This may be my most nerve-racking entry yet. One of my best friends from college, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, graduated with me from WSU and went on to graduate school at University of Wisconsin in Madison. Of the other people that we graduated with many stayed close by, one went to California and everyone gave Wyatt all sorts of shit for going to Wisconsin. “Whats in Wisconsin?” they’d say, “It’s all farms out there,” and “You know its freezing in Wisconsin,” were some of the responses he got. Well, needless to say Wyatt loves Madison, and after being out there for a year and a half I finally made the trip out to see him and his girlfriend Steph and he wanted to make absolutely sure that I represented Madison positively, if not accurately in this blog. So here is my best attempt.
I arrived in Madison Thursday night and stayed until Monday noon during which time I was full the entire time. We would eat a meal, usually accompanied by beer and it kept us full for hours. When we ate our next meal we were always still full, but it was time for a meal so we would eat anyway. After we had eaten three full meals a day we would just continue drinking into the night, which would make us more full, we would go to bed full, wake up full, and eat and drink more. It was excellent.
What I also learned about Wisconsin is they’re a very self-sufficient state, food and drink-wise anyway. Most of the state is actually farms, with Madison being this wonderful Metropolis tucked away amongst them. Because of this almost all of the meat and cheese sold in grocery stores and restaurants is local. The same thing goes for the beer. There are literally hundreds of breweries in Wisconsin, that do not export out of the state, and another group that only exports to the midwest or surrounding states. There are a couple big breweries in Wisconsin that do export all over the place, like Miller and Leinenkugel, but those are on the lower end of Wisconsin beers, as most of the local beer is delicious. I couldn’t even tell you how many different kinds of beer I drank, but I especially remember New Glarus Brewery, I had several of their beers like Spotted Cow, Moon Man, and Two Women, all of which were phenomenal. Anyone who knows me knows that my diet basically consists of meat, cheese and beer, so I loved Madison already.
Madison is also a very well designed city, which a monstrous capitol building at the center and streets leading to and away from it. One of the most prominent streets is State Street, which doesn’t allow cars to drive on it, but is more a pedestrian way covered in bars, restaurants, shops, and stores. I wandered around there one day and found some really cool stuff. The university is also huge, taking up a big chunk of the city. I met Wyatt for lunch on Friday and walked around some of the 12-story chemistry building, which is full of very cool research labs and puts our one-floor chemistry department at WSU to shame.
It would be impossible to go into detail about all the meals we ate and restaurants we went to, well, not impossible, but it would make for a very lengthy blog entry so I’m going to focus on my favorites. The second night I was there we went to Essen Haus, a german style restaurant known for its delicious beer which is served in two liter boots, which are passed around the table until they are finished, complete with a whole set of rules and regulations about passing the boot, drinking from the boot, and chugging the boot. The servers are dressed in lederhosen and almost everyone in the place after 9pm is chugging boots to their face. It was excellent. While there we met many of Wyatt and Steph’s friends from Madison, as well as Wyatt’s cousin Grace and her girlfriend Lucy. After 12 boots, needless to say, it was a very drunken walk home that night, but very, very enjoyable. Also, I got a free tee-shirt after our 3rd boot, and free souvenirs fit right into my travel budget.
The following night we went to The Old Fashioned, which is on ‘the capitol’, or the area surrounding the capitol building, which is considered the nicest part of town. For an appetizer we had fried cheese curds, which are like mozerella sticks, but about a million times better. The cheese inside of them is so fresh, and the batter is so light. They were wonderful. For my main course I ate a spicy burger which was covered in pepper-jack cheese, jalapeño, bacon, onion strings and ketchup. It was excellent. I also got my first Hendrick’s martini in longer than I can remember, ie about 3 weeks, but it really hit the spot.
The final night I was there was Sunday night so Wyatt and Steph took me to their local hangouts, where they usually watch football and Sunday and where everybody knows you name, first we did Players bar, which had PBR tall boys for $2.50, which fits perfectly with my shrinking budget. After drinking most of the afternoon away we went to Alchemy for dinner where I had one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life: pulled pork, bacon, cheddar cheese, onions, and jalapeño relish on a sourdough bun with a side of garlic mashed potatoes. I mean, even if I wasn’t drunk, it would still be in the top 5 best things I’ve ever eaten. After dinner we waddled over to another local dive bar where we took over the jukebox and sucked at pool. It was a very excellent Sunday afternoon.
All in all, Madison is awesome. As everyone I encountered told me, it’s even better in the summer, and I can believe that. It’s definitely a city focused on local food and culture, it’s very student and pedestrian friendly, because about half of the city has some ties to Madison University. Being that Wyatt will be there for the next 3-4 years working on his doctorate, hopefully I’ll make it back some summer.