that the Triple Atomic Wing sauce was made with Ghost Peppers..... funny it didn't seem as hot as the Ghost Peppers I've had.
Quaker Steak and Lube 2259 Deming Way Middleton, WI 53562
Some really nice folks I met once told me that Adam Richmond is a basically an actor, earning a Master's Degree in drama from Yale. And though I've never seen the episode, I can't believe he had any problem with the Quaker Steak Atomic Wing Challenge. If he was, he must have been making good use of his drama degree.