Prost

Prost! (Madison, WI)

Prost! Even a little bit of traveling around either Madison, WI or the surrounding Dane County quickly shows that Germans were the most numerous ethnic group to settle in Wisconsin (around the turn of the 20th century, almost a third of Dane County had been born in Germany), and their stamp is seen everywhere from the many breweries, churches (particularly Catholic and Lutheran), place names, and culinary traditions (I think Wisconsin eats by far more bratwurst per capita than anywhere else). But as time progresses and migration patterns continue, while the traditions are certainly strong, Madison doesn’t have nearly as many actual German restaurants and watering holes as it used to. While Der Rathskeller in the Wisconsin Union remains a staple for the University crowd, there aren’t that many other places around town; most are further out in Dane County. And one of the longer-standing ones, Essen Haus (itself a replacement for the earlier Hoffman House) is slated to close later this year and get turned into more apartments. But there has been a nice addition to both the German food and beer scenes in recent years: Prost!

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The Harvey House

The Harvey House (Madison, WI)

I’ve always loved Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a very scenic city, with a downtown located on the isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, and for a city of it’s size, it has always packed a good punch when it comes to good restaurants, bars, and other watering holes. I don’t actually get to Wisconsin very often (I did drive through it a few times on 2021’s trip to Minnesota, stopping at the excellent Ru Yi Hand-Pulled Noodle), but a week-long business trip for a conference gave me a good opportunity to explore a bit more. Several people I know had recommended Madison’s The Harvey House for dinner, and then a week before I left for Madison, The Harvey House was the location of one of the challenges on Top Chef. I decided it was worth a visit.

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Candia Road Brewing Co

Candia Road Brewing Co. (Manchester, NH)

With many frequent trips to SE NH or Boston, we often find ourselves looking for dinner options around the greater Manchester, NH area. Manchester has a lot of great options, but a recent favorite of ours is actually brewery that’s been around a while, but only recently known as Candia Road Brewing Company.

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The Robie Store (Hooksett, NH)

Way back in 2008, in the early days of Offbeat Eats, we visited Robie’s Country Store. It was a particularly good and lavish breakfast, but in the years following that visit, the store started to struggle, the breakfasts weren’t as good, and while Robie’s Country Store stayed open, the food counter closed. A replacement store, Roots Community Table at Robies, was good, but also closed a few years ago. But then I got notice in January this year that a big shift had happened. The Robie family of Hooksett (which operated the General Store since the 1800s) was actually related to the Robies of the Robie Farm in Piermont, NH, which are pretty well known in the region for their farm-raised meats (it’s pretty common around NH and VT to see “Robie Farms” meats on high-end restaurant menus, and at the various consumer coops). They had refurbished the place, and re-opened as The Robie Store, a specialty product store, cafe serving breakfast and lunch, and a butcher shop providing farm fresh meats straight from the farm in Piermont.

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7 South Sandwich Company (Middlebury, VT)

As I mentioned earlier this year in our review of Haymaker Bun Company in Middlebury, Vermont, our wine club has us traveling several times a year to Lincoln Peak Vineyard for picking up our order. While sometimes this isn’t the greatest convenience, in general it is a welcome excuse to drive through one of the more scenic parts of Vermont and check out a few places along the way. On this trip, we took it as a chance to revisit one of my favorites that I hadn’t yet reviewed: 7 South Sandwich Company.

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Wee Bird Bagel Cafe (Randolph, VT)

A recent trip up to visit with friends in Burlington, Vermont had us again looking to try new options for breakfast as we drove along Interstate 89. While we really liked our last visit to Wit & Grit, we had another spot in Randolph that’s been on our hit list since they opened: Wee Bird Bagel Cafe. This little cafe on the NE side of Randolph Vermont has been one of those spots that seems to perennially be experiencing changeover; just in the last 10 years, this spot has been Three Bean Café, Café Salud, Green Light Café, and the Huggable Mug, all variants on a basic cafe theme. But while none of them really had much tenure in the spot, Wee Bird, opened by Chelsie Brown of nearby Bent Hill Brewery (one of our area favorites), started a major renovation of the building and now runs the Wee Bird Bagel Cafe, featuring bagels, breakfast sandwiches, and other light bakery fare.

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Fabergé (Montreal, Quebec)

After a weekend of doing the Cabane à Sucre and visiting several delightful breweries and beer bars around Montreal, it was time to head home, stopping off in Le Plateau for a brunch. We used to go a lot to Lawrence for this, but Lawrence has retooled their concept and menu and isn’t much of a brunch spot any more. And another former area favorite of ours, Universel, moved and isn’t convenient anymore. But just around the corner from Lawrence is another spot known for brunch, Fabergé, that our friends Rick and Sarah had gotten as a recommendation, so we all headed off there for a proper sendoff breakfast.

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Oplante (Montreal, QC)

As you can see from our recent review, we again found ourselves heading up to Montreal for a weekend of particularly excessive Quebecois dining. This usually leaves me craving a lighter, healthier meal at some place, and in the past, we’d often hit up Yuan Vegeterien for some light vegeterian-based Japanese and Chinese food. We decided to do that again this trip, and ran into a slight hitch: Yuan isn’t quite there any more. Around January of 2022, it re-branded as Oplante. It is mostly the same concept, but shifting from vegetarian to vegan, and focusing more on serving all-you-can-eat buffet-style food (although they still offer an a la carte menu, which is what we ordered on).

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Airport Dining: Summer House (CLT, Charlotte, NC)

Due to the amount of travel we do here at Offbeat Eats, one of the more common topics here is airport dining. I’ve found that, while never really outstanding (and often both expensive and disappointing), airport dining is cyclical in nature. In this case, the pandemic business interruptions at most US airports have made for a few seismic shifts as long-established businesses either closed or got outbid on renewing their leases. And several airports have really shifted their food strategy; Chicago Midway in particular seemed to remove most of their moving walkways and turfed out tried-and-true vendors so they could cram in more expensive bars that take up valuable seating space (heck, you can’t even score a decent Hot Italian Beef anymore, and there used to be a good half-dozen options). And most every place these days also seems to suffer from the ever-present “staffing issues”. So when I find myself at an airport, particularly with domestic travel, it’s rare that I find a place that’s both reasonably-priced and reasonably-tasty, so when I do, I try to review it. That brings me to a recent trip through Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, where I found Summer House.

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Brood & Barley (North Little Rock, AR)

After our ~55 mile backpacking trip along Arkansas’s Ouachita National Scenic Trail, we had two items on our agenda before heading back to NH. The first was a relaxing trip to the Quapaw Baths in Hot Springs for a good hour-long soak in the famous baths. The second was going out for dinner to celebrate the end of the trip (to use our well-weathered phrase “after the doing, there is the un-doing”). Looking at the various options around the greater Little Rock area, that lead us to Brood & Barley over in North Little Rock.

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