Pizza, Please.

by Madison Fortman

Pizza continues to be a classic favorite that comes in a plethora of styles. It is a dish that continues to evolve as people experiment with new toppings and cooking techniques. As a native Chicagoan, I am biased toward Chicago-style pizza. The thick and crunchy crust serves as the base for not only a mound of chunky tomato sauce, but also a healthy portion of cheese. Walking into Pizza Brutta, though, I was convinced that maybe I may be converted into a lover of more than just the Chicago deep dish.

Tucked into Monroe Street, Pizza Brutta is bustling with young families, Madison natives and a sea of Badger fans. The restaurant is small, but gives off a comfortable and family oriented, community vibe. The restaurant on Monroe is one of Pizza Brutta’s two locations, another location recently opened in Middleton. My mouth began to salivate as soon as I walked into the storefront, with the overpowering aroma of fresh pizza washing over me. The restaurant was packed, but diligent workers frantically moved about, seeming to have service down to a science. Making my way up to the front counter I contemplated the variety of Neapolitan pizzas that Pizza Brutta has to offer.

Neapolitan pizza is known for having a tender, doughy crust, topped simply with sweet tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh mozzarella. Classic Neapolitan pizzas include the Margherita, but plenty of other options with Neapolitan style also exist. The pizza is generally cooked in a wood-fired oven that allows the ingredients to melt and blend together. Compared to Chicago or New York style pizza you can expect the Neapolitan pizza to focus more on the basics of simplicity and freshness. The end result is a light, flavorful pizza that surpasses expectations.

I found myself choosing the Olivetto pizza. This dish is under the pizza category of “Pizza Rosso” simply meaning the pizzas have San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, sea salt and any additional toppings specific to the individual pizza. Layered perfectly on the Olivetto were basil, artichoke, sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese.

Behind a transparent counter and working space, I watched Pizza Brutta chefs work to make each pizza fresh and to the customers specific liking. While you can order off the restaurant’s signature pizza menu, customers also have the autonomy to design their own personal pizza. From rolling out the dough, to topping the pizza, and finally seeing it come in and out of the oven, Pizza Brutta is unique in allowing customers to witness the entirety of the pizza making process.


My Olivetto pizza was delivered sizzling out of the wood-burning oven in a prompt manner. The pizza was a gracious size and priced at $11.50. While the pizzas are a size that you could share, if you are feeling ambitious, my suggestion is to order your own. You may even find it hard to possess enough self-control to not eat the whole pizza in one sitting, but if you do, it serves well as left overs for another meal.

As I bit into my first slice, for a second I could almost envision myself removed from the busy restaurant in Madison and in a quaint cafe in Italy. All the ingredients tasted so fresh and were put together with such thought and passion. It was hard to control myself from not downing one slice after another. The warm crust was lightly golden with a subtle crunch, but you’ll find that in the center, the crust was soft and a doughy delight.

The tomato sauce was also light and sweet. The tomatoes used to make the sauce were grown outside Naples, Italy, giving the dish an authentic Italian touch. In addition, their mozzarella is made fresh in-house. The restaurant’s focus on quality, fresh ingredients has to do with their pledge to agricultural sustainability. If interested, you can find more about their goal for providing the best local ingredients on their website.


To top off the meal, I could not resist ordering a Nutella pizza for desert. It hit every sweet tooth craving imaginable. Its hot and freshly baked pizza dough was covered in dollops of Nutella and garnished with powdered sugar. Simply by writing this article I have flash backs to the sugary treat, which was heavenly and worth every bite.

If pizza is not for you, or if you are looking for a side with your pizza, there are salad options that Pizza Brutta offers as well. There are kids meals too and also accommodations for people who are gluten-free. Pizza Brutta offers college students the ability to have more than just a typical fast-food pizza slice; they offer an authentic experience. The specific Neapolitan style of pizza is also something not regularly offered on campus. With the Madison location not being far from campus, the prices being reasonable and the pizza being extremely unique, Pizza Brutta is definitely a place that college students can enjoy.

Street Eats with Jeremy: Taste of Jamaica


Taste of Jamaica

What I ordered: Jerk Chicken Lunch

Price: $8

Right away, I added a bit of the spicy, red sauce to this mix of rice, jerk chicken, beans, carrots, string beans, cabbage, broccoli, red bell pepper and spices. This is no organized meal like a Bento box, but rather it’s a bowl full of textures and flavors, all blending in with one another. Even more, it is plentiful, so even if you have a large appetite, you will be perfectly stuffed upon completion.


What I liked: First of all, this dish exudes a savory, mouth-watering aroma. The shredded chicken is perfectly moist and is paired in good ratio with the amount of rice. In addition, the many shapes and sizes of the chicken pieces along with the variety of vegetables makes each bite unique. The veggies are tasty, in abundance and easily identifiable. The jerk spices give the meal some heat, although not overpowering, and the spice lingers on your tongue, as you would expect from jerk chicken. With plenty of rice, meat, veggies and beans, this meal certainly satisfies and is well worth the price.

taste-of-jamaicaWhat I did not like: Although this meal has many ingredients, I found it to be overall somewhat soft; it could use some kind of crunch factor. In addition, I almost wish the jerk spices and flavors were more powerful. Lastly, because this meal is fully mixed and not compartmentalized, there is not too much involvement on the part of the eater (no scooping, dipping, pouring), which could provide a more active eating experience.

