Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Sunroom (A Great Madison Salad)

It surprises me, often, how few truly great salads Madison, Wisconsin restaurants offer. Very early on, I discovered the Sunroom Cafe's Tuna Avocado Salad Plate, one of the dishes I'll miss most when I eventually move away from Madison.

As you can see, the salad comes with pita, tuna, lettuce, and tomato, cucumber, and always fresh slices of avocado.

Two things make this salad spectacular. First, the cucumber yogurt dressing, which is my favorite Madison salad dressing. I always ask for extra, as I have to exercise restraint if only using the subtle amount the restaurant serves on the side. Second, the tuna is as good as this kind of tuna gets. It is not fishy or mayonnaise heavy. It has a distinct taste that I haven't been able to replicate with store-bought tuna, even when I've tried using vinegar or lemon to cut it. I'm not sure whether the Sunroom does in fact cut the tuna with an acid or if it dishes it straight out of the can, but I plan on asking when I am finally en route out of Madison.

I've found some of the Sunroom's dishes hit or miss, although the restaurant is quite popular, and people have many different favorite Sunroom dishes. If you want a safe bet, order this salad, a special (often Mediterranean pasta dishes), and any of the baked goods, which are generally tantalizing.

Sophia's Brunch

If you ask many--if not most--people what their favorite brunch venue is in Madison, they'll say Sophia's, on E. Johnson. Despite some rigmarole a person has to endure when eating there (the restaurant is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, and some menu items such as the fresh fruit run out later in the day; cramped interior; often little seating room; sharing table space with strangers; having to wait twice in line, once to order and once to pay; having to worm through crowded tables in order to put dishes away after eating), Sophia's food is often considered the most delicious, consistent, and fresh.

I almost always order the egg and cheese croissant, the bed egg sandwich in Madison and probably the best one I've ever eaten.

I love that it comes not with potatoes (which you can also order), but fruit, which is always fresh. I love that Sophia presents not only the usual, cheap, expected honeydew and cantaloupe, but also strawberries, kiwi, blueberries, and whatever else is in season or available.

Although the specials (including omelets with ingredients such as butternut squash, caramelized onions, and asiago, as you see listed on the chalkboard menu above) often tempt me, I rarely vary from the egg and cheese. My friend Molly, however, ordered the black bean tacos, which were stellar.

I encountered one major disappointment when Molly and I ate at Sophia's this time. My New Year's resolution is to only eat humanely-procured, environmentally responsible meat (i.e., organic/grass-fed/local). So I asked the staff if the bacon is local, completely expecting a "yes." Instead, I learned that Sophia's uses factory farm bacon, a strange choice, I think, considering her clientele and its availability in Madison. I'd pay more for this, Sophia!

Sophia's makes some of the best baked goods in Madison, so if you have room left over after eating, definitely order something from the bakery case.