Kyle Ate Here - The inaugural edition

It dawned on me right around the turn of the year that, if I'm serious about food writing (and I am), I should be a little more conscious of my dining choices. Slow my brain down on the nights I'm not "working," and take note of the things kitchens are doing well, things I ordered, things I noticed. That kind of thing.

Thus, at the start of every month, I'll be giving you the summary of where I ate the previous month, what was remarkable, what was new, and what was the best. I'm not including places sampled in the course of a review; you'll just have to read the reviews to find out my thoughts there. I'm also not counting the occasional Junior Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy's, or a #5 on French from Milio's. Those are pretty standardized, and not really worth mentioning.

I also didn't include the handful of stops I made at Greenbush Bakery, because A) it's not a meal there, and B) I think I didn't want you to know how often we actually went there this last month. But I'll point out that in all three trips, their maple glazed doughnut was conspicuously absent. What gives, Greenbush?

Anyway, on with the show.

New spots

The year started well, with a New Year's Day trip with friends to Underground Kitchen. Standouts from my meal (and my wife's) include the kale salad, a meatless delicata squash dish, and a remarkable (and remarkably huge) salmon rillette platter. The cocktails were all fantastic, though some are advanced-level courses on mixology; I'm thinking in particular of the rye/sasparilla/cherry bark/vanilla concoction, served in a little aperitif glass.

Bub's Burger Joint shows promise, but criminally overcooked my bison burger. Their fries have an almost French toasty quality, which is interesting but not as delicious as a crisp exterior. Of note: their service. It was perfect. Pan and Pan, a little taqueria on Milwaukee Street, needs someone to come in and barter some interior decorating. Their overhead budget is nonexistent, I'm sure, but their food is good enough to merit attention. A wonderfully greasy chorizo taco paired excellently with a custard-filled croissant somethingorother from the bakery case.

Old favorites

The wife and I met for a lunch date at Bonfyre, a spot I reviewed back in January 2010. The food is still solid, and the place fills up as fast as ever for the lunch rush. But the service level was set to WHOA NELLIE and locked there, and a December visit showed that the lovely little desserts have given way to generic, middling shooter-style offerings. Bummer.

Brasserie V just doesn't stop being the most enjoyable joint in town. This visit, near the end of the month, showed a few chinks in the armor, sometimes literally. My water glass had a big crack, and the V Burger was as rare a burger as I've ever eaten. (It was ordered medium.) I'll always trust them, but it was an unusual mistake. Still, they continue to win me over with beers like the rare(-ish) Liefman's Cuvee Brut--a delicious alternative to Belgian Red or Monk's Cafe Sour Flemish.

The best thing I ate

Tough call. That kale salad at Underground Kitchen was pretty remarkable. So too was the triumphantly-returned Gyro Topper from Topper's Pizza. And the breakfast sandwich at Crema Cafe continues to be one of the best in town. But I'm going to give the first A+ to the chicken francaise at the irritatingly-capitalized jacs Dining and Taphouse. Isthmus contributor Ben Reiser has been singing its praises for months, and I finally veered away from the sandwich menu to give it a shot. Rich and eggy, but set off with zingy lemon-Chardonnay cream sauce. The kale and spinach are ideal foils to the chicken. It's worth all of its very reasonable $17 price tag.