Overall Score: 7/10

-Jeremy Kogan

Street Eats with Jeremy: Kakilima


Kakilima: Authentic Indonesian Food

What I ordered: Nasi Goreng, authentically seasoned fried rice with chicken, vegetables, egg, acar and krupuk

Price: $7.50


Along with this rice and shredded chicken dish comes krupuk, deep-fried, bowl-shaped crackers and a light, cucumber, carrot salad. I quickly discovered I could use the krupuk to scoop up rice and chicken, creating a sort of Indonesian nachos. The rice was packed with flavor from a variety of spices and was mixed with acar, sprouts, mushrooms and other unidentified veggies, in addition to the shredded chicken. I added a dash of the sweet and sour sauce and the spicy, red sauce for a full flavor experience.

What I liked: The rice, chicken and veggies had the perfect texture combination including crispness from the sprouts and a crunch factor from the veggies. After scooping it with the krupuk, I found true textural harmony. The cucumber carrot salad was simple and marinated perfectly as to make it not overly acidic. This dish was a hefty portion packed with a variety of flavors and textures, making it a must-try.


What I did not like: Although the krupuk was a great paring with the rice, be sure to eat it first, because it quickly gets soggy. In addition, the cucumber, carrot salad is tasty, but I found there were too many carrots compared to cucumbers, throwing off the textural ratio. Lastly, the spices in the rice are full of flavor, but there’s something about the flavor that bothered my stomach a bit, so although this may not apply to everyone, I figured I’d mention it.

Overall Score: 6/10

-Jeremy Kogan 

That BBQ Joint

Photos by Meghan Horvath

Photos by Meghan Horvath

By Joshua Bartels

It was a blisteringly cold day in February. The kind of day where you just want to sit down next to a fireplace with a warm cup of hot chocolate and a book. However, I was craving some good ole’ fashioned barbecue. So, after class I headed straight towards That BBQ Joint.

That BBQ Joint is located at 901 Williamson Street, about two-and-a-half miles away from campus. Is the walk worth it? In a word: Frick yes! Okay, that was two words, but you get the idea. I was immediately welcomed to the restaurant with very friendly service. The eatery itself is on the smaller side, as it holds only about five tables, but it is very cozy with BBQ-themed art along the walls. After taking an embarrassingly long time to decide what to eat, I asked the clerk what he recommended, and he responded with the Rib Sammie, their rib sandwich.

Photos by Meghan Horvath

Photos by Meghan Horvath

After about a five minute wait, I got my warm Sammie along with sides of potato salad and brisket chili. The sandwich itself was very delicious; filled with extremely tender BBQ, lightly covered with their signature Mo’ Sauce, next to crisp onions and sliced pickles.  At first, it seemed a little lacking of sauce, but thankfully they give more for those who want it. With the added sauce, the sandwich was like a BBQ lovers dream come true, especially on such a cold evening. Their three options for BBQ sauce were all good, but I’d have to say that the Mo’ Spicy sauce was by far the best, as it left the perfect amount of that spicy tingling sensation of the tongue that the best sauces always do.

As for the sides themselves, they don’t quite compare to the greatness of the actual BBQ. The chili and the potato salad tasted like your generic chili and potato salad that a distant relative brings to a reunion. They were both good, just not great. Another negative to the restaurant is that it keeps odd hours. It is closed on both Monday and Tuesday, along with breaks between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays.

So would I recommend That BBQ Joint? Why yes, yes I would. Even though the hours might not always be the most convenient, it’s located a bit farther away and the sides may not be outstanding, the BBQ itself is amazing, and if you’re going to That BBQ Joint for the BBQ, then it’s perfect. Not only that, it’s amazing. I know I’ll be returning there shortly to get another fix of some of the best BBQ Madison has to offer.


Photo by Meghan Horvath

Robinia Courtyard Trio

Photos by Molly Wallace

Photos by Molly Wallace

By Annaleigh Wetzel

East Washington Avenue is the site of a food revival in Madison. New restaurants, a grocery store and several bars are popping up all along the street, begging to be visited. Among the many additions to the area is Robinia Courtyard. The Courtyard is made up of Julep restaurant, A-OK coffeehouse and Barolo wine bar: a seemingly odd concoction of establishments that somehow make complete sense together on the taste buds.

Hip Julep

Photos by Molly Wallace

Photos by Molly Wallace

Julep is the grouping’s full-fledged restaurant featuring Southern-inspired snacks, little plates and dinners on its concise, one-page menu. The interior is fresh and hip, with exposed white brick and a sleek wooden bar. The menu builds steam and impressiveness as diners peruse it from start to finish. That said, ordering from it in stages is the way to go; be sure to give its three parts each a little bit of love. And don’t forget about selecting a cocktail or two (the Mendoza is a fun treat) to sip on while enjoying this down-home feast.

