Red (Madison, Wisconsin)


And so I finally come to the end of my meal reports from our trip to Madison in August. I know it will be hard for you all to face the coming weekends without the succour of these brief reviews but somehow you will have to manage.

As I’ve noted in my other reports, we experienced variable weather in our three days in Madison, ranging from the sunny and extremely hot to the extremely rainy. Somehow, this only impacted one of our meals (we ate breakfasts in our hotel room). We managed outdoor dinner on the first night (at Strings Ramen), outdoor lunch and dinner on the second day (at Bandung and Ian’s Pizza) and lunch on the third day (at Settle Down) but there was no hope of eating out on the third evening. The rain was torrential and it was unrelenting. As we were unwilling to eat in with an unvaccinated child in tow it had to be takeout then. How did it end up being sushi and what was it like? Read on. Continue reading

Settle Down (Madison, Wisconsin)


Alright, we’re almost at the end of the meal reports from our Madison trip in August. This was lunch on our second and last full day in the city. We’d spent the morning on a lake and once it got nice and hot—like really hot—we ventured forth in search of another restaurant with outdoor seating. Settle Down had been on the list—thanks to another recommendation in the comments from Todd who’d also recommended Ian’s Pizza—but after the non-appearance of the advertised outdoor seating at the Old Fashioned the previous evening we were taking nothing for granted, Thankfully, a phone call to Settle Down confirmed the existence of a lot of outdoor seating and on arrival we saw that it was indeed so. The entire street in front of the restaurant was closed to traffic and strewn with tables and chairs. We picked one and then another and then another before finally finding one that was completely out of the blazing sun. And then we ordered some food and got down to the eating of a pleasurable lunch. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Ian’s Pizza (Madison, Wisconsin)


And so now I am at the midpoint of my meal reports from our trip to Madison in early August and this is a report on our first non-Asian meal in the city (see my earlier reviews of Strings Ramen and Bandung). Ian’s Pizza—recommended by a commenter, Todd—was not originally on our itinerary but it was our fallback option when one of the places that had been recommended from multiple directions didn’t work out: The Old Fashioned. We’d planned to eat dinner there on this Monday evening but when we pulled up alongside we couldn’t see any sign of the outdoor seating that they were supposed to have. We called them from the car and were told they were not doing outdoor seating on account of the storm about to roll in. Now, while weather on our trip was not great, this evening actually was completely rain-free. The sky was blue, the sun was out. Indeed, after dinner we repaired to the Memorial Union Terrace at the University of Wisconsin for ice cream and sunset by the water. Far more likely is that they didn’t want to deal with staffing outdoor seating with enough people willing to eat indoors. So we ate dinner instead at Ian’s Pizza instead. And a very good dinner it was too. Continue reading

Bandung (Madison, Wisconsin)


Our first meal in Madison on our brief trip there in August was centered on ramen. Our next stop also deviated from the stereotypical Wisconsin food itinerary. As you might guess from the name of the restaurant in the title of this post, it featured Indonesian food. I should say here that our restaurant selections in Madison were driven entirely by two factors: 1) Were they in fact open (for lunch) or answering their phones? 2.) Did they have outdoor seating that they were actually using. A few of the restaurants recommended to us were not open for lunch; others had no outdoor seating. Bandung was open for lunch and had outdoor seating and so they were right in our sweet spot. But it’s not as though we weren’t interested in it for its own sake. As far as I know we don’t have an Indonesian restaurant in the Twin Cities metro and so we were very glad to give Bandung a go. Continue reading

Gates Bar-B-Q (Kansas City)


Here now is my last meal report from our brief visit to Kansas City in July and quite appropriately it is of a meal eaten at one of the city’s most sanctified barbecue institutions, perhaps second only to Arthur Bryant’s in that sense. I am referring, of course, to Gates Bar-B-Q. It too traces its history back to Henry Perry—the father of Kansas City barbecue and the man whose restaurant evolved into Arthur Bryant’s. The original location of Gates was founded in 1946, with the Gates family partnering with another of Perry’s employees/students, Arthur Pinkard. Unlike Arthur Bryant’s, Gates is still black-owned and indeed still in the Gates family. That original location, at 18th and Vine, does not appear to still be extant. Gates does have six locations in the Kansas City metro now. Of those, we dined at the large restaurant on Emanuel Cleaver Blvd., selecting it for its proximity both to the Nelson-Atkins Museum, which was our previous port of call and to access to the highway back to Minnesota, which would be our next. It was a fine meal and a fine farewell to Kansas City. Continue reading

Strings Ramen (Madison, Wisconsin)


Here begins my series of reports on our meals in Madison a few weeks ago.

