For my last full day in Wisconsin, my sister and I headed down to Madison. We actually had more recommendations for places to eat in Madison than we had time to eat at those places. Nevertheless, we acquitted ourselves quite well.
Dane County Farmer’s Market
Literally in the shadow of the State Capitol, the Dane County Farmer’s Market sprawls over a crowded square. After walking the length of the entire market, I really began to appreciate the relative small size of my local Farmer’s Market, where I don’t have to force my way through the crowds. Then again, I’ve never seen emu eggs at my Farmer’s Market.
And yes, I feel comfortable saying these are local eggs, as we had driven past an emu farm only a few days earlier. On top of that, we met a man who claimed to be one of the founders of the market, and he told us that the Dane County Market is unique in that it requires all vendors to produce the food they sell.
As we walked I grabbed a potato buttermilk donut for a quick breakfast, which was much lighter and oilier than I expected it to be. It was delicious.
The variety of items on sale was staggering. I saw people selling flavored vinegar, local walnuts, homemade pastas. There was a stand selling a dozen different types of garlic. If it wasn’t for the crowd I’d have loved it even more. We dropped off my sister’s purchases in her car, and then went back for some sightseeing. After a quick look around the interior of the Capitol Building, we decided to walk down State St. for lunch.
Before we filled our bellies we did nourish our minds. We spent some time in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (underwhelming) and then the Chazen Museum on the UW Madison Campus (pretty nice, though I was disappointed that we missed the show on underground comic art). So you see, our trip wasn’t only about food. And now, on to the food.
The Serious Eaters who responded to my request for recommendations really pushed for Himal Chuli, a popular Nepali restaurant. I’ve never eaten Nepali food, and it sounded great for lunch. I got the daily tarkari special, which was sort of a cauliflower curry, while my sister got a sampler plate with samosas and dumplings, along with some soup. The tarkari was wonderful, very flavorful and light. My sister liked the dumplings a lot, though we both found the lentil soup to be almost flavorless. They were doing a very brisk lunch business and messed up our order a little, as well as the order of the people sitting next to us. The food was good, but I’d only recommend it if you have patience and don’t mind little annoyances like that.
The Old Fashioned
One Serious Eater had recommended The Old Fashioned as a place with a real “Sconnie” feel, as well as a huge selection of Wisconsin beers. My sister’s boss had also recommended it for their exemplary deep fried cheese curds. We walked in to a crowded dining room, but we were able to get seats right away at the bar. They have about 21 Wisconsin beers on tap, and another hundred or so in bottles and cans. The best part is that there’s not a beer on the menu that costs more than $5. I started with a Capital Brewery Supper Club Lager, which was fine, but not as good as my next beer, a Headless Man Amber Alt.
Oh, and those cheese curds? Amazing. They give you a choice of dipping sauces, and on the advice of some random guy next to us at the bar we got the “tiger blue.” That’s blue cheese with horseradish, a combo that shouldn’t work but does. There’s really nothing better than beer and fried cheese curds, someone should really set that up here in NYC. The cheese curds at the Old Fashioned (which, by the way, does have a few different varieties of their namesake drink) were superior to the ones we had earlier in the trip.
There were several more restaurants we were interested in there in Madison, but we couldn’t find enough to do in town to make sticking around for the next 4-5 hours worthwhile. Maybe next time..? We decided to head back to Appleton.
For dinner my sister wanted to take me to a place that she enjoys, Cannova’s. They have pizza on the menu, but I’d had enough pizza during the trip that I didn’t really want more. Instead I got the rigatoni with artichokes and olives. Eh, I should have gotten the pizza. The whole thing was flavorless, particularly the canned black olives.
So that’s it, the final post about Wisconsin. I had a lot of good food, and a great time to boot. I’d like to thank my sister, both for putting me up and putting up with me.
Himal Chuli — 318 State St Madison, WI
The Old Fashioned — 23 N. Pinckney St Madison, WI
Cannova’s — 113 Wisconsin Avenue, Neenah, WI