ShakeIn a word: Diner from another time.

The specs: #01043  
128 E., Main St., Mount Horeb 53572
Details at Yelp, official web site

Latest Schubert's news and reviews

JM ate the haystack hashbrowns and a chocolate shake.
Keith ate the biscuits and gravy.
Nichole ate the corned beef and cabbage, and raisin toast.
The bill was about $40, including some scones and rosettes, plus tip.
We all gave Schubert's an A- (see our grading rubric).

Schubert's is a Mount Horeb institution. Seriously, the signs all say they've been at the same place for 106 years. (If we had realized that this place was here, it likely would have merited a mention in our book. D'oh.) Still, it stands here as a testament to days gone by. Indeed, the restaurant that it is probably the closest to in history is Rennebohm's. This is a lunch counter with a full service soda fountain. Mix in some ethnic Nordic bakery and you've got Schubert's.


We stopped at just the right time to enjoy either breakfast or lunch, both of which were done pretty well. Keith, not JM, got the biscuits and gravy this thyme (of which there was a hint). Keith's dish came with a good gravy, rich and buttery yet fatty with good sausage bits.

Biscuits and gravy

JM instead got the Haystack Hashbrowns which were topped with scrambled eggs. Everything on his plate was tasty and well prepared, including the onions and peppers in the spuds. It was a little awkward to eat though. (Eggs on hashbrowns? Next to is fine.)


Nichole opted for lunch, and a lunch special at that. She got the seasonally appropriate corned beef and cabbage. This was a classic preparation including some nice red potatoes.

Corned beef and cabbage

And raisin toast!

Raisin toast

We all felt Schubert's was a sweet place with a nice vibe. It seems to be transitioning ownership (as a 106 year old place does every now and then) and everyone seems pretty excited about the new expansion of the Duluth Trading Company offices into the area.

On a parting note - the bakery case is a little empty, though there were piles of Rosettes. We got a half dozen, and a scone, and they were delicious. We recommend that you take a trip out there for breakfast or lunch. Or to relive the old school version of the lunch counter. Or to get a rosette. Or whatever.


SchoolGrounds Cafe

Schoolhouse CafeIn a word: Classic.

The specs: #01042  
4691 County Hwy N, Cottage Grove 53527
Details at Yelp, Facebook

Latest SchoolGrounds Cafe news and reviews

JM ate a cookie and some lemonade.
Nichole and Sharon each ate a crepe, and Nichole had a coffee.
The bill was about $8/person, plus tip.
JM gave SchoolGrounds Cafe a C+; Nichole gave SchoolGrounds Cafe a B+; Sharon gave SchoolGrounds Cafe a B (see our grading rubric).

SchoolGrounds Cafe in Cottage Grove feels like a downtown Madison coffee shop, but in Cottage Grove. According to Sharon, our Cottage Grove insider, SchoolGrounds rebranded and changed their menu in the month before we visited. It mostly consists of crunchy, organicky-type versions of standard breakfast fare: pancakes, biscuits & gravy, etc., along with standard set of coffee drink offerings.

We went on Saturday, though, and the whole menu for food could be just thrown out since they only make crepes on Saturday and JM didn't want a crepe, so he settled for a chocolate chunk cookie which the staff comped him since his expectations were dashed. It was a little dry, but overall was fine. But don't pull the pancakes out from under him, please. He was able to get a lemonade, but it was made with brown sugar and ended up latte colored. The taste was fine, though.

Lemonade and cookie

The ladies got two savory buckwheat crepes with cheese, spinach and mushrooms, one with ham and onions. The coffee, always the key metric, was hot, tasty and served by friendly baristas.


SchoolGrounds has some nice art on the walls and other boho trappings. And there's a spiral staircase of doom!

Sarku Japan

In a word: No, Sarku.

The specs: #01041 
111 W. Towne Mall, 53719
Details at Yelp, official web site

Latest Sarku Japan news and reviews

JM ate the chicken teriyaki.
Nichole ate the veggie soba.
We split some chicken dumplings.
The bill was $15, or $7.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Sarku Japan a C; Nichole gave Sarku Japan a C- (see our grading rubric).

Sarku Japan is in the West Towne food court.  There's a ton of better food here, even if just from McDonald's (but really, when at West Towne, our reco is to try Burgers Plus, and try something other than a burger).

The idea at Sarku Japan is: 1) Pick Your Meat, 2) Pick Your Starch, 3) Watch as Something is Prepared Before Your Eyes. This one doesn't have sushi. Hm.


