Thursday, May 30, 2013


Umami Ramen & Dumpling bar is hip. The music is current, the drinks are playful and delicious, with a whole range of "saketinis" as well as more traditional beverages with a twist, such as my favorite, the mango mojito, and the food is out of this world.

Umami is a relatively new word to the english lexicon, surfacing around 1985, but not hitting the mainstream until the 2000s. Umami, as a unique taste receptor (similar to sweet, sour, salty, and bitter) was "discovered" as early as 1908 by Professor Kikunae Ikeda of Japan. The word umami is a mash-up of the Japanese words umai (うまい)"delicious" and mi (ε‘³)"taste". (Thanks Wikipedia!)

Delicious taste completely describes the food at Umami. They do three things here, and they do them really really well. Buns, dumplings, and ramen each come in four varieties. Adam and I split an order of beef buns (2 per order) which had Korean bbq sauce and a spicy mayo that were incredible, and I very much wished we weren't splitting the order! Scott and Alison were much more savvy, each ordering an order of buns, one beef, one pork, and then trading each other a bun, so they each got one beef and one pork bun. We're doing that next time!

For ramen, we all got the same: the Tonkatsu Ramen, a rich pork broth with fresh ramen noodles topped with flavor infused egg, braised pork, marinated bamboo shoots, nori (seaweed) and green onions. The boys went straight up, while the girls opted for additional "add-ins." Alison got an extra flavor infused egg, and I got the extra egg AND pork belly. Livin' large!!

Tonkatsu Ramen, with an extra egg and pork belly
We passed on dessert for today, but I do highly recommend the green tea creme brulee and the mochi ice cream, with the small caveat that this is the only mochi ice cream I've ever had, so of course I think its delicious!!

Umami has a wonderful patio to sit on in the summer months, and nothing beats a bowl of ramen to warm you up from the inside out the other 9 months out of the year! It's an old house, which is fun and different, and tastefully decorated. Also, there's naked people in a bowl of ramen by the bar.

Scott, posing next to the naked ramen people.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Take Five: Vittles and Vices

Vasilis is a well known restaurateur in Madison, perhaps best known for the old Mercury Lounge, which stood next to the Bartell Theatre on Mifflin St. It was closed down after sustaining heavy smoke damage in the fire that claimed Underground Kitchen a few years ago. This bar was my old stomping ground during my carefree undergrad days, so I was very sad when it had to close, but very very glad when Vasilis opened a new restaurant so conveniently close to my house!!

I don't know if I'm the only one that feels this way, but sometimes, I just have to have a gyros. Nothing else will satisfy when you really want this perfect street food, and Vasilis has you covered. There are even two types of gyros: traditional and Athenian. Basically, do you want cucumber sauce or cucumber slices and a vinaigrette sauce? I'm a sucker for the cucumber sauce myself, so I went traditional. It hit the spot perfectly, and the convenience of the take-out can't be beat. Also, the hand cut fries are out of this world, and the sriracha aioli is worth writing home about!

We ordered take-out, but grabbed some martinis while we waited. These martinis are delicious, but potent!! I'd come here to sip a martini again anytime, but trying to pound them down once your food arrives is no fun!
....or very fun!

The atmosphere is very much that of a neighborhood gathering place, so come on down and become one of the regulars, because after one bite, and you'll be hooked!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Roman Candle Pizzeria

Munchie style pizza
There are a lot of pizza joints in Madison. There are cheap chains, munchie-satiating crazy combination creators, and there are even a few that celebrate quality ingredients. Roman Candle falls under the latter category but takes it one step further, celebrating not only quality ingredients, but wherever possible local quality ingredients! There is a lot of fantastic stuff that is made right here in Wisconsin, with much of it coming from other Madison establishments, such as RP's Pasta Co.'s Alfredo and Pesto sauces; most of the meats and all of the cheeses are also locally sourced. I won't go quite so far as to say that this is a pizza that's actually good for you, but its definitely the closest I've ever seen!! There are lots of vegetarian options, and even a vegan option, all of which look appetizing even to the carnivores, so a very good place to go with veggie loving friends.

Halfway through this beauty
before I got around to taking a picture!
For this Every on Willy review, three of us split a 16" Professional and still had enough room to spare for Chocolate Shoppe ice cream. The Professional is a pizza that has a dedicated following, with some people becoming slightly obsessed about it. After trying it, I can see why! This 'za comes fully loaded with "Professional Sauce" (pesto and alfredo sauces mixed together), feta and house blend cheese, broccoli, bacon, green peppers, chicken, and a light sprinkling of jalapeno.