The Buttermilk Biscuit, Cast Iron Cornbread and Smoked Ham Hock Terrine are some of the snack stand-outs. Arriving at the table still warm, the biscuit is fluffy and moist on the inside, but deliciously crumbly on the outside. It’s a great starter to share with a pal:  half is a nice portion to stifle the rumbling of your stomach. Skip the lackluster jam and butter that comes with; it doesn’t need any accouterments anyway. The cornbread offers what the biscuit does not: a touch of added sugar. Both carbs are equally tasty, but eating them side-by-side clearly marks the biscuit as savory and the cornbread as sweet, making them the perfect pair. The terrine is perhaps the biggest nod to the restaurant’s novel take on traditional Southern cooking. The cold, pâté-esque ham spread is plated with a few pieces of Texas toast, chilled, pickled green beans and a grainy mustard that gives the dish a subtle kick.

Next, don’t be dissuaded by the presence of pig ears in the Nashville Salad. Think ‘bacon bits,’ and munch on. Or spring for the Mississippi Delta Tamales with roasted pork and a dark chocolate mole sauce. Then comes the fireworks finale: the dinner section. Farro Risotto and the Brisket Pot Roast act as happy complements to one another, both with warm winter veggies and rich flavor profiles. The Perlou is another killer choice with smoked white fish, oysters and Andouille sausage atop crispy grits.

Next time you find yourself in this budding food-friendly neighborhood, take a spin through the Courtyard. Grab a few small plates and imbibe in a Mint Julep, as the name of the restaurant begs.

It’ll be A-OK

Photos by Molly Wallace

Photos by Molly Wallace

A-OK Sunshine & Spirits screams just that, plus some more. It’s fashioned after an old-school diner with a new-age flare. A rounded bar counter is accompanied by spinning stools, high top tables and wooden booths, all set atop blue and yellow geometric-checkered linoleum floor. Tough to picture? Now to complicate things even further: A-OK is a coffee shop, bar, lunch break spot and burger joint. Still confused? Well, that’s just part of its charm.

At its most basic level, A-OK is defined by the time of day you’re visiting. Kick-start your day there with a cup of Kin-Kin coffee or nibble on a midday meal. Orders depend on whatever gem options (such as a bacon cheddar quiche or red beet and shallot soup) are listed on the ever changing daily special board or on a favorite from their traditional food menu. Maybe you’re in need of more than just lunch, though. Then you’ll grab a burger and fries and a shake, all available until close at 9 p.m. And, of course, you’d be remiss to not explore the full bar, with beer and booze galore.

If you are indeed in search of a beverage, look no further than the black and bold-lettered, 11-item drink menu painted on the white brick wall immediately upon walking inside. From brewed coffee to kombucha to espresso, soda and tea, the options needn’t have descriptions. Say you’re in the mood for a milkshake. That requires a conversation with the bartender-server-cashier (there is typically only one staffer per shift), as there aren’t any flavors to choose from in plain view. They might recommend the espresso shake with a whopping four shots in it, or the bourbon shake that tastes as good as any cocktail.

The same “what you see is what you get” philosophy is applied to the burgers and fries at A-OK. It’s actually exactly what it sounds like—a burger (topped with “dijonaise,” onions and pickles, as you’d find out once biting into it) with a side of crispy, addicting fries.

With ties to Johnson Public House (JPH), you could say A-OK is JPH’s wacky younger cousin. There’s no doubt this place is all over, but only in the best way possible.

Wine Time
After a meal at Julep or a cup of coffee at A-OK, you may be tempted to stroll on over to Barolo to wine—ahem, we mean—wind down for the night. Since it’s conveniently located right next-door, that’s definitely an idea worth exploring.

Photos by Molly Wallace

Photos by Molly Wallace

The bar is dimly lit by overhead light fixtures reminiscent of the bulbous Capitol just up the street. With too many tables packed like sardines, presumably in an attempt to create ample guest seating, the space is rendered a little cramped. There is a long wooden bar and several smaller tables lined up along the opposite wall, as well as an awkward side room, separate from the rest and with larger lounge booths. But looking at this from the bright side, it may strike you as “intimate.”

And so is the wine list itself. The short menu is marked at the top with the date, indicating what’s on the shelf, or in your glass, for the night. Wine is available by the glass and by the bottle, with the larger selection being the latter. Cabernet-sauvignons, merlots, rosés, zinfandels and so on are presented for pouring.

Photos by Molly Wallace

Photos by Molly Wallace

In keeping with its small but mighty theme, Barolo has a few food options to accompany their drinks, and even offer a palate cleanser between sips. Try one of the savory flatbreads, and don’t be shy about asking your bartender for recs on what to nosh on that will go best with your wine.