The food is fresh, but void of flavor. Contra relative Kato's Cajun, Sarku could use a spice of SOME kind. The chicken teriyaki was filling, but JM's had better stir fry at Happy Wok. Nichole, too, found her veggies suffered sameness and blandness despite her choice of noodles. The chicken dumplings we got were left off the original order, but promptly supplied when we asked. These were the best part of the meal.

Dumpling things

The best we can say is that Sarku Japan's free samples are the correct portion size. We had leftovers, but we didn't take them home. We're sure there's somebody who is grateful for this place being in the mall for their lunch break, but we'd probably go just about anywhere else.

Salads UP

In a word: Green for greens.

The specs: #01040  
439 N. Frances St., 53703
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest SaladsUP news and reviews

JM ate the fiesta Caesar with a Boylan's.
Nichole ate the Yia Yia.
We split an Electric Feels juice.
The bill was $30, or $15/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave SaladsUP an A- (see our grading rubric).

SaladsUP is an Ann Arbor transplant that feels as millennial as it at home on State Street. It's a build-your-own-salad place, and while Salad Creations closed before we could ever visit, this place seems like the kind of Salad Creations that could survive in Madison. That said, it is pretty pricey, and its offerings are more chakra than chard.

JM lucked into the special fiesta Caesar which comes with a real quesadilla and is loaded with romaine and tortilla chips from somewhere. Pico, chicken, and avocado rounded out the ingredients and, for a good sized but overpriced salad, it was pretty good. (The thing about salad is that everything has to be fresh, so we understand why the overhead is high. These were v. v. v. fresh and free of the slime that you sometimes get on older lettuce.)

Yia YiaSpecial fiesta Caesar

Nichole's Yia Yia came loaded with spinach, tomatoes, feta, olives, cukes and a zingy lemon vinaigrette which was very low on oil. Since she is often looking for a place for fresh bite downtown, Nichole was much more enthused about the salad offerings than JM was.

JM got both a Boylan's root beer and an Electric Feels juice smoothie in a bottle, which he shared with Nichole. The latter was housemade and fine for what it was, but it seems that they may be trying to ascribe something more complete to the thin juice that it cannot support. His feels, not so electric. (Boogie woogie woogie.)

So if Pita Pit's gluten or carbs make you blanche, maybe try Salads UP.

Sabores Michoacanos

In a word: Yum.

The specs: #01039  
3050 Cahill Main, Fitchburg 53711
Details at Yelp, Facebook

Latest Sabores Michoacanos news and reviews

Allen, JM, Liz, and Nichole ate paletas, nachos, tacos, fried plantains and salchipapas with a horchata and a Fanta.
The bill was like $30ish, plus tip.
We all gave Sabores Michoacanos an A (see our grading rubric).

One of our favorite closed restaurants of this decade was Carnival's: a place where you could get junk food, made hot and fresh.  There's just something about food that is only there to taste good and not provide nourishment, especially when such care is taken to prepare it.  Sabores Michoacanos brings that idea from points south.  Much like La Michoacana (Michoacán is a state on the Pacific side near Mexico City), this place offers paletas and various forms of ice and ice cream treats, which are quite good.  It also offers up the standard Mexican grocery store fare (tacos, burritos) and a few specialties (salchipapas).  We tried to cram in as much as we could.

The coffee paletas (eat dessert first) were top notch. They tasted a bit like frozen tiramisu. The raspberry-chocolate stripes were good too.


The fried plantains and horchata were delightful.

Fried plantains

JM finally found his favorite nachos in Madison. These were the right price, and came covered with the exact things he likes with none of the things he disdains. He's willing to overlook sour cream.


The tacos al pastor were absolutely fresh and tasty, loaded with onion and lime while still being one hundred percent certain to be unnecessary calories. I mean, just look at them.


Nichole sprang for the salchipapas, which were delightful and even a bit cute (as they were cut to look like octopi). It is still just deep fried hot dogs on french fries, but who doesn't need that now and again?


The sauces on the table included the robust verde and the flame your tongue off rojo.  There were four flavors of Mexican Fanta to choose from, but only one kind of Jarritos. So make tracks to Sabores Michoacanos.

Rosie's Coffee Bar and Bakery

In a word: Treats with your bevvies.

The specs: #01038  
4604 Monona Dr., 53716
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Rosie's Coffee Bar and Bakery news and reviews

JM ate the biscuits & gravy with a Nantucket Nectars juice.
Nichole ate the veggie panini with greens.
The bill was $25, or $12ish/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole gave Rosie's Coffe Bar and Bakery an A- (see our grading rubric).

