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Frank’s Diner, Merchant Madison, and More Madison Delights! WIAW

I”m so glad that everyone thought that Token Creek Eco-Inn looked so amazing. It really was a great experience, and exactly what we needed. As I said to many of you, a good B&B experience is really something special, and can create a client for life. And a bad B&B experience… well…. let’s just say that I still remember a B&B in a Victorian home in the Finger Lakes region of New York that was filled with dolls. YEAH. ::shiver::

For new visitors to the Suzlyfe, welcome! And I invite you to check out my post from yesterday, especially if you are looking for a cozy, romantic place to vacation and have any dietary needs–Jean and Jason Schneider of Token Creek make absolutely certain that all who visit are well fed and taken care of! I cannot recommend them more! Check out that post for information on the fabulous breakfasts that Jean prepared (including gluten free and dairy free options), but for today, let’s look at the other various things that Alex and I consumed this past weekend!

Thank you as always, Jenn!

Thank you as always, Jenn!

So, I upgraded Tally.

Big Pimpin suzlyfe

We ridin dirtay.

Psych we saw that car in Kenosha. Kenosha is an interesting place. There is commercial “Kenosha” ie not Kenosha but the commercial malls etc near the interstate, and then there is historic Kenosha, which is actually quite a cute little town with some very beautiful buildings, but sadly not many tenants. One tenant that has held, however (and that we found via Yelp, as this was the exit for the outlets) is Frank’s Diner.
franks diner interior suzlyfe

If any of you are fans of Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, you might recognize Frank’s. I found it before I realized that it had been on DDD, and it was a great fun experience. Be sure to check out the “disclaimer” on their menu–shown above but check the website for better detail. It is a train car + diner interior, and great fun inside–a real slice of “real deal,” as guy would say, and full of characters (the 2 gentlemen show above among them).

franks diner collage1

Alex got the Jalapeno Cheeseburger with slaw (which was brought to us by the sizeable human (not hating, I promise–I was just amazed at his size in such a small place!) above because they had to make it, which I kind of dug. I got the half garbage plate with all veggies (3 eggs, hashbrowns, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and there were supposed to be jalapenos, but I didn’t see them) and instead of toast, I got Mickey Mouse Pancakes, which I was expecting to be small (considering the price) but were actually 3 large sized (by my standards) pancakes but were probably the best part of the whole meal! It was fun, it was fine, but it wasn’t spectacular. Alex’s burger was good, I liked the fact that the patty was stuffed with jalapenos, and I actually quite liked the slaw. My plate honestly didn’t really taste like….anything. The hashbrowns had no crust/browning on them, which is the key as we know, but it served the purpose of protein, carbs/starch, and veg. And, as I said, it was a fun start to our trip!

Eats in Madison:

The Old-Fashioned

Multiple people that we talked to who knew Madison told us we HAD to got to the Old Fashioned, that is had the BEST cheese curds in Madison. So we dutifully headed there the first night. They had a great beer list, with the only “imports” being from a different state! That cracked me up.


old fashioned drink suzlyfe

Old Fashioned House Draft The best beer of the night–absolutely delicious, just the right amount of slight espresso-esque bitter (ie not much, but enough to balance), and nice and smooth. Reminiscent of a porter or stout.

Tyranena Three Beaches Honey Blonde I really enjoyed this, though I drank it far too quickly (whoops). Not too sweet at all, just a little roundness.

Mad Town NutBrown Was fine, like other examples of the same thing better. Was neither here nor there.


old fashioned food suzlyfe

We were ravenous when we got there, so we ordered the house jerky and cheddar popcorn from the bar to snack on. Well, they were out of both, so jalapeno cheddar it was (we were actually happy about this). If you ever get the chance to try Palo’s Popcorn. DO IT. AMAZING. Just the right amount of every flavor, not greasy (it uses coconut oil, which I think is the trick!)

For dinner, Alex got another beer, but I don’t remember which one–I think a porter? Again, it wasn’t amazing. He also ordered the build your own dog with chili, onions, and cheddar (Green Bay Style) and the “famous” cheese curds. I got him to get the sauerkraut on the side for me 😀 I knew that Chocolate Shoppe was to come, and I hadn’t had any veggies all day (not really, you know me), and so I went with the salmon salad, with a deviled egg, onions, bacon–actually a bacon mash of some sort–it was more of a condiment than pieces of actually bacon. I think that it, the salmon, the sauerkraut, and the popcorn were my fave parts of the meal! I honestly wasn’t impressed by the cheese curds. They were fine, but not exemplary. They were yellow cheddar, which was different from what I am used to, but I would have been fine with it had the overall product impressed me more.

The real treat of the day (other than my cherry oats)???

Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream
chocolate shoppe collage

Let me put it this way: if you go to Madison and don’t got to Chocolate Shoppe, WE CANNOT BE FRIENDS. And yes, that even goes to you diabetics, celiacs, Crohn’s-ies, and Lactose-free kids. They. Do. It. All. From no-sugar-added, to soy, to Greek yogurt, to frozen yogurt, and their calling card, super-premium. YES. I had the Greek yogurt last time I was here (for a conference), but they were out this past weekend. I “settled” for Black Raspberry Frozen Yogurt. Alex when with a cone of “THis $#@* is Ridiculous” (that is actually the name–salted caramel with fudge ribbon and cashews. HOLY $#@! it’s ridiculous). Let me put into context the size as well–I easily got a over a cup of ice cream, Alex’s was probably around a cup. Remember when I said I was “drunk on ice cream”? Well I ate all of mine. And Alex pansied out and you KNOW I wasn’t letting that go to waste. Literally. DRUNK ON ICE CREAM.

