Friday, March 17, 2006

Where Wisconsin is king

I had been looking forward to the opening of The Old Fashioned for months because it's a partnership between the owner's of some of the best restaurants in Madison. While there are a number of good or even great places to eat in our city, there's a definite shortage of really good mid-priced restaurants; especially those that focus on quality, locally sourced ingredients. In fact, everything on the menu that can be acquired from a Wisconsin producer is acquired in state. From the trout to the sausage, from produce to beer and soda, it's all local all the time.
The Old Fashioned was packed from the moment the doors opened. (See? Madison needed the Old Fashioned). I personally have been 5 or 6 times. It is a tavern so the emphasis is on fried appetizers, sandwiches and nightly specials. Taco Tuesdays, Prime Rib on Saturday and this wouldn't be Wisconsin without a fish fry on Friday.
Seeing as I'm not from around these parts, I've never understood the Wisconsin native's love of cheese curds. (If you've never heard of a cheese curd click here). I just don't understand why you'd want your cheese to squeek.
However, the first time I popped a fried cheese curd in my mouth, my first thought was "I'd really be better off it I didn't know these existed." They are irresistable and my thighs have paid the price. Imagine the smaller, tastier cousin to the fried mozzerella stick. Of course fried cheese curds were my first indulgence at The Old Fashioned. I was not disappointed by THE BEST FRIED CHEESE CURDS EVER! Be sure to eat them fast, though, since they do have a tendency to disintegrate into a molten puddle if left to sit. Also, get the tiger sauce. I know there are other options but I don't remember what they are since I was smitten after my first taste of this creamy, horseradish concoction.
I've also tried and loved the Macaroni and cheese with ring bologna, spinach salad with salmon (possibly the best salad I've ever had in a restaurant) and the fish fry. It wasn't until I tried the OF burger, though, that I was ready to declare my undying love for this place to anyone who would listen (i.e.-you).

First, as you can see from the (bad) picture, it comes with a fried egg on top. This is right up my alley but I've talked to some people who were turned off by the whole egg-on-a-burger thing so before you get grossed out, they also have the build your own burger option so you can have it your way.
This burger is a perfect illustration of what is possible when you use quality ingredients. You know how it is when you get a burger and it tastes pretty good but the cheese is the kind that comes wrapped in plastic or there's so much stuff on it that the bun had no chance of surviving? Every element of this burger would stand out on it's own and thus comes together to yield the perfect burger. The bun is a rich brown on the outside and toasted on the inside. It tasted buttery. The beef is so good that our resident 9 yr. old picky eater LOVED her kid's burger even though it was (horrors!) pink inside. There's perfectly caramelized onions, that luscious tiger sauce and the bacon was a shining example of the form. I was actually sad after my last bite that my burger eating experience was over. I do recommend getting the salad instead of the fries. The fries are not stellar and this leaves you more room to focus on the burger. Besides, the salad is the best side salad with a burger that you're ever going to get.
My only complaint about The Old Fashioned is the lack of real entrees. If you are not in the mood for a sandwich and the special of the night isn't calling to you, the pickings are actually a little slim. There's the mac and cheese, entree salads and trout, but at 18.95 (I think) it's a bit spendy for what I want to shell out at a place like this. (I'm not saying it's not worth it but if I want to spend close to $20 on just my entree I'd more than likely go somewhere else.)
I'd like to point out that this is just a blog and not an official review (I know that's obvious but I still think it needs to be said). I haven't gotten into the lazy susan's, the various cheese plates, or the selection of Old Fashioned's (the drink for which the place is named) so be sure to check it out for yourself.


At 3:53 PM, Blogger Ange said...

Those cheese curds sounds very strange indeed, dont think I will see them in Oz soon but if I do come accross them will try them out!

At 8:26 AM, Blogger the foppish baker said...

My sister and I tried out the Old Fashioned just last weekend. We ended up just getting fries and drinks, but drooled over the menu too. I had the garlic sauce instead of the tiger, but it is fantastic. It tastes kind of like the flavoring on sour cream & onion potato chips, but much, much better and with garlic. But I agree the fries were only average, which is strange since they're all made to order and it shouldn't be too hard to make really good fries.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger lee said...

The secret to good fries is cutting the potatoes yourself but it's pretty labor intensive so most restaurants buy the par-cooked frozen variety. Since the onion rings and cheese curds are so good, it's too bad the fries aren't on the same level.


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