It can be hard for 9-to-5ers to truly appreciate the wonderland of breakfast and lunch places in this town. If we cannot steal away for a quick lunch, we have to get willing to battle the traffic and the crowds on weekends, which is how we sampled the great wares at Rosie's.

Having added a coffee bar to the space that most recently housed a series of Asian restaurants (Lee Asian Bistro being the only one we managed to visit), Rosie's has a little less seating than we remembered. But the space was brighter and more open, with a lovely bakery case. And while we didn't have any of the bakery on this visit, it all looked amazing, and we have it on good authority that the taste matches. 

Biscuits and gravy

Rosie's menu is small but laser-focused on wonderful breakfast and lunch options. JM opted for the former with his biscuits and gravy, which were filling and tasty.  The powdery biscuit could have been too dry, but the ample sausage gravy (with an emphasis on sausage) really balanced it well. The hint of rosemary worked with the meat to add a top to the flavor. Nichole chose lunch and got the vegetarian panini, which was warm with goat cheese, zucchini and red pepper - light and tasty.

Veggie panini

Nichole's came with salad that featured a nice dressing, while JM's came with hash brown which was carbs on carbs, but whatever. Everything here was decent to really good and it merits an addition to one's east side breakfast/lunch rota. We'll be going back, even if just to use the Bucky Book coupon we forgot to use (as always).


RookiesIn a word: Sports with everything.

The specs: #01037   
10267 US Hwy 14, Mazomanie 53560
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Rookies news and reviews

JM ate the pulled pork with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the cheeseburger with chips.
The bill was $25, or $12ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Rookies a B+; Nichole gave Rookies a B- (see our grading rubric).

Rookies is a cross-promotional partner with the Shoe Box, as evidenced by the signage at both things.  It lies just past Mazo, in what can only be described as Sconnie country. You probably know the sort of place: Jell-O shots after Badger wins, and an unironic PBR challenge. 

Due to its connection with the Shoe Box, the sports memorabilia and paraphernalia matches that at Pooley's and the downtown Nitty for breadth and depth. Every inch of space is covered with signed photographs, kitsch, or televisions. (If there are fewer than 30 TVs in Rookies, we'd be surprised). We happened to go during that needlessly close Badger game against Rutgers, and got to see the whole OT from our table.  Of course, the place was packed to the gills. We had to wait, which was fine since there was free serve-yourself popcorn and a squeeze bottle of melted serve-yourself butter. Delicious.

Once we did get a seat, we got to peruse a solid menu of choices: burgers and sandwiches, natch, but also: pizza, salads, Swedish meatballs on special, ribs, pasta.  We settled for a burger for her and a pulled pork for him, especially since it came with a variety of sauces.  The pork was good, though there was probably enough for two sandwiches and the middle had some cool spots (not dangerous, just a little unwell). As for the sauce array, there were two bottles of various BBQ-adjacent Mustard Girl (a fine mustard), a bottle of the runniest vinegariest sauce, and a nice French's implementation of Carolina BBQ - the latter two of which JM used freely.

Pulled pork

Nichole's burger was about the epitome of doneness in rural burgers.  The brioche bun was soft, the patty was a delightful medium to medium rare and the cheese was in just the right vein.  The chips and fries that came with these were nothing too spectacular, as our notes barely mention them at all.


Sportsball completed, the crowd emptied out within 15 minutes, and the place was less than half full by the time we left. We'd stop by again for a burger or popcorn if it were on our way.


In a word: Salty treat.

The specs: #01036   
444 S. Park St., 53715
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest Rockhound news and reviews

JM ate the chicken sandwich with a Sprecher root beer.
Katie ate the grown up grilled cheese.
Nichole ate the wild rice burger with tea.
The bill was $25, or $8ish/person (thanks to Bucky Book), not including tip.
JM gave Rockhound a B; Katie and Nichole gave Rockhound a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Rockhound is one of the latest to jump into the make your own beer game.  The lines come from the vats straight into the taps, for truly fresh beer, if that's your jam.  The small menu trends toward the salty to keep you thirsty.

Grilled cheese

Speaking of jam, Katie's "grown-up" grilled cheese had tomato jam that was indeed jammin'.  Its blend with the goat cheese atop a buttery white bread lent it an awesome flavor and texture combo. Similarly, Nichole's wild rice burger was a garlicky, salty, and rich affair that held together pretty well.

Wild rice burger

Sadly, JM's chicken sandwich was ordered after the kitchen had run out of coleslaw for the night and so his chix sand was a little plain and dry.

