Twice a year, a “holiday” (almost as exciting as Christmas) comes to Madison…Restaurant Week! Basically it gives simpletons like me a chance to experience the finer restaurants in Madison for a price that I can actually almost afford. For $25 for dinner or $15 for lunch, you get three courses (appetizer, main course, dessert) – much more affordable than the price you’d normally end up paying if you do a little planning and pick the right restaurants.
Here are the ones I tried this time around, I was really impressed by both!
Dinner: The Melting Pot
The Melting Pot is a chain, which I typically tend to avoid during restaurant week. Why go to a national restaurant when there are so many great local options to try? Well, turns out that this place was one of the only restaurants that had reservations available when we started calling around. It worked out fine, especially because I’ve always wanted to try this place but have always been a little turned off by the price. I mean come on, it’s melted cheese!
The Melting Pot – Restaurant Week Summer 2012 Menu
Ok, so that’s a lot more than melted cheese. In fact, in order to get the melted cheese, we had to pay $5 extra. Still, $30 isn’t bad for this place, so we went for it. It was easily the best decision of the night, because the cheese was fantastic. We got the spinach artichoke cheese dip, and it was perfect with the bread and veggies we used to dip.
I wasn’t super crazy about the salad that I got (for the record, it was the Mandarin Orange and Almond Salad). Not that there was anything wrong with it per se, the overall taste was great. But I’m not super crazy about fruit on salads to begin with (unless they’re craisins) and for those of you who know me, I hate nuts. It’s a texture thing. I’m not allergic to them, I just really dislike them. Unless they’re all ground up and in butter form (peanut butter, almond butter, pecan butter…I like those.) So based on that, I just randomly picked a salad, because they all had both fruit and nuts in them.
For the entree I got the “Seafood Lovers” option. It was a great choice, and the sauces they gave us to pair with the fish were nice as well. That’s all I have to say about that.
The real winner of the three actual Restaurant Week courses here, though, was dessert. We got the White Chocolate Creme Brulee, and it was heavenly. I don’t really know how to describe it other than to say it was awesome. After a pretty large meal, white chocolate was definitely preferable to the richer milk chocolate options, and I doubt the mint chocolate would have paired well with a lot of the fruit that came on the place. I’m not a huge white chocolate fan, but it was definitely the right choice for us that night.
Overall, I really liked the atmosphere of the Melting Pot. If I went back for a “regular” meal though, I’m pretty sure I’d skip the meat and only do cheese and/or dessert. Those were easily the best parts of the meal!
Lunch: Capital Tap Haus
My second Restaurant Week excursion this summer was a bit more unplanned – some of my coworkers and I decided to take a long lunch and head to one of the restaurants on State Street on a Friday to take advantage of their pretty awesome menu and the nice weather outside. Something that I really loved about this place (other than being able to sit outside!) was that it’s a local microbrewery and restaurant, so it gave me that unique “Madison-centric” experience that the Melting Pot lacked, by virtue of its being a chain.
Capital Tap Haus – Restaurant Week Summer 2012 Menu
First off, I’ll say that it was extremely difficult to choose between the options offered for each course! Except for dessert – cheesecake is my absolute favorite, so that will always win no matter what.
For the starter, I got the bread dumpling. It was pretty much just a fried ball of bread with a piece of bratwurst inside…so naturally it was awesome. It was a bit heavy, but the bread was flaky with the right amount of cheese. The sauerkraut sauce was a great addition as well. Another member of our lunch party ordered the reuben roll ups, which were also phenomenal.
I chose the Capital Dark BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich for my entree. It was a good sandwich, but didn’t quite live up to the expectations that I had after the amazing bread dumpling. It was a bit on the small side and didn’t come with fries or chips or greens anything, which would have rounded out the plate a bit more. Overall, though, it had a great flavor that I really enjoyed. Not too spicy, not too sweet.
The cheesecake was phenomenal. As all cheesecake should be. Seriously, I’m really losing my ability to describe these dishes well, but that was right up there with the bread dumpling as my favorite part of the meal.
So that was my Summer 2012 Restaurant Week experience! Now I get to wait a few months before getting excited for Winter Restaurant Week, which conveniently falls the week before my birthday. I think that gives me just enough time to figure out a way to convince Shaun to take me out to a fancy dinner!