If red and white beverages aren’t your thing, but you want to check out Barolo regardless, you’re in luck. The bar has a brief list of beers on tap and cocktails to choose from for those who are less wine-inclined.

Barolo is a natural end to an evening spent meandering the Courtyard. And what’s even better—you can look forward to relishing its food and drink offerings on the outdoor patio during the summer months as well.

Pickle Jar

Photos by Claire Grummon

Photos by Claire Grummon

By Claire Grummon

Snow or shine, the food trucks ubiquitously line Library Mall in perfect uniform rows waiting for hungry students to approach. The options are plentiful, ethnic and inspired. These are food trucks that could be seen in major cosmopolitan cities. The Pickle Jar truck, especially, is a work of art. Its southern charm and quirky trinkets make it stand out amongst the crowd. The truck’s wood is 150 years old and recycled from the owner’s grandfather’s farm, bringing a sense of authenticity and tradition to the food that is unparalleled by any other truck. The rule, “don’t judge the food by its truck,” did not apply in this situation.  

When I walked up to the window, two smiling and enthusiastic faces greeted me. John Pickle (hence the name) and Jennifer StCyr, husband and wife, opened their truck in the spring of 2015 after many years of their neighbors telling them it was time to let Madison experience their barbeque. They have no formal training; they’re just a couple looking to share their passion for modern, southern-style cuisine.IMG_9768-2

John’s whole family is from the South, and many of the recipes featured on their menu are inspired by the delicious, traditional meals his grandmother would make. The menu offers everything from BBQ sandwiches, to collard greens, to various pies that change with the seasons. Since they are his grandmother’s recipes, John and Jennifer take pride in their work and will happily engage in any conversation about their food and how it’s crafted. This is especially true for their meats, which are made in small batches and seasoned with care.

Their brisket sandwich is their claim to fame, and rightfully so. Their brisket is slow cooked, at low temperatures, for 18 hours. The brisket is sliced and seasoned with care, combined with their house-made barbeque sauce and pickles; it’s true southern comfort food. The pickles and sauce balance each other out beautifully and do not overpower the natural flavors of the meat, which are the real stars of the show. There’s no doubt about it: this is real southern food.IMG_9783

John and Jennifer pride themselves off of their small batches and fresh ingredients; many of which come from local farms and co-ops. Because of this, they take the proper measures to make sure that excess ingredients are incorporated with the intention to bring out the flavors of the main ingredient.  Jennifer prides herself on her collard greens side dish. She combines these fresh greens with onions, bacon, vinegar, Tabasco, red pepper flakes and brown sugar. These ingredients bring out the perfect mix of sweet and spicy and accentuate each other nicely. Warm and home-cooked, this is the perfect snack if you’re running to class.

John and Jen do it all, including delicious seasonal pies. Monday’s pies were strawberry rhubarb, sweet potato and apple. I opted for the apple pie and was not disappointed in the slightest. I found myself amazed at the perfectly baked sugary crust and finely glazed cinnamon-sugar apples. Good pie is one thing I had yet to find in Madison, and I knew I found it the second I laid eyes on The Pickle Jar’s. For a reasonable price, you can essentially have a piece of heaven.IMG_9765

The couple had new and adventurous plans for the spring. First, they moved to the Capitol Square in April, which has them excited about the different people who will be exposed to their passion for cooking. They also want to start pickling more and selling their pickles along with three different kinds of sauerkraut and pickled, ginger carrots.

Ultimately, while the food was delectable, comforting and made me nostalgic for summer barbeques, John and Jennifer are truly what make their food so special. They are eager to share their story with everyone, and are hopeful their customers will walk away with a smile on their face. If you’re looking for savory barbeque and a smile, look no further.

New Orleans Take-Out

Photo by Madison Fortman

Photo by Madison Fortman

By Madison Fortman

Good food often comes in the most unexpected places. Restaurants on the side of the road in a random strip mall are usually the ones that end up leaving the greatest impression on both your heart and your stomach. New Orleans Take-Out is no different. Pulling up to the storefront on Monroe Street is pretty anticlimactic. There is no frill, no fancy sign, and had I not been looking for it I probably would have walked right past.

Upon entering the restaurant, there continues to be no pizzazz. You can tell that New Orleans Take-Out is here for one purpose and one purpose only: making amazing food. With counters lining the walls, there is very limited seating. While the possibility to dine-in exists, ordering to go is not uncommon, as the name of the restaurant strongly suggests.

I stepped up to the to the counter to look at a menu, which was rather overwhelming. Dishes of New Orleans specialties range from jambalaya, shrimp creole and blackened catfish to fried cod sandwiches and oysters. As someone who has never been to Louisiana and experienced traditional Louisiana dining, I was torn over what to order. I relied on the expertise of the helpful worker at the counter who advised ordering the Mardi Gras combo. This plate has a little of everything with a sampling of jambalaya, red beans, rice and shrimp creole. My friends who tagged along ordered Deb’s Barbeque Shrimp, which is simply shrimp sautéed in butter, lemon juice and other spices. All dishes can be ordered in either a half size or full and come with a side of cornbread or French bread. I opted for a half order with corn bread. I also had to order a side of potato salad because there was a little “try me” sign next to it on the menu, and I couldn’t resist.