The ice cream came from Chocolate Shoppe, which has to be some of the best ice cream in the world. I went for the Mint Avalanche. All that minty and chocolaty cold goodness made me really wish summer would hurry up and get here!! The boys both got Heaps of Love, which is basically all the best things in ice cream: Oreos, brownies, cookie dough, caramel ripple, pecans and chocolate ripple!!
Best nutritional info ever.

So the next time you're craving pizza or ice cream, Roman Candle is the place to go on Willy St!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Weary Traveler Freehouse

For my first review, I debated how to begin. Start at one end and work my down seemed the obvious choice, but doesn't quite fit with the laissez faire attitude of our neighborhood, so I decided to start instead at my favorite neighborhood haunt, and branch out from there.

Photo (c) AdamF Photography

Cinco de Mayo was a perfect Willy St day: waiting in line for seven hours outside Star Liquor for beerfest tickets, getting sustenance from Lazy Jane scones and croissants (still warm!). After the tickets were acquired  it was to Underground Butcher Shop for a sandwich ... but we'll get to reviews for those establishments later this summer! The point is, I felt like it was the perfect day to formally begin my Quest.
Photo (c) AdamF Photography
Weary Traveler Freehouse is my perfect neighborhood bar. I've spent many nights there, whether for dinner with friends, drinks and board games, or a hot adult beverage after a cold winter day. But this is no ordinary neighborhood bar! The food here is some of the best I've had anywhere. There is a definite comfort food slant to the food, with a goulash that according to the menu comes from the chef's Hungarian grandmother. The more substantial dishes, like the pork chop, the Dijon chicken, or the nightly special, are all definitely of a higher caliber than anyone would expect for "neighborhood bar"!! Any of these dishes would fit in easily at the restaurants "up the Hill" for double the price. Another fun feature of Weary Traveler: no french fries! But don't worry,  rather than soggy french fries, you'll get either a yummy small green salad with a nice vinagrette, or seasoned potatoes.
For the night of my official Every on Willy review, I went with my fiance' and we each got our favorite dishes. Adam got the Reuben, and as an East Coast native, he knows a good Reuben when he finds one! I opted for the Bob's Bad Breath Burger, which has been frequently voted one of the best burgers in Madison.  It comes loaded with cream cheese, pickapeppa sauce, and green goddess dressing. YUM!

In addition to the amazing food, I don't know the owner personally, but I do know that he is a huge advocate of the local bicycling community, being the title sponsor of the Team Magnus cyclocross team, and I think he deserves a shout out for being cool enough to support that!

I do apologize about the photos.... I might not be a foodie expert, but I am a certified lighting design professional, so I knew it would be tough to get a decent shot of the food in the dimly lit restaurant, but the manager was unimpressed by my tripod and story about a blog, so.... go-go smartphone!!
Bad Breath Burger

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

An Introduction

Where shall I start? Why am I, a non-food critic writing a blog about food (because everyone else on the internet already is, and I felt left out, obviously)? Or why Williamson St?

As it turns out, one question answers the other. I live on Williamson St.; I bought a house here with my fiance about two years ago. I've lived on the East Side of Madison off and on since high school, so I'm pretty native. But now I work over on the West Side, and it is amazing what a difference that makes! People hear you live on the East Side and assume you live near prostitutes and crack heads. Oh, and also, there's no parking.

Just another glorious morning on the East Side!

Part of me wants to think "Good! Stay out! I don't need you wandering around my neighborhood, increasing my property taxes!" but then again, I don't actually have a stake in any of these restaurants. I just like to go to them (although I DO like not having to wait for a table....). Fact of the matter is, it's past time to get the word out that Willy St is no longer a nest of thieves, but home to Midwestern hipsters of all flavors, from the fixed gear aficionados, to the music gods, to the ironic, to the academic... we've got them all. Sometimes you want to shake the shit out of them, but they're harmless. And parking? Yeah, there's not a ton, but there's enough. You might have to park around the block, but after your belly is filled to bursting, you'll appreciate the extra 30 yards.

My taste in food can be pretty Midwestern. I won't be ordering the spiciest thing on the menu, or the most bizarre, but that's why I'll bring other people along, since I've got no problem tasting the most bizarre thing on the menu!!
You want bizarre? Somebody else already does that.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Dream

Welcome to Every on Willy, where I, a 20-something local resident, will attempt to tempt you, my reading public, to try a new restaurant on Williamson St, on the near-East side of Madison, WI.

I have given myself a massive challenge this summer: Eat at every food establishment on Williamson St. Will I get fat? Maybe. Will I go broke? Likely. Will it all be delicious? Absolutely!

This will be a blog about the food, the place, and the fun times. I'll do my best to entertain you while I stuff my face.