Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Old Fashioned in Madison, WI

The next time you are in Madison, Wisconsin......oh wait, that might be a stretch for many of you. But, seriously, if you ever find yourself in Madison (and, you really should...for many reasons even more than beer, which I don't have space to go into here), make sure that you stop by The Old Fashioned. You will find it located across from the State Capitol building on Capitol Square in the heart of downtown Madison and within walking distance of the University of Wisconsin. They bill themselves as a "supper club". I am not very well-versed in supper clubs, so I'm a bit disadvantaged to comment on how true to supper club nostalgia they really are. But, the one thing they appear to do very, very well is remain loyal to local Wisconsin food and beverage. Especially on the beer side of the bar, you will find well over a dozen of the State's beer representatives. Some of them great, some of them average. This was quite fortuitous for me, because other than Great Dane and New Glarus, I was not quite sure how to go about knocking down some Wisconsin beer while we were visiting our friends Mark and Susan. Perhaps the only mistake in hindsight was that we did not have more time to spend on a few other beers. So, as you can imagine, I acquired a few to fly home with me in my carry-on luggage. Ok, back to the restaurant. I do not quite remember how we came upon The Old Fashioned. Whether Mark and Susan had been there before or if it was recommended to them, I don't recall. In any case, we wound up there on a Saturday night in June. We waited approximately 20 minutes at the bar with a drink before being seated at our table for dinner. So, how's this for a choice? Perhaps for you locals in Wisconsin, this isn't all that impressive. But, for a visitor looking to try new and indigenous brews, this was awesome. Huber, Capital, New Glarus, Fauerbach, South Shore, Wisconsin Black River Falls, Hausmann, Harbor City, Sand Creek, Falls, Leinenkugel, Slab City, Viking, Gray's, Sprecher, and Lakefront. Even Wisconsin-bred Rhinelander, Schlitz, Hamm's, Oscar's, Pabst, and Miller earn spots on the menu. Humorously, Budweiser and Bud Light show up as the only two "imports!" Over the course of the night, we sampled several of them and the one that rose to the top of my list of favorites was the Rhodes Scholar Stout from South Shore Brewery. This is a delicious, rich stout full of roasted coffee and chocolate flavors. Beers making their way home with me, and yet to be sampled, included Sand Creek, Capital, and New Glarus. Maybe this weekend while camping at Ommegang. The food scene at The Old Fashioned was interesting to say the least. Let's see, for starters, there is an order-by-number type of thing going on. The prices overall are fairly reasonable. And, there's definitely a midwestern/Wisconsin/German thing going on too. None of this is a criticism, of course. There is a "lazy Susan" section to the menu where you'll find a potpourri of items (wurst, sauerkraut, braunschweiger, potato salad, pickles, deviled eggs, ring bologna...you get the picture) all meant for sharing. The main menu is very heavy on sandwiches (all shapes, sizes, and styles), fish (esp. Walleye), and meat (burgers, wurst, and turkey). And, the mac & cheese side dish is something you probably want to experience too. And, of course, there is the ubiquitous cheese available as a course in and of itself. This is Wisconsin, afterall! And, that, as I began with, is really the theme here. A comfortable, somewhat trendy, atmosphere with friendly staff serving a good representation of local food and drink. A requirement, in my opinion, if you ever find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin. Oh yeah, and the Great Dane brewpub is only a few blocks away to give you a chance to walk off your dinner before diving into some more good local beer! (Madison is such a great walking, biking, health-conscious city.)

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