As I said last week, our trip to Madison was in many ways an inverse of our trip to Kansas City in July. The earlier trip was centered on the eating of barbecue and we didn’t find Kansas City to be so very compelling as a family destination beyond that. Madison on the other hand didn’t hold very particular food significance for us but there was a lot of outdoor stuff for us to do or there would have been (even more) if not for the weather. However, armed with recommendations from friends who know the city very well and some people who’ve lived there a while, we ate quite well anyway. That said, the list of places we ate at might possibly strike some people as surprising and perhaps not in line with what comes to mind when you think of food in Wisconsin. For example, our first meal there—a few hours after arrival—comprised ramen, at Strings Ramen, a hop, skip and a jump from our hotel. Continue reading

Voltaire (Kansas City)


My reports on our meals in Kansas City in the second half of July are almost at an end. Here is an account of our penultimate meal in the city, at Voltaire. This was one of two meals we ate on this trip that were not centered on barbecue and both were positioned to break up the consumption of barbecue so we wouldn’t get stuck in a (smoky) rut or die (at this point we had already eaten smoked meats at Joe’s Kansas City, Arthur Bryant’s and Pigwich). The first of those meals was our dinner the previous night at Waldo Thai Place. Like that restaurant, Voltaire had been recommended by the same friend of a friend on Twitter. And given how much we’d enjoyed our dinner at Waldo Thai we had high hopes of our meal at Voltaire as well. These high hopes were mostly met. Read on for details. Continue reading

Three Days in Madison, Wisconsin


A couple of weeks after our short vacation in Kansas City—the last couple of meal reports from which are still to come—we hit the road again for a brief getaway. Not on Highway 35 this time. Instead we went southeast to Madison, a shorter drive of just about four hours from our house to the hotel we were staying in in downtown Madison. We decided to go with a hotel as we couldn’t really find any viable AirBnB options—and as it turns out it was a lucky break given the weather we experienced on more than one day (more on this below). This trip was in many ways an inverse of our Kansas City trip. Those days were organized largely around the eating of barbecue. Madison has no equivalent local cuisine to tempt us—which is not to say that we ate badly. For us, however, there was a lot more to do in Madison as a family. A quick sketch of the trip follows below and then over the next several weeks I’ll have reports on the meals we did eat. Continue reading

The City Market and Lunch at Pigwich (Kansas City)


I do very much enjoy walking around urban markets in cities I visit. Accordingly, a stop at Kansas City’s City Market was on our itinerary. Originally, this was supposed to be our last stop on the Thursday of our trip. It’s located in the north of the city, right by Highway 35 and the plan had been to go for a walk by the river, browse the market, eat a quick lunch at Pigwich and hit the road. All of this got thrown for a loop by my lame trip planning. I’d put a visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on the agenda for Wednesday (preceded by lunch at Gates-Bar-B-Q). Of course, since I only bothered to look at the museum’s website closely on Wednesday morning I discovered rather late in the game that the Nelson-Atkins is closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays. (Isn’t all this detail fascinating?!) So we went to the Nelson-Atkins and Gates on our last day and on Wednesday started out with a walk by the river, a stroll through the City Market and lunch at Pigwich. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Waldo Thai Place (Kansas City)


Our trip to Kansas City, in case I haven’t mentioned it before and in case it hasn’t already become obvious, revolved largely around the eating of barbecue. Gluttons for smoked meat though we are, we knew we needed to punctuate these barbecue blowouts with at least a couple of other kinds of meals or risk the very real possibility of untimely death. And so in doing my internet research I looked for interesting sounding restaurants that were some distance from barbecue. One of the names that came up a few times was a place with the unlikely sounding name of Waldo Thai. I put it on the long list but when a friend of a friend recommended it on Twitter I looked closer at its menu and we decided to give it a go. And a very good thing too that we did so. Not only was this a nice changeup from barbecue (our two previous meals had been at Arthur Bryant’s and Joe’s Kansas City), it was an excellent Thai meal, one of the best we’ve had in the US outside Los Angeles. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Arthur Bryant’s (Kansas City)


Our eating in Kansas City began at the original gas station location of Joe’s Kansas City, a few hours after our arrival. When I say the “original” location I don’t mean to suggest that this is a very old restaurant: it opened in the late 1990s. Arthur Bryant’s, where we ate lunch the next day, on the other hand goes way back to the beginnings of Kansas City barbecue, being indeed the place where the genre solidified and gained renown. The original proprietor, Henry Perry, the “father of Kansas City barbecue, had begun to sell his wares in the early decades of the 20th century, first at a stand and then to a restaurant in the 18th and Vine neighbourhood. On his death Perry’s business passed to his employee, Charlie Bryant in 1940 and his brother Arthur took over in 1946 and moved the restaurant to its current location at 18th and Brooklyn in 1949. (All this information is from Wikipedia, in case you’re wondering.) Continue reading

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que (Kansas City)


Okay, let’s get the Kansas City meat-a-thon going. As I said at the end of last week, we drove down to Kansas City for three days for a trip that was largely built around the eating of barbecue. As you doubtless know, Kansas City is one of the four traditional centers of barbecue in the United States—Texas, Memphis and the Carolinas being the others. The major differences between Kansas City barbecue and the others is first of all a more catholic approach to meat: there is no meat that is given emphasis over others in Kansas City. Anything that can be barbecued is. The other is the deployment of a tomato-based sauce with more than a little sweetness to it. Our main desire with the eating of barbecue was to eat at places with historical/cultural significance rather than places that top “Best of” lists. To this end I looked up reviews and articles online and canvassed recommendations on social media. We settled on Arthur Bryant’s and Gates for the historical/cultural significance. But we began our eating at the relatively much-newer Joe’s Kansas City which does often land at or near the top of those “Best of” lists. We had dinner there just a few hours after arriving in Kansas City. Continue reading

Three Days in Kansas City


What is this now, a tourism blog? Well, why not.

