restaurant “reviews”

When you consider how long it’s been since the last time we posted anything, you might not be surprised to hear that we’ve been to a few restaurants since then. Here are some quick and dirty reactions.

Sofra Family Bistro:

I went here with a friend for dinner one night. I haven’t been back since, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. The food was good — I had a chicken and date salad, everything tasted fresh, and I thought the flavor combinations were interesting. We might have been there on a weird, off night, but it was so quiet inside the restaurant that I felt self conscious having a conversation. I also thought it was a bit pricey.

Verdict: I’ll probably go back. I certainly wouldn’t mind going back, especially if someone else paid. Hah!

Palmyra Restaurant:

I tried to go here several times, but it was always closed. Apparently, that’s because it’s gone out of business.

Verdict: Closed.

Prairie Cafe and Bakery:

According to their website, this restaurant was “established as ‘the meeting place’ for the New Urbanism Community of Middleton Hills.” I am not at all sure that I fit into that category. I am new to Middleton, having moved here within the past year. I am urban, I guess, in that this is a community of people. And I did “meet” someone at their restaurant, so… the formula works! I had the scramble of the day, and it was tasty. Ham, cheese, and veggies, so it’s hard to go wrong, but it was well done. The restaurant had a happy, warm, bustling vibe, but we were still able to find a table without a problem. I found the coffee a bit acidic for my tastes (it reminded me a lot of the coffee they serve at Indie Coffee in Madison, where I actually go quite frequently for the chicken and goat cheese sandwich. I had dreams about that sandwich when I was in Honduras).

Verdict: Will definitely return!

La Zacatecana:

This is a grocery store on the the north side of Madison. There’s a little restaurant in the back that serves El Salvadoran, Honduran, and Mexican food. The ambiance is such that I could have believed I was back in Honduras (except that it’s winter here and it’s cold). We went there for the pupusas, which are an El Salvadoran and Honduran food. Pupusas are made by grabbing a ball of uncooked corn tortilla dough, putting some filling in it, and then flattening the whole thing into a tortilla shape and cooking it on a griddle. Because the dough and the filling are cooked at the same time, the cheese inside is melty and crispy in all the right places. When I was in Honduras, I found these to usually be filled with just cheese and maybe some chopped up bell pepper, but in El Salvador they are bigger and have more variety of filling. At La Zacatecana, Josh and I tried all three kinds of pupusas — those with beans, those with chicken, and those with chorizo. They’re served with the traditional, vinegary coleslaw of cabbage and carrots, and some pretty banging green chile sauce. I was surprised that the chicken was my favorite, because it was arguably the most Americanized, but dang it was tasty. Josh liked the chorizo the best. All three were pretty good though, and were the closest I’ve gotten to a “real” pupusa since I left Central America. (I tried to make them myself, and no.) Also, they are very affordable, at $2 a pupusa.

Verdict: I can’t wait to go back and see what other Honduran food I can get my hands on. Baleadas, anyone?


Last night, Josh was working a double, so I was on my own for dinner. I didn’t really have any ideas, so decided to stop by the Middleton Farmer’s Market to see if anything inspired me. I was surprised to see a Food Cart in the midst of the booths selling cheese, honey, and produce. Slide Food Cart sells six different types of sliders, homemade potato chips, homemade pickles, and coleslaw. (Would it be considered homemade if they are made in a cart? Not sure, but that’s how the menu described them.)

I hadn’t been planning on buying anything from the cart, but while I stood there reading its menu, two customers were freaking out about how good the sliders were, and going on and on about the addictive quality of the homemade French Onion Dip that accompanied the homemade potato chips. When the operator of the food cart mentioned that she was going to be there every Tuesday evening, they reacted like they had won the lottery.

I asked the girls what they liked best at the cart, and was suprised at their answer: the “Beet the Meat” slider, described as “a thick beet slice slow-cooked in spices and topped with homemade creamy dressing.” When I responded with a “Really?” the girls assured me that they had thought it sounded gross when they first saw it, too, but it was really good.

I’m not sure I thought it sounded gross, but my response to beets can sort of be summed up with a shrug. I was fed a lot of beets by host families in the Peace Corps in Honduras, and they never really grew on me. They never repulsed me either; they’re just a neutral, red, stain-happy food to me.

But the enthusiasm these two had could not be denied, so I ordered a beet slider. I also got a “PowerBall” slider, which is described as a “mozzarella cheese-stuffed meatball with homemade marinara sauce and fresh basil.”

Your winning PowerBall number is… a slider

People of Middleton, this is worth checking out. The PowerBall was great. Spicy, but not too spicy, with just the right amount of cheese inside. I had been worried that it would be a giant mozzarella ball ready to surprise me with a cold, chewy mouthful, but it was perfectly integrated into the meatball and not at all overpowering.

My real revelation, though was the Beets the Meat. Holy man, that was good. The beet was sweet, and sort of cinnamony. It was topped with caramelized onions and that creamy sauce to hit multiple levels of flavor. This is the most delicious beet I have ever had and I find myself sort of surprised to discover that I think I like beets after all.

I got a bag of the homemade potato chips for Josh to enjoy when he got home from work. The chips themselves were pretty addictive — thin and crispy. The French Onion dip didn’t do much for me, but I’d definitely try some of her other concoctions.

Slide Food Cart will be at the Middleton Farmer’s Market every Tuesday afternoon 3:00 PM to 6:30 PM. Check it out.

So, tonight we went to Claddagh Irish Pub in Greenway Station. Greenway Crossing. Greenway something, anyway. I’d been there once before for pub trivia, but it was a long time ago and I remembered exactly nothing about the food.

Probably the only thing really worth mentioning here is the service. When we were seated at a very wide table (read: shouting distance away from each other), our server approached the table with a giant grin. “How are you guys tonight?” she said, so happy to see us.

“Good,” Josh said

“Fine,” I said, “How are you?”

She paused and smiled. “I’m… divine.”

I looked at her and said, “Wow,” and ordered a Guinness. This was the first Guinness I’d had in a while, not for any particular reason, but mostly because there are so many new and different craft beers to try in Wisconsin that I don’t usually go to the old standards. Guinness is a special beer to me, though, because it’s the beer that taught me to like beer. I was in Ireland, proclaiming left and right that I am just not a beer person, when someone finally put a pint in my hands and I realized what all the fuss was about. Josh had Murphy’s, the stout he drank in England when Guinness wasn’t available. (I love, by the way, how this makes us sound like we’re such world travelers. Which is not necessarily true.)

Divine checked back with us a bit too frequently, always with the same dreamy smile that made me wonder if she was dipping into something in the back or having some sort of communion with the other world that I wasn’t aware of. Josh had Corned Beef and Cabbage, and I had a Jameson Burger. The food was okay. Nothing I’d go back for, honestly. I was surprised how empty the place was. It was maybe 6:00 PM when we got there, so sort of early, but it is a Saturday night.

Overall – fake Irish pub atmosphere, “Divine” service, okay food. But at least it got us talking about Ireland, and had me reminiscing about how Irish people are the easiest people in the world to talk to. I am one who tends to get a bit stressed out in conversation with strangers, but in a small town pub in Ireland, talking to a stranger was like falling down a hill (without the broken bones).