My friends and I were going to dine-in so we took a seat at one of the counters and waited for our meal. It was only a matter of minutes until the food was brought out to us. Again, there was nothing fancy about food presentation, because at New Orleans Take- Out, the food speaks for itself. Taking a fork full of red beans, I was sold. While beans and rice are pretty hard to mess up, they are even harder to make memorable. New Orleans Take-Out did just that, though. The beans slowly cooked and creamy were great. The white rice soaked up the juices from the shrimp creole, which added additional flavor. The creole, which is rather hot, had my nose running but my fork coming back for more. The shrimp was fresh and the vegetables a lovely touch, especially the sweet tomatoes, which juxtaposed the heat of the overall dish.

The jambalaya was able to hold its own among the plate with its tender chunks of chicken. It was seasoned to perfection, leaving it plenty flavorful, but not overpowering. I should admit that the jambalaya dish and rice made for a little too much rice for my liking. However, when it comes down to the dish as a whole, I would not change a thing. It was a great way to taste some of the best things New Orleans Take-Out has to offer.   

The side of potato salad, definitely worth trying, was fresh, creamy and not too heavy. The dish was a great way to cool down my mouth from the hot creole. The cornbread, dense and moist, topped off the meal, leaving me full and content. I should also note, my friends who ordered Deb’s Barbeque Shrimp licked their plates clean. A sign that Deb’s Shrimp is also a force to be reckoned with on the New Orleans Take-Out Menu.

New Orleans Take-Out, while not over the top, does food right. It sticks to the basics of making quality dishes that will leave you satisfied and coming back for more.

Macha Tea Company resurfaces

Photos by Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

By Meghan Horvath

The deep green, frothy liquid runs towards the rim of the porcelain mug as swirls of milk add more color to the tea, the white pattern contrasting with the deep matcha tones. Following a year long hiatus, Macha Tea Company is back.

After serving Monroe Street for seven years, Ma Cha Teahouse and Art Gallery closed its doors at the end of 2014. With an expiring lease and anticipated construction on Monroe, owners Anthony Verbrick and Rachel Fox decided to close the neighborhood’s beloved tea shop.

Just over a year later, on Feb. 12 Macha reopened under the same owners, this time on the city’s east side.  

“After we closed our Monroe Street location in 2014, we didn’t have plans to reopen at that time,” Fox said. “But a few months later we came across a space we were familiar with that was only a few blocks from where we live. It felt serendipitous, so we had to take the leap.”

Now located at 823 East Johnson Street, Macha Tea Company offers an inviting space to relax and travel the world through tea.

Photos by Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

“The renovation process was challenging since the building we are in is 100 years old, but with that age comes a lot of character, which was appealing,” Fox said.

Macha held a grand opening event in their new space, which was publicized via social media and drew nearly 800 people to express interest in the event on Facebook.

“I started following them on Instagram when they were doing renovations last summer,” UW student Yusi Liu said, “When they posted they were opening in the new location on Johnson, I knew I had to try it.”

Liu, a sophomore in Art History, is from Beijing, where tea is integral part of her daily routine. When far from home, tea provides a sense of comfort. That familiarity, however, also means high standards for Liu in terms of what makes it quality.

“I’m from China and I cannot accept the lower quality powder of tea bags,” Liu said, “There’s no comparison to real leaf tea and Macha has real leaf tea.”

Macha Tea Company 2 - Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

Fox is half Chinese and grew up around tea as well. Jasmine and oolong were originally her main staples, and it wasn’t until college that she gained exposure to the immense variety of teas out there.

“We both feel Madison is a great place for a small business, but particularly for tea because the market isn’t overly saturated yet,” Fox said, “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to offer something new and different to a city we love.”

Both Fox and Verbrick have been drinking tea for quite some time, and with the opening of Macha, they hope to share their passion with locals.

“Ultimately we want to remove the intimidation and pretension from tea drinking, and make it fun and easy for people to learn more and build their own knowledge base,” Fox said, “Some of the stereotypes that exist around tea drive us crazy, and we’re going to do our best to abolish them completely.”

The atmosphere of the new shop is indeed conducive to relaxed imbibing over studying or conversation. Sunlight floods in from Johnson Street as Macha’s floor-length windows illuminate the space. The walls are painted a matcha-esque shade of green and lit lanterns hang from the ceiling through the center of the room.

“I’ve been to almost every coffee shop on State Street and they all kind of have the same feel,” UW student Ibstisam Haq said. “The interior at Macha is much different, very Japanese and minimalistic.”

For Haq, a sophomore in Fashion Design and originally from Pakistan, tea is also central to his lifestyle.

“I’m from a former British colony so yes tea is huge,” Haq said, “and I love tea, I do. I drink it on a regular basis. It’s a cultural thing.”