On more or less a whim we went down to Kansas City for a few days earlier this week. We hadn’t been outside southern Minnesota as a family since February 2020 and were itching to go somewhere. With the younger boy not yet vaccinated we were not comfortable getting on a plane and nor were we into the idea of a much longer drive, which would also mean a much longer stay away for it to make sense and would need more planning than a trip made on a whim. Chicago was the obvious choice but we’d been there a few years ago and didn’t really want to deal with the hectic traffic. Kansas City, located exactly six hours from our door, seemed like a great alternative: get on Highway 35, drive six hours south and get off; Des Moines located almost exactly halfway for a lunch stop. Lots and lots of great barbecue to eat once we got there. What could go wrong? Well, a few things did but it was a nice visit overall. Accordingly, here are some tips for anyone else looking to make a quick jaunt to Kansas City and also a request for a list of things we should have seen/done but didn’t. Continue reading

Teaism (Washington, D.C.)


Here is my last meal report from our sojourn in DC last month. It wasn’t the last meal we had in DC; we ate at Bantam King that evening, and even I will spare you a report on our lunch at Shake Shack at Union Station the next day before we boarded our train to New York. I know these details matter to you. You’ll also be interested to know that this is probably the first time I’ve completed a meal report from a city within a month of leaving it. Don’t get used to it though.

Teaism is a casual pan-Asian mini-chain with a few locations in DC. The Penn Quarter outpost is—like Hill Country and Rasika—a short walk from the museum row and it was there we repaired for lunch on our last full day of museum-going. It had been recommended—as all our other choices had been—by the good people of Donrockwell.com. We were looking for a quick, casual place with enough on the menu to appeal to adults and children alike and so it proved to be. Continue reading

Rasika, Again (Washington, D.C.)


My first—and only previous—meal at Rasika was in August 2015. At the time it was widely hailed as the best Indian restaurant in the US and I was curious to see what it was like. My dinner on that occasion was a bit of a mixed bag. Some dishes were indeed very good, some were just okay and some were not so good. I wasn’t sure if that meal was an outlier and so I remained curious enough to want to eat there again. On this trip to DC, almost exactly four years after the previous, I got to do so again. We were on the lookout for restaurants within walking distance of the Smithsonian museums and Rasika’s Penn Quarter location fits that bill (it is located quite close to Hill Country). They were participating in DC’s Restaurant Week that week and their offering seemed like a pretty good deal: three courses per head for $22. And so we decided to give it a go. How did it turn out? Read on. Continue reading

Laos in Town (Washington D.C.)


As per the last census, the Twin Cities metro has twice as many Lao residents as Washington D.C. However, Washington D.C would seem to have more formal Lao restaurants than the Twin Cities, where I count exactly zero restaurants that would fit that bill. It’s not the case that the Twin Cities does not have Lao restaurateurs or that there is no Lao food to be found in Twin Cities restaurants. As a matter of fact, a number (which I suspect if verified would be large not small) of Thai restaurants in the area are run by Lao owners and chefs, and Lao dishes can be found on the menus of many Thai restaurants in the area. However, the only well-known restaurant I can think of that even has “Lao” in its name is St. Paul’s Lao Thai on University Ave. (where else?), and it too is usually reckoned only as a Thai restaurant. Similarly, while Lao-style papaya salads and khao poon are standbys on Twin Cities Thai restaurant menus, those menus themselves are presented as Thai menus. In D.C, however, things are different. Continue reading

Hill Country (Washington D.C.)


Our eating in DC was organized almost entirely around proximity to the Smithsonian museums (where we spent our days) and our hotel (where we spent our evenings). I’ve already reported on two of our hotel-adjacent dinners (at Baby Wale and Bantam King); here now is a report on the first place at which we had lunch: Hill Country.

As you may know, Hill Country, a specialist in Texas barbecue, started out in New York city. The flagship restaurant is still there, as is another location; DC is the only other city with a branch. It is an easy 10 minute walk from the Museum of Natural History—and you will probably walk even faster if it is drizzling, as it was on the day of our visit. Either way, I’d say it’d be well worth an even longer walk. Continue reading

Bantam King (Washington D.C.)


My first report from our brief sojourn in DC last week was of our first meal: dinner at Baby Wale. I’d planned to go in order but instead here is a report of our last formal meal in DC: ramen at Bantam King. As with Baby Wale, Bantam King was a recommendation from the excellent community at DonRockwell.com. We’d originally planned to do our ramen eating at Daikaya but it turned out that they were participating in Restaurant Week and were only serving a Restaurant Week menu for dinner with a minimum spend of $35/head. We were only too happy to swap it out for Bantam King. And then we were quite happy with our meal. Continue reading