By Candice Wagener | Photography by Hillary Schave
There’s minimal travel involved to experience these palate-pleasing entrées from some new spots around town as well as old standbys.
Owners Zhao Zhao and Ziwen Wang (who’s also the chef) intentionally keep the menu small in order to perfect the dishes they serve, like the Spicy Beef Noodle Soup. A slow-simmered broth hosts beef shank, daikon radish, bok choy, carrots, cilantro and scallions. This version packs a chili paste punch, but you can opt for the milder version if you prefer. hutongmadisonorder.com/order
KETTLE BLACK KITCHEN
The Monroe Street neighborhood is known for restaurants that are intimate and one-of-a- kind, and the newly-opened, French-inspired Kettle Black Kitchen is no exception. The menu is modest, but roasted cornish hen is on it — an unusual find around town — so take advantage. And if you just want a comfy meal at home, Kettle Black also offers a small selection of meal kits you can heat and eat in your own kitchen. kettleblackkitchen.com
NORTH & SOUTH SEAFOOD & SMOKEHOUSE
This local chain has grown to three locations in the past decade, offering worthy suburban dining options in Verona and DeForest. Seafood and barbecue are faves in Wisconsin, even if they’re harder to come by, and North & South Seafood & Smokehouse offers both in winning style.
Indulge in The Boise, baked salmon served with a hearty crust of shredded potatoes and a lemon garlic cream sauce crossing several taste buds in one bite. Also, hush puppies are rarely found in northern states, but you can find them here. eatnorthandsouth.com
In a Midwestern city with a surprising amount of good ramen options, Ramen Station is another dependable choice.
The Tonkotsu ramen is delightful, with a slow-simmered broth generously appointed with chunks of roasted pork and the signature Ajitsuke Tamago (soft- boiled egg with jammy yolks, marinated overnight in soy sauce). Scallions, bean sprouts and fish cakes round off the color and crunch in this dish. ramenstationwi.com
With an airy, light-filled space facing the Capitol, Wonderstate is a cheerful meeting place. The Winter Market Salad is a palate pleaser with a mix of local goodness: greens from Don’s Produce in Arena, honeycrisp apples from Barnard Farms in Door County and Moody Blue smoked blue cheese from Roth Kase in Monroe. Dressed with a fermented cranberry mustard vinaigrette, and sprinkled with pickled red onions and spiced pecans, this is an unforgettable salad. wonderstate.com
A long-term resident on East Washington, La Taguara is a family-owned spot serving Venezuelan specialties in a colorful dining room that transports you to South America during your visit. Arepas, empanadas and tostones are all crispy delicacies that will leave you satisfied and happy, and their weekend brunch and lunch specials are top-notch.
But the dish you’ll want to work into your repertoire is the Pabellón. Touted as Venezuela’s national dish, this heaping plate of saucy black beans, tender shredded beef, gooey cheese and rice is the ultimate comfort food. They even make a junior-sized version for the littles. lataguara-madison.com