Saturday in Madison

Madison Sourdough Company

madison sourdough interior suzlyfe

Another amazing find, located in Williamson Street (“WIlly Street”). Everything made from scratch, everything fresh, local, and rotated according to what is fresh and available. I loved the care taken in every aspect of the businesses–from Boylan’s soda, to local beers, to fresh coffee, fresh iced tea (from the same Macha local tea merchants as at Token Creek) to the amazing pastries and breads (look at the designs!). We had a nice filling breakfast at Token Creek, had had some nibbles at the farmer’s market, and Alex was wanting something light (I woulda been cool with a sandwich but nooooooo). So we split 2 salads, a side of house smoked trout, and a ginger peach iced tea (brewed, not sweetened).

madison sourdough salads suzlyfe

The shaved vegetable salad had beets, radishes, squash, cucumbers, mixed greens, and house croutons (sourdough, swoon) with vinaigrette. The other salad was spinach, green apple, sunflower seeds, sourdough croutons, and warm bacon vin. Both were HUGE and just filled of summer produce. I was really excited about the trout, and while it was tasty, it was obviously kept in oil, which meant that I could only have so much. I’m a little sad that we didn’t try other of their offerings, but what we had, while simple, was a perfect influx of veggies and celebration of local goods.

Merchant Madison

merchant madison suzlyfe

Our trip to Merchant Madison was easily the showpiece of the trip. We loved the place, the drink, the food, and our waitress. Though I loved the interior of the restaurant, dining al fresco was a must in the perfect weather! PLEASE when you get a chance check out the drink menu of Merchant–the drink descriptions are HILARIOUS. This place reminded me a great deal of Sable mixed with a place in Atlanta called Local 3–takes its craft seriously, but not itself. And just about everything is local.



merchant madison drinks suzlyfe

Sharknado: Plantation Overproof Rum, Smith n Cross Jamaican Rum, El Dorado 12 year Demarara Rum, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, Grapefruit juice, Lime juice, Cane syrup, Bittercube Mahalo Bitters

WHOOO this sucker was strong, but tasty. Well balanced considering, and I loved the presentation (how could you not!). No wonder it was Limit 2 per customer!

Rosa in Fiore: Hendricks Gin, Housemade Lavender Hibiscus Syrup, Lemon juice, Grapefruit juice, Rose Water 

Our waitress, who was AWESOME steered me towards this cocktail when I said that I wanted something not sweet but balanced. I was wary of it because of the hibiscus and the rose water, but she was so, so right. An exquisite drink, reminiscent of the drink that I had at Sable–like a grown up gin cosmo without the tartness. I wanted to climb inside it and never let go.

Merchant’s Old Fashioned: Merchant Single Barrel Bourbon (distilled exclusively
for us by George Dickel Distillery), Wisconsin Maple Syrup, Housemade Merchant Old Fashioned Bitters. 

Everything house made leads to a cocktail with no equivalent. This was, in my opinion, a true old fashioned, in every sense of the word. And the luxardo cherry was, indeed, the cherry on top.


merchant madison food suzlyfe

Classic Cheese Curds with buttermilk dipping sauce. 

Merchant’s Burger house-ground Black Earth Meats burger, aioli*, toasted brioche bun
with side of Clean Fresh Farms lettuce, pickles, onion, tomato  (with bacon and Cedar Grove Cheddar)

Market Flatbread Fox Valley Berkshire pork & San Marzano tomato ragu, Va Vang Family Farm’s basil, fresh mozzarella

I don’t think I can describe how tasty this meal was. The curds (a mix of white and yellow cheddar) had a perfect, almost fried-oyster like batter, the buttermilk dressing was amazing (I cleaned it out with my finger. I’m cool with that); the burger was unreal–apparently that farm is actually closing down, so this is the final batch sourced from them, which is a real shame. It was perfect. AND THE FRIES ermigerd. Reminiscent of duck fat fries, but not. GOOD GRAVY. And I’m sorry, but dipping fries in aioli is just about one of the best things ever. As are toasted brioche buns. My flat bread was fantastic–the crust was cornmealy, crisp on the bottom and spring inside. I would have preferred a thinner crust overall, but it was still fantastic. The pork ragu sauce was spot on, as was the mozz and basil (once I got it). I thought serving it with lemon was interesting, but I dutifully played along! Only too happy to oblige. Basically, it was my dream Italian meal–cornmeally bread with spaghetti sauce (no pasta). I was very, very happy. And Alex “got to” share his food too. Lucky boy.

Obviously, we enjoyed ourselves this weekend! Merchants and Chocolate Shoppe were certainly the highlights for me. And  I want the chance to try the Chocolate and Beet Cake from Merchants.

Guess I’ll just have to go back! It’s a tough life, right?

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