It's Restaurant Week once again here in Madison, WI! I've never participated in any of the Restaurant Weeks in the years I've lived here, and I have to say, I'm sorry I've missed it for this long. I think the idea of making a whole week-long event out of eating is just fantastic. Yes, yes, I know this also happens every time I go visit my family in Chicago, specifically the week of Thanksgiving, the week of Christmas, the weekend of July 4th, Superbowl Sunday, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, Fridays, Saturdays, weekends in general...in conclusion, we eat a lot. But I think when you live in one city for a long time, you keep going to your old favorites and forget about trying new things. And then it's Restaurant Week, and you have a reason to try new places! The restaurants offer a $25 3-course meal, and some offer a cheaper lunch option. Most of these are places I wouldn't regularly go to because of the high prices, so there you go! Everybody wins!
I hit up one lunch place and two dinner places this week. And dudes, I am full. Maybe permanently. Or at least until a beautifully layered sandwich comes my way. Check out the delicious food! Disclaimer: these are not reviews of the restaurants. Similarly to my non-review of Carmen, this is just my experience. And some hot ass pictures of food.
I started with lunch at the Ocean Grill. As many of you know, I hate seafood. I think it actually even made it on to my shit list! But, I have started liking some fish. Mostly the lighter, non-fishy fare. So, although the Ocean Grill would not be somewhere I'd usually go, it was a successful outing! Pictured below are the meals of myself and companions:
Roasted tomato and shrimp bisque
House salad of mixed greens, chèvre, brazil nuts, vidalia onions, blueberry vinaigrette
Grilled Ahi Tacos - rare ahi tuna, pineapple-mango salsa
Almond crusted tilapia with green beans, citrus brown butter
Sorbet with fresh fruit
And, one special feature about the restaurant itself: even the cutlery is fish themed!
My first of two dinners was at La Brioche, one of my favorite breakfast places in town. I actually wasn't even aware that they served dinner until one of my co-workers told me he played piano there on Friday and Saturday nights. I'd recommend going, especially on a date! How romantic - tasty, lovely food in a warm, homey atmosphere, accompanied by beautiful piano music in the background? Perfect!
I had three companions with me for this outing, and we did a pretty amazing job of covering the entire Restaurant Week menu. In fact, we got every item possible except for one. Good job, everybody!
Spicy chickpea cake served with organic arugula salad with orange cumin vinaigrette
Organic local winter spinach salad from Richland Center with roasted beets, pepperchini, fried leeks & Maytag blue cheese
Mushroom ragoût layered with assorted vegetables served with housemade celery root chips
Free range smoked chicken from Pecatonica Farms, served with root vegetable gratin, homemade applesauce with dried cherries & a maple infused braise reduction
Grilled organic pork chop from Lange Farms with sweet potatoes, spiced apples & a golden raisin broth
Apple and cranberry cobbler served with housemade toasted walnut cinnamon gelato
Brioche bread pudding served with roasted chestnuts, molasses cream & a sweet rum glaze
Chocolate intensity cake with rich fudge frosting, served with fresh whipped cream
And my favorite feature of this restaurant - the best wallpaper in town!
My second dinner was a sort of funny one. My friend and I had picked The Mariner's Inn on sort of a whim; I'd never been, my companion loves seafood, and the website looked hilarious. Yes, we did have to wait quite awhile although we'd made a reservation, but whatever, the company was awesome. And, I gotta say, the food was worth it. And the atmosphere was way, way, way more than worth it. And, it was a zillion times worth it when I ordered a dirty martini, which I'd sort of forgotten about. Oh my god, I love dirty martinis so much!
Now, I bet you're probably wondering about this place. And I can answer all of your potential questions in the following sentence: Yes. This is the place from which the Betty Lou Cruises (Madison's Premier Cruise Line!) take off. Awesome. Just awesome. Anyhow, on to the food...
The famous clam chowder
Mixed greens with glazed pecans, dried cherries & bleu cheese dressed with maple balsamic
Classic Surf and Turf combo: an 8 oz. center cut top sirloin paired with a succulent 6 oz. lobster tail
Macadamia encrusted chicken: a tender breast of chicken set atop a pool of raspberry chambord sauce & topped with mango salsa
Chocolate decadence cake
Betty's cheesecake with Door County cherry sauce
Now I'm sure you're wondering to yourself, "where in the world is the Mariner's Inn?" Good thing I took a picture of the map! It's right there, where the big arrow is pointing. Those grease spots are to scale.
I bet you're also wondering where my "favorite feature of the restaurant" is. Well, my friends, I have to be honest. The decor of this place was so great that I couldn't pick just one favorite. How would one even begin to narrow down from the following brilliant selection of items?
Like the porthole through which you could view a very realistic ship...
...or the aptly named Captains Quarters, which could have been anything from an office to a private dining room to a broom closet. What's behind this door, we'll never know. Only the captain knows these kinds of secrets.
Oh wait! Remember this olde-timey diving mask? It was sitting on the bar next to a half-drunk vodka in a plastic cup, just like in the olden days. Now that's classy.
See that lady? That lady used to be on the front of the ship, I bet. And the wavy-shaped white thing on the left side of this picture is a big ole set of jaws. From some kind of vicious shark, I assume.
Wait! My favorite part has got to be the bathroom doors, on which was written "Buoys" and "Gulls." Okay, this is brilliant. Buoys and Gulls, get it? GET IT?! How could anything beat this brilliance? Also, when any Simpsons reference is found in the real world, that's really exciting. Yeah, I think this might be my favorite thing.
So, that was restaurant week! I should probably end with some kind of awesome exclamation like "Well, my wallet is empty, but my stomach is fuller than it's ever been!!! Right, gals?!"
I mean, right? RIGHT GALS?!
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