Marie and Joe Review Brunch at Madison’s Old Fashioned Restaurant

Another good “formula” restaurant with a large local following

Joe –  The Old Fashioned is just another of the burgeoning “quality comfort food” cafes and restaurants in the Madison area. On the plus side, the restaurant/pub does a great job of using local meats, produce, cheese, beer, and even liquor. It seems clean, the service is friendly and speedy, and the beer selection extensive (if you care). Their mission statement says they are inspired by Wisconsin taverns and supper clubs.

Marie – I found the atmosphere to be more tavern and less supper club. To me, supper club means a dinner menu of steak, prime rib, chicken, and, of course, a relish tray. When one of your claims to fame is a huge selection of tap beers, and your nightly specials include tacos and burgers, it is a tavern. Other than those trivial observations there is really not too much to say on the negative side that wouldn’t seem petty and personal, other than to caution about substituting mass quantities of food for quality. Overall, a fine experience that meets modest expectations. The owners are following a winning commercial formula and safely drawing a big crowd without pushing the envelope.

Joe – A few weeks after first visiting The Old Fashioned on Madison’s Capitol Square for an early lunch, a return trip was made on a recent Sunday morning for breakfast. In all honesty, the return for breakfast was prompted by the bloody mary being happily consumed by the person seated next to us during the previous  lunch. It was called The Wisconsin bloody mary, and is served with a side dish of snacks designed to appeal to the palate of a stereotypical Wisconsinite.

Arriving at a time that seemed to beat the rush, seating was immediately available at the bar. I started off by ordering the previously mentioned bloody mary and began cruising the brunch menu which has some interesting choices such as Walleye and Eggs, but mainly varied from Denny’s fare by the promised use of local fresh ingredients and flowery descriptions. My bloody mary arrived and it proved upon tasting to be a typical and non-inspired creation. The snack side plate was an interesting supper club type experience, but was pretty much, as expected, with a tender pickled egg, cheese curds, and a large portion of lean and tasty jerky. The curds were a bit of a disappointment both in number and size compared to portions I saw a couple of weeks earlier. For $8.50 this was probably a one-time experience.

Marie – I am so happy I didn’t blow eight bucks on a bloody mary. For my dining pleasure, I ordered the Chicken Fried Steak advertised as being a lightly breaded top-sirloin steak with sausage gravy. All I could think when it arrived was, what a huge hunk of meat that seemed to be. It was a monster covering most of a platter, but the illusion of size was accentuated by the very thick “lightly breaded” part. Actually the steak part was really good. The beef appeared to be high quality, and was was both flavorful and tender and wasn’t overly smothered by the gravy. The eggs were as ordered and, unlike yours, my roasted potatoes were hot in the center if not noteworthy in flavor. Although I won’t order this again unless I share it with someone, this was a meal that will bring me back to sample more of the menu.

Joe – I selected the Wisconsin Benedict with the bratwurst patty which turned out to be a great choice. The eggs were cooked as ordered, and the sausage had a pleasant mildly spiced taste that didn’t overwhelm the eggs or the english muffin. Rather than a standard hollandaise sauce, The Old Fashioned uses a mustard cream sauce that has a more robust flavor and pairs very nicely with the stronger flavor of the sausage. While many restaurants over apply hollandaise, this one left me wishing they would use a bit more. But, I will give this high marks for putting an interesting twist on standard fare.

The only real disappointment with my meal was the side of rosemary potatoes. They looked good with a nice crusty outside, but my order had some centers that were not quite done, and varied from having cold spots to being smoking hot. The non uniform temperature of the potato interiors combined with the very uniform exteriors leads me to believe that the potatoes are microwaved before plating which is certainly a shortcut that undermined an otherwise fine dish.

The Old Fashioned is one of the “in” places in town and you know that we are very happy for their success.

Marie – I guess this is one where we just can’t fight the  popular menu, great uptown location, mass quantities of food, and the instant camaraderie afforded by large crowds. So man-up Joe and admit that despite your whining, you will be back.

Joe – Count me in. I will return because this is an overall fine place, and a good fit for Madison.

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