BBQ chicken sandwich

(JM was back at Rockhound within a week for one reason and another. Someone he was with ordered the chicken and found the slaw corrected for this problem, but they served the inferior model to JM again. Boo. Fortunately, they had a Sprecher root beer for him to drink, which he always enjoys.)

The stars of the A to Z meal, though, were the fries.  They all came out perfectly done and with large flecks of salt like untwisted pretzels.  Sure, you'll order more drinks, but you'll also get to eat delicious salt.  The sweet potato versions were similarly prepared and similarly good.

Rockhound's menu doesn't stretch as far as, say, Vintage's, so it hard to imagine coming here if we aren't in the area (which we often are, see JM's anecdote above). But Happy Hour seems more like this place's forte -- and JM can confirm that on his subsequent visit, the mac and cheese side was quite good.


Rock'n Rollz

PicksIn a word: "Hello, McFarland!"

The specs: #01035  
5208 Farwell St., McFarland 53558
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook

Latest Rock'n Rollz news and reviews

JM ate the 7" BBQ chicken pizza.
Nichole ate the #13, chicken salad on a garlic herb wrap.
The bill was $14, or $7/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave Rock 'n Rollz a B (see our grading rubric).

We visited Rock'n Rollz on one of those interminably snowy December nights. As a result, the custom here was pretty low.  We saw a couple of take-out orders come and go, but otherwise we were eating alone with Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor in a concert video of them in all their 70s glory. See, Rock'n Rollz is a theme restaurant and theme is rock and roll. Several guitars are showcased, each signed and displayed with paraphernalia from rock and roll boot camps.


Rock'n Rollz is an order-at-the counter place. We searched the menu for a signature item, but nothing jumped out at us. JM got a pizza and Nichole opted for a chicken salad wrap. These were squarely in the "you can get it better elsewhere, but McFarland's is close for someone" camp. Each of the items was above average, but not enough above average to make it a place we'd seek out. (And this is recalling that JM is about as committed to popular music knowledge as he is to eating alphabetically. Seriously, try him sometime; he named the four members of Queen in the first paragraph without having to look it up.)


But the rock theme isn't present in the food. There's no cutesy rock/pop star names for the dishes, and a slightly better-than-average BBQ chicken pizza isn't gonna top the Roman Candle or Glass Nickel version we can order at home.

That said, if you are looking for a place in McFarland that is very clean (super sharp on the night we went) or you are looking for about the most darling Christmas tree during the holiday season, well, you can do a lot worse than Rock'n Rollz.

Rock Sports Bar and Grille

In a word: Rack 'em and Rock 'em.

The specs: #01034  
920 W. Main St., Sun Prairie 53590
Details at Yelp, Facebook

Latest Rock Sports Bar and Grille news and reviews

JM ate the
Nichole ate the
The bill was $25, or $12ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave the Rock Sports Bar and Grille an A-; Nichole gave the Rock Sports Bar and Grille a B+ (see our grading rubric).

A lot of "the wheel" has been about terrible little bars in farflung (for Dane County at least) little burgs.  Generic cheeseburgers served by nice enough locals with interchangeable décor and mass-produced meats and buns.  It is with this dread that we approached a Sun Prairie "sports bar and grille" called Rock.

It is so amazing when everything works out better than expected!

To start with, Rock seems to be a pool hall first and restaurant second. "Bar" finishes a not so distant third (closely followed by place to watch sportsball). There are not enough sports bars an apple cranberry pecan salad. And even fewer that would rush out with pecans that had been left off of it midmeal with an apology. Rock rocks the service component.


As for the salad itself, it was good with a nice mix of greens and basil lemon dressing that was just the right quantity. It does taste much better with pecans, FYI. JM's Hail Mary burger was topped with a nicely tender pulled pork. Sadly, the bacon had gone through a process where all of the delicious flavor was extracted called "becoming crispy."  The bun sadly was dissolving by 75% mark and the onion straws didn't add much flavor sadly.  The seasoned fries on the side, though, molto bene.  


We did not shoot a round of pool (though JM did then buy a mini pool table at the St. Vinnie's down the strip), but we noticed that these pool tables were immaculate.  The prices seem reasonable and the crowning touch, a hand crafted scoring abacus above each tables' light, made the pool like a reason to come all on its own.  So, shoot some stick and watch the big game while consuming very well-thought out food service by pleasant staff.  So much better than expected.


Madison Food coverOur book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is out. More about it here. Read it for free thanks to the library - print & ebook, or read an excerpt on Carson Gulley and some bonus bits on Porchlight, Argus, Sunshine Supper, and Babcock.


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