Elaborate tea sets are available for purchase, as well as a variety of teas hand-selected by Verbrick and Fox. A world map decorates the wall above the assortment of teas, displaying the global fondness for the drink and how deeply ingrained tea is in various world cultures.

“We really dove in to more intensive research and plenty of tea drinking to continue expanding our base knowledge,” Fox said, “Over the years we’ve developed meaningful relationships with people in the industry, which is tremendously important in continuing to learn more.”

Macha offers a varied mix of seating arrangements. A cozy alcove of cushioned chairs is set up in the front of the shop, where guests can experience a more comfortable, intimate space. Then in front of the counter is a communal table ideal for studying sessions and larger groups. The back portion of Macha also houses a tea bar, which reimagines norms in terms of coffee and tea shop seating.

“The focal point of the new space is the tea bar, which is allowing us to interact with customers in an entirely different way,” Fox said, “We want people to be comfortable dropping by for a pot of tea, and while they are enjoying that we might pour them a sample of something else.”

Macha Tea Company 11 - Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

Fresh baked goods are also offered. Gluten free sweet potato cake, chocolate zucchini cupcakes, ginger scones and a traditional matcha chiffon cake are all baked in house. Each can be paired with a select tea that compliments the flavors of the dessert, and owners Verbrick and Fox are more than willing to help you choose.

“We’re going to show everyone what you can do with tea, including cooking and making cocktails, to give a few examples,” Fox said, “We are always experimenting with tea blends and trying new things in the kitchen, so the new space is about continuing to challenge ourselves.” 

Though the shop was out of commission for a year, it continues to attract customers new and old. With its appeal to international students and locals alike, Macha doesn’t seem to have lost its charm.

“And now that we’re open, running a business in our own neighborhood feels very comfortable and like we were always meant to be here,” Fox said, “The energy in the East Johnson Street area is wonderful to be a part of.”

Photos by Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

Insomnia Cookies

Photos by Molly O'Brien

Photos by Molly O’Brien

By Molly O’Brien

Insomnia Cookies has found a home on countless college campuses from the East Coast to the Midwest. So, it’s no surprise their newest installment recently popped up on State Street. With their sweet treats and late night hours, the new Insomnia is bound to be a hit.

This is the second time Insomnia has made an appearance at UW, the first time closing due to illegal activity in 2009. According to an article from The Badger Herald, Insomnia had a food truck on Library Mall that did not comply with city size restrictions and some employees also reported never being paid.

Luckily, the new Insomnia seems to be on the right track. Walking into the small bakery, the smell of sugar is overwhelming. There isn’t much to it: a counter to place your order and a short bar with four stools looking out onto State. Of course, there doesn’t need to be much, as Insomnia is known for their delivery, which comes hot to your door at late hours of the night.

At the register, there’s one of each of their twelve different cookies on display. The rest appear to be stored in a low-heat oven, with even more baking in the back. Meaning, when they are served, the cookies come out toasty.

Served in a cardboard pizza-like box, the “Deluxe Cookiewich,” two large cookies with ice cream smashed between, came out slightly melted. I ordered mine with a triple chocolate chunk cookie on one side and chocolate peanut butter cup on the other, held together by scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The taste makes up for the lack of visual appeal. Mmm, the taste.

Unlike a traditional ice cream sandwich, this was not to be eaten with your hands. The triple chocolate chunk cookie dripped milk chocolate from my spoon as I dipped it into the vanilla ice cream. The tastes melted into one another.  It was a quick, college-style take on an old favorite. With crisp outer edges and a soft middle, the cookie truly was baked to perfection.DSCF1546

The chocolate peanut butter cup cookie making up the other half of the Cookiewich was also far from disappointment. This cookie, topped with gigantic chunks of Reese’s, was recommended to me by an employee. It had a strong peanut butter taste that would probably dry out a person’s mouth if not warm. This matched perfectly with the chocolate ice cream.

Although it complimented the warm cookies well, the ice cream was not what I, a Wisconsin-dairy-loving girl, would eat by choice. It could best be described as heavy on the ice, light on the cream.

Perhaps the most enticing thing about Insomnia is their late night delivery. Bringing cookies to students, every night of the week until 3 a.m., is a surefire path to success. The cookies, with clever names such as “Major Rager” and “B.M.O.C.,” come in packs ranging from six to 24. These can also be prepared as a cookie cake with frosting and served with ice cream. And I repeat: the cookies still come hot and fresh.

Overall, Insomnia was devilishly tasty. It took until my stomach felt stiff and heart was racing on a sugar rush to put the spoon away. I would definitely eat this again, although I doubt my doctor would recommend.

Graft-ing a masterpiece

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber

By Mia Shehadi

I cannot emphasize the word “mixed” enough when it comes to my feelings about Valentine’s Day. My grandpa used to tell me that is was a dumb holiday because you should make your love feel special every day; you don’t need a company to tell you to do that. While I wholeheartedly believe that, I have come to think of it as an excuse to get dressed up and get my significant other off the couch. This holiday, I made a reservation at Graft.

