Food-loving diners looking for novel dishes during the pandemic need to keep an eye out for specials.
One strategy restaurants have employed during these difficult times has been sticking to a solid roster of comfort foods that work well as takeout. But conversely, focusing on a single special dish for one night a week can generate intense interest.
Witness the line to pick up a new fish fry at Beef Butter BBQ on the north side. The normally meat-centric barbecue joint has introduced a Friday fish fry for Lent — sorry, the fun stops at Easter. The two-piece cod dinner comes with seasoned fries, cole slaw, roll and pickles for $14.
The Dorf Haus in Roxbury is back serving turtle for Lent. Last year the pandemic cancelled the decades-old turtle tradition (for Catholics who are abstaining from eating meat on Fridays for Lent, turtle is not “red meat”). That is turtle, marinated in carrots and onions and then slow-roasted; it comes with mashed potatoes and gravy, cole slaw and fritters for $19. The Dorf Haus has also upped its fish fry (haddock) frequency to Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent. The turtle dinners need to be ordered in advance at 608-643-3980 and if you’re planning on dining in, reservations are required.
Mint Mark has a Wednesday fried chicken special that may bring fans of the dish to their knees. Three pieces of buttermilk-battered fried chicken, comes with a biscuit and coleslaw. Garlic cheddar grits, braised greens with bacon, or mashed potatoes with (yes!) schmaltz gravy are available as sides.
Speaking of specials, Madison Restaurant Week, which started on Monday and runs through Saturday, Feb. 27, is back, with both dine-in and takeout options. As in previous years, the participating eateries serve three-course prix fixe meals (starting at $25). Twenty-two restaurants are on board, including newcomers D’Vino, Liberty Station Tavern and Migrants — D’Vino and Liberty Station opened during the pandemic; Migrants shortly before it hit. Old favorites are also participating — Smoky’s Club, Mariner’s Inn and Delaney’s, all classic city steak houses. Some also offer a lunch option starting at $15.
Check the menus posted on the restaurant week website; there are some gems there, like a steak dinner from Migrants, the restaurant from former Fuegos chef Oscar Villarreal. The menu there usually sticks to tacos so this is a nice change-up. There are also deals to be had — it’s hard to argue with the $25 three-courser from Osteria Papavero, with a choice among three dishes for all three courses. So you could be taking home fritto misto, sea trout with braised lentils, and butterscotch budino for dessert? Crazy. In any year, Madison Restaurant Week is a way to support local eateries during a traditional lull in business. It’s even more important this year.
Working Draft Beer Company will be celebrating its third birthday on Saturday, March 6. While its taproom has been closed for safety reasons since the middle of last March, the brewery has been innovative in increasing canning and doing pop-up distribution sites. Working Draft has put together a special anniversary basket with a special mix-pack including a Czech pilsner, a doppelbock, a chocolate cherry kettle sour, and Imperial Pulp Culture Hazy DIPA; plus a limited-edition third anniversary Teku glass featuring a print of Jenie Gao’s mural from the taproom; and snacks from Wm. Chocolate, Rusty Dog Coffee and Bloom Bake Shop. Orders for the basket start March 1 at workingdraftbeer.com.
What with everything else going on, it may have escaped your attention that Thursday, Feb. 25, is National Chili Day. Madison’s own REAP Food Group is highlighting this along with Madison Metropolitan School District to encourage families to make chili from scratch using local ingredients.
The school district is preparing 2,000 servings of chili made with onions and sweet potatoes from Parrfection Produce in Albany, Wisconsin, and black beans from Driftless Organics in Soldiers Grove. That chili is available for kids and families through the schools’ market boxes program; call 608-204-4008 for more info.
Landmark Creamery is also promoting chili made from Wisconsin ingredients with its Wisconsin chili lunch kit featuring dried black beans, sweet potatoes, onions, a Oaxaca spice blend from Madison spice purveyors The Deliciouser, a seven chili hot pepper blend from Dane County’s Savory Accents, Wisconsin cheddar cheese, and a choice of ground beef, ground turkey or ground pork. Supporting local growers is a win-win.
Suport the Dane County Humane Society and Madison craft brewers Karben4 at a beer and doughnuts pop-up at the new Greenbush Bakery, 5225 High Crossing Blvd., on the far east side on Saturday, March 6, from 9-10 a.m. You might want to save the beer for later (well, in fact, you have to — no onsite beer consumption, sorry). But you can consume beer onsite at the Karben4 mothership at 3698 Kinsman Blvd., where there are clear, enclosed outdoor seating pods for groups of two to six available to rent. Local meats and cheeses are available for snacking, or, patrons are also welcome to bring in food.