Pots 'n' Tots

In a word: Tater tot hot spot.

The specs: #01021  
Details at Yelp, official web site

Latest Pots 'n' Tots news and reviews

JM and Nichole ate the poutine and the parmesan garlic tots at Taste of Madison.
The bill was $7, or $3.50/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave Pots 'n' Tots a B+ (see our grading rubric).

It is always hard to find the carts, so we went to Taste of Madison to lock this one down.  The great thing was that the food was pretty darned good - but man, was it a mob there. We're sold on the idea that tater tots are a way better cart food than, say, french fries, because their shape makes them more dunkable and easier to consume while in motion. 

That said, we got the poutine tots, and those were a bit more precarious. They were more "poutinesque" than orthodox poutine, seeing as how they were topped with shredded cheddar instead of served alongside cheese curds. The gravy, though, had a rich and satisfying onion flavor that reminded us of the best served over these tots mashed brethren. That said, we do wonder where they get these tots? Are they Ore*ida? Only the cart vendors know for sure.

Pots 'n' Tots at Taste of Madison

We also got a walking tot cup filled with Parmesan garlic tots, on recommendation. These were truly a head and shoulders above the rest preparation.  We could easily see scrumming these up as we explored State Street. We'd also like to try the 'pots' end of the menu if we ever find this cart in the wild.

Bike the Barns 2016 & book excerpt

Bonus post roundup! Read on below for an account of Bike the Barns 2016, and head over to Recollection Wisconsin for an excerpt - with additional historical images from their extensive collection - from our book Madison Food: "Carson Gulley, Madison's first celebrity chef."

Bike the Barns, the annual fundraising ride for FairShare CSA Coalition, happened on September 18. It's always a good time, with tasty food, gorgeous sights, and good music and company. We rode the short route - thankfully - since the westerly direction meant some stupid big hills. (Bicyclists know that "driftless" is code for "so many hills you might as well just die.")

Big downhill

The morning stop at the Farley Center for Peace, Justice & Sustainability was fascinating. We got a quick tour of some of the growing areas, where multicultural collaboration between farmers is the norm. There's a food pantry garden, a nature preserve, and even green burials! ...which we'd've needed if we'd done the long route.

At Farley Center

Plus, farmers get free seeds for cover crops like buckwheat, which cut down on weeds and enrich the soil between plantings.

Zinnias at Farley Center

Lunch was tacos by Tex Tubbs and an army of awesome volunteers, at Crossroads Community Farm.

Food Fight lunch line

Good fuel for the last leg of the ride.


Nice tunes too!

Lunch band

At the afterparty we were treated to more good eats - Nichole liked the chilled cauliflower soup with cumin and gooseberries (!) and JM was a big fan of Dough Baby's sprinkle donuts. Oliver's made a kick-butt fried green tomato, too.

After party snacks

The ride raises dough for Partner Shares, which makes CSA shares available to limited-income households. This year Bike the Barns raised $42,416.51 towards that cause. Good job, good times.

Portage Pi

Portage Pi at the GraduateIn a word: Twee point one four one five...

The specs: #01020   
601 Langdon St., Madison 53703
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Portage Pi news and reviews

JM ate the ham and cheese hand pie.
Nichole ate a salad and an apple pastry.
The bill was $15, or $7.50ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave a Portage Pi a B+; Nichole gave Portage Pi a B (see our grading rubric).

Hand pie and rosemary butter

Portage Pi is in the Graduate Hotel lobby which is has a real hipster shabby/boat aesthetic.  Portage, like put a canoe over your head, right? So they put a canoe over your head. Also little play trucks as lampstands, and starving-artist art on the walls.

Apple pastry

The Pi part, though, is all about finding the golden-crusted ratio, and didn't quite achieve the same transcendental nature as its namesake. These "pi"s were on the acceptable side of brunch with a crust to match. There was a little too much of something in these preparations (baking soda or corn starch, maybe?) and that made them a little scratchy going down. The rosemary blackberry butter that came with the pis was a really delicious detail, though, and would be worth finding its perfect mate on the menu. Nichole got a salad from the cooler, which was a little overpriced, and just a cooler salad.


Hotel lobbies are OK places for after-afterparties. Many people eating at Portage Pi are probably unfamiliar with the cornucopia of bounty on State Street just feet away. As a first taste of Madison, it is neither bad not good, it's just about right.


Madison Food coverOur book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is out. More about it here. Read an excerpt on Carson Gulley and some bonus bits on Porchlight, Argus, Sunshine Supper, and Babcock.


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