Graft is a special gem located right on Capitol Square. This location is stellar because of one incredible thing: parking. Just a block or so down from the restaurant is the Carroll Street parking ramp. This is key because usually the parking on the Capitol is either non-existent or very limited. This also allows for a nice romantic stroll in the Square’s lights right before and after your meal.

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber

A friendly hostess greeted us at the front door, asking for our reservation and offering to hang our coats. The restaurant is oriented more for bigger parties, all the tables and booths sit at least four people and could fit larger parties with ease. A stunning retro-inspired bar greets you when you walk in and to the left are the booths. Made to be subtly private in an open space, the semi-circular booths are sectioned by bundled curtains. The seclusion is further elevated by the slightly raised platform they each sit on.  In the middle of the room are four-person wooden tables, all situated on a distressed brick floor. An accent wall of dark wood captures the eye and your gaze lingers over the gorgeous, über-colorful painting right in the middle. A chrome open-air kitchen covers the very back wall of the restaurant filling the air with a subtle comforting warmth.

Our server was outstanding. Her sense of humor combined with her genuine desire to make us feel at home are what made Tracy one of the best parts about Graft. We mentioned this random Wednesday night meal was actually a make-up Valentine’s Day. She began to throw out stellar suggestions for appetizers, her favorite entrées and dessert. We ordered Fried Chévre, scallops, hanger steak and coffee ice cream in a puff pastry drizzled with caramel sauce.

First to the table was the Fried Chévre, three balls of goat cheese lightly fried and laid out over a black pepper and honey gastrique. The black pepper accentuated the honey, giving it a little kick without creating an overpowering flavor as using hot sauce or chili pepper might. This paired nicely with the salty, creamy cheese. Lightly frying the balls adds an array of textures, the slight crunch broke apart what would otherwise be an uncomfortable mouthful.

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber

Next came the scallops. One thing that sparked a flame between my boyfriend and I is our mutual adoration of scallops. Three plump scallops sat side-by-side, dressed with braised fennel and parsley and a butternut square puree. My first reaction was excitement over the colors: the vegetables were an incredible dark green and the orange from the puree really stood out on the plate. Scallops are very easy to overcook and pretty difficult to tell if they’re undercooked unless cut in half, so practice is key when preparing this kind of seafood. Our scallops were perfectly cooked so our fork glided through them, and a slight grill at the top and bottom added a little texture to the dish.

The hanger steak was also cooked to perfection. This dish had a much richer flavor overall, from the meat, to the bread pudding, to the Gouda sauce covering the whole dish. The portion size of our dishes so far had been on the smaller side, and I’m glad this one was as well. Even though the steak’s natural flavor was able to cut through the sauce, the creaminess was very prominent. The parsnips were fantastic, adding a little bit of crunch and melding well with the gusto of the dish. The leek bread pudding helped lighten the flavor by adding a fluffy component to soak up and distribute the sauce over more items.

Last came our dessert, a cute, little trio of pastries in a large bowl. A small ball of coffee ice cream was cradled in between two halves of a light, crunchy pastry. A glorious drizzle of caramel was poured lightly over the whole dish adding visual cohesiveness and well as the perfect extra bit of sweetness.

The whole meal was fantastic: the atmosphere was incredibly friendly, yet elegant, and the staff was extremely attentive and fun. I would recommend Graft as more of a larger party restaurant, as in a birthday, meeting or corporate event. Although I went there on a date and had a spectacular time, it might be better suited for a grander celebration.

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber


Photos by Haley Winckler

Photos by Haley Winckler

By Morgan Dorfman

Do you ever feel like escaping your current city for a night? Most of us do, but being a college student doesn’t usually allow for that. If you are in search of the big city life but you are situated in Madison, Wisconsin, reserve a window table at Francesca’s al lago located on Capitol Square.

From the low lighting to the dark woods and white walls, Francesca’s allows you to feel like you are having a night out in a big city, which is due to its big city roots. Francesca’s started as a quaint restaurant in Chicago by Scott Harris in 1992 and since then grew to 22 other locations with the same Chicago charm. Everything about the restaurant feels upscale. The bar is secluded from the dining room and there are big, round light fixtures that hang from the ceiling. The atmosphere is intimate, cozy and sophisticated. Perfect for meeting up with close friends or a loved one.

One of my favorite aspects about this restaurant is that every month they change a majority of the dishes on their menu. They hand write each new dish they add to the single page menu for a personalized touch. They keep certain dishes on their menu from month to month but when you return to dine there another time, the menu may offer completely different dishes to choose from. It keeps things fun and fresh.

Copy of IMG_0910

Photos by Haley Winckler

I dined at Francesca’s in the middle of the week and the amount of people surrounding me in the dining room remained pretty steady while I was there. Much to my surprise, the turn around time from ordering to receiving my dinner was noticeably fast. Prior to your meal, they give you warm Italian bread while you wait.

