Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Old Fashioned – Madison, WI

Here's another review from my friend Kaya, of Madison Brunch. The lucky woman got to go to the Old Fashioned for Good Friday Fish Fry. Yum.

The deal: Beer-battered cod, walleye or flour dusted perch with poppy seed coleslaw, a large portion of matchstick fries, lemon caper tartar sauce and toasted rye bread. Prices range from $9.95 for 2 pieces of cod to $12.95 for a large piece of walleye. A classic cocktail will run you around $5-$8 and a craft cheese tray to share is $10.

The food: Until my last visit I had only eaten the macaroni and cheese here, which had yielded mixed results on two visits. The fish fry is where The Old Fashioned shines with a dark, crispy beer batter, golden matchstick fries and the most perfect coleslaw I’ve ever eaten. Usually an afterthought, this coleslaw is fresh with flavorful thin-cut cabbage and carrots and poppy seeds. I opted for the walleye, which seemed extremely fresh and came served as a generous piece. I am generally ambivalent about walleye, but this was the best I’ve had at a fish fry. My husband and our dining partners chose the cod. The consensus was the flavor of the cod was good, but that the slightly overcooked beer batter overpowered the fish. I think this darker color and taste is pretty common with this type of batter, but those expecting a light, golden brown crust may be disappointed. The only real neutral item was the limp, slightly smoky flavored rye toast, but there was so much good food on the plate, I didn't mind.

In addition to the fish fry, we chose a cheese tray to start with gouda, blue and sharp cheddar. The trays come with walnuts, honey and a short stack of water crackers. The tray is presented family style with hunks of cheese, which can be a bit messy. It would have been perfection if the cheese was pre-sliced and a few more crackers were added to the tray. I also tried a bite of the chocolate brownie dessert with crème de menthe ice cream. The brownie was a bit hard for my liking, but the overall flavor was good.

It would be impossible to go The Old Fashioned and not talk about their cocktails. We sampled the Maker’s Mark and Applejack old fashioneds, which are expertly mixed and garnished. Our companions enjoyed the $2 Point Einbock and Razzmatazz. As a former bartender, I highly appreciate the perfect mix, proper garnishing and immaculate bar. I can’t count the times I’ve been served an old fashioned or manhattan with cherries at other establishments and have been on the receiving end of dirty straws and buggy drinks.

The flavor: Upscale Wisconsin-themed tavern and restaurant on the Capitol Square. There’s a large, comfy bar and a cavernous room with a few cushy booths that seat 6-8 and table seating. The owners have an impressive background with Madison favorites such as L’Etoile, Harvest and Lombardino’s under their belts. They don’t take reservations, so if you want to eat at prime time, you may want to show up around 5:30 or 6 and enjoy a few old fashioneds while you wait. Note: the ambient noise level in this place is off the charts, so if you’re hoping for a quiet evening, this is not the place for you.

Second opinions:

Madison Fish Fry
Trip Advisor


just shel said...

It's funny. Jessie being the old fashioned expert was excited to go to this place, however she said the old fashioned she had sucked.

I like the atmosphere of that place, but usually will only drink beer. The drinks are over-priced and short poured, much like that of most bars in that area though, ie Madisons.

But as much as I love fish fry, and you know I love fish fry because I'm from Rapids and grew up on St. Lawrence fish fry, I just can't bring myself to eat there anymore. Both times I've eaten there, my food has been extremely greasy and quite mediocre. Their chili actually made me puke my guts out because it was so full of grease... but hey the extra lube helped it come up easier :)

I am however excited to try Quivey's in the summer :)

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree. The Old Fashioned has several items that they do better than any other place I know.

It sounds like you have an aversion to grease, which I can understand, but (A) not all of their stuff is greasy and (B) when they do grease they do it extremely well.

For example, their fried cheese curds are the best I've had anywhere, hands down. I also love their burger. It sounds like the problem lies with your constitution, not with the food.