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.

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Photo by Meghan Horvath

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.

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

Osaka House

Photo by Annaleigh Wetzel

Photo by Annaleigh Wetzel

By Annaleigh Wetzel

Drake’s “Back to Back” buzzed from an iPhone plugged into speakers at Osaka House’s makeshift server station, where the restaurant’s only front-of-house employee danced and rapped along. For this, plus its endearing, hole-in-the-wall atmosphere, I want so badly to like it here and say I’ll be back. Unfortunately, even an especially on point music selection isn’t enough for me to give Osaka House another try.

Photo by Annaleigh Wetzel

Photo by Annaleigh Wetzel

The restaurant is tiny, with only enough room for about eight tables. The sushi selection is extensive, and listed on a large menu hung from the wall that’s visible immediately upon walking in. It’s riddled with names of rolls like Lady Gaga, Godzilla Roll and Happy Combo. The rest of the menu is just as long, with tempura and noodle dishes galore. Its overwhelming amount of choices led me to order the pork yakisoba, beef fried rice and the sweet potato tempura roll, decisions I came to with the help of the server’s recommendations. He was extremely attentive and friendly, but if these dishes are what he thinks are “the best,” I fear the rest of the menu.

Photo by Annaleigh Wetzel

Photo by Annaleigh Wetzel

Photo by Annaleigh Wetzel

Photo by Annaleigh Wetzel

The yakisoba, rice and sushi meals all had one common thread: no flavor. Onions and thin strips of overdone pork was all the yakisoba had to offer, similar to the greasy fried rice, with tough pieces of beef, plus tasteless peas and carrots. Albeit still bland, the sushi was improved immensely with the help of pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. Another aspect of my Osaka House experience that trigged an eyebrow raise was the sheer ten minutes it took to receive my food. The speed between placing my order and taking my first bite was so quick; it caused me wonder about the food’s freshness.

If you’d like to see what Osaka House is all about for yourself, I encourage it. Perhaps you’ll find the hidden gem menu item I couldn’t. Or maybe you’ll be perceptive enough to ask for extra chili paste. Either way, please get in touch, and we’ll chat about it over a Dynasty Roll or two.

Photo by Annaleigh Wetzel

Photo by Annaleigh Wetzel