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.