My first thought when I received my Rigatoni Con Mozzarella was about the colorfulness of the dish. Making a classic rigatoni and cheese dish creative is not easy, but the tomato basil was a sunset, orange-red with speckles of green from the basil with the white mozzarella sprinkled on top. The sauce and the cheese offered a very rich taste along with the noticeable freshness of the rigatoni. It was downright quality food.

My friend ordered the Tortellini Con Pollo. This dish was made up of cheese filled tortellini with grilled chicken, sautéed spinach and pine nuts in a light, basil cream sauce with fresh tomatoes. The freshness of the ingredients again impressed my taste buds, along with the oozy cheese of the tortellini against the crunchy pine nuts. It can be hard to find fresh produce in Wisconsin during the wintertime, so I was very impressed with the quality of the food.

The amount of food you receive is very comparable to the price you are paying. Most items on the menu were a little more expensive, but you received quality food and a good amount of it. Between the bread and the pasta, I really wish I would have saved room to try some of their desserts, like the tiramisu!

One of the main tests that I do when I try out a new restaurant is to check out their bathroom. A chef once told me that you are able to tell how clean a restaurant’s kitchen is by how clean their bathrooms are. And to my delight, Francesca’s bathrooms were spotless.

Francesca’s is a place that I will go back to when I feel the need to have a night out on the town or to have dinner with my family. You can’t go wrong, from the intimate atmosphere to the fresh and filling food.


Photos by Claire Grummon

Photos by Claire Grummon

Article by Claire Grummon

Down the street from the Capitol, past the Madison’s Children’s Museum, lies Bradbury’s: a quintessential trendy and cozy café. Bradbury’s isn’t hard to miss, large soaring windows and  bright whimsical decals immediately draw you in.

Photos by Claire Grummon

Photos by Claire Grummon

Upon entry, the space appears small, but what Bradbury’s lacks in size, it makes up for in character. A large L-shaped communal table unites strangers over in-house roasted coffees, espresso and unique crêpes. The soaring windows send bright, fresh sunlight in, as a mix of indie music plays, and the sweet hum of the espresso machine echoes in the background.

In 2008, Josh and Jill Makoutz opened Bradbury’s three months after their daughter, Ruby, was born. While Josh Makoutz agrees that it was somewhat difficult opening so soon after Ruby’s birth, they couldn’t pass up the perfect space. He reflects on the experience by saying the timing ended up being perfect, and that he and his wife could alternate who was in the café and who stayed at home with Ruby. They each contributed equally and full-heartedly to both Bradbury’s and Ruby.

As Ruby grew, so did Bradbury’s. Bradbury’s has an array of delicious and high quality coffees from all over. Their current guest roasters provide Bows X Arrows coffee from Victoria, BC. United, they are a group of passionate individuals working towards finding a niche for sustainable coffee. Regularly, Bradbury’s serves local coffee from Kickapoo Coffee in Viroqua, Wis., and aims to promote their high quality and admirable sustainability as well.

Photos by Claire Grummon

Photos by Claire Grummon

Inspired by Wisconsin farms’ local, fresh ingredients, Jill Makoutz decided to incorporate something to set Bradbury’s apart from any other Madison coffee shop: crêpes. She had spent some time in Croatia, where her love of crêpes began. Local Wisconsin farms such as Pecatonica Valley and Sprouting Acres

Photos by Claire Grummon

Photos by Claire Grummon

provided the perfect ingredients for new and inspiring crêpe creations.

The Makoutz’s change their crêpe menu regularly depending on what is the freshest. At Bradbury’s, you always know the ingredients are in season. The couple is excited for the culinary opportunities that the nearing spring months will bring. Ramps and asparagus will certainly be featured on their savory menu, along with a chicken, onions, kale, Brie and fried egg crêpe.

Josh prides the couple on being able to work with both high end coffee programs and locally sourced ingredients.

“A lot of places do one or the other really well, but it’s fun to do both in our tiny little space,” he said.

Doing both works incredibly well for the successful couple. Their coffees are offer a bold, rich, luxurious flavor, and they craft a perfectly silky cappuccino. Regarding crêpes, I sampled the “Ham and spinach with smoked gouda, a cracked egg, and mustard” savory crêpe, as well as the “Raspberry preserves and yogurt cheese” sweet crêpe.

Photos by Claire Grummon

Photos by Claire Grummon

Photos by Claire Grummon

Photos by Claire Grummon


For the savory, the egg was beautifully folded in and spread evenly throughout. Every bite offered a sampling of each fresh component, none of which were overpowered. The mustard itself was a delicacy. For the sweet, the raspberry preserves were the star of the show. They offered a perfect summery flavor on a cold Wisconsin day, and the yogurt offered a nice contrast to cut the sweetness with some tart flavor.  


Having been to Paris, France, it is clear that Bradbury’s offers a local Wisconsin take on a European favorite. The setting, unlike any other coffee shop in Madison, appears to be straight out of Brooklyn. If you’re looking for something a little different, and searching for some friendly faces, wander into Bradbury’s for coffee and crêpes crafted by a passionate, warm, and hardworking family.

Photos by Claire Grummon

Photos by Claire Grummon