Kyle Ate Here - The even-hotter town edition

It's hard to imagine, on this 30-something degree morning in September, that not too long ago it was 90 degrees outside--and 104 in my little library. But it was indeed, and man, does that kind of swelter take the initiative out of just about everything. This is why I get fatter in the summer, defeating the usual winter bulk-up trend.

(Actually, I get fatter in the winter, too. I'm just generally getting fatter; to every food there is a season, after all.)

The twin concepts of hot spots and comfortable, lazy haunts guide this edition of Kyle Ate Here. A few new places were tried, a few scenes were made, and yes, there was sushi, too. Isn't there always?

Hot spots

As many have in these late days of summer, I visited Dumpling Haus at Hilldale for a lunch with my wife. Many dishes, I'm told, hail from Yen Ching; it's a parent kitchen for the Haus. The Haus pork can move out of its parents' house any into permanent DH residence any time; even Kristine ate the fat, and she never does that.

Restaurant Muramoto was bustling for a Friday night dinner stop, full of twentysomethings; I rejoiced at the reappearance of the gunsmoke roll. We also joined the crowd of people using their about-to-expire Groupon at Cilantro. A bit dry and characterless, this was not as enjoyable. Nice chips and salsa, though. Brunch at Sardine and a late Friday night at Graze added to our hipness quotient for the month. My Limburger and salami sandwich at Baumgartner's stand at Great Taste of the Midwest, less so--but the massive crowd spoke to a different kind of cool.

Lower degrees of difficulty

Ain't nothin' scene about Carnival's, but damned if it doesn't make me happy every time I go there. The mushroom and swiss burger is a thing o' beauty. The most disaffected server ever dampened an otherwise-celebratory stop at Alchemy; seriously, I think she might have been an actual zombie.

The bloody Mary at Weary Traveler was spicy-hot, but the brunch crowd was small and chill for our group. The bacon proved to be a tripping point, but the staff rallied and made right--plus, it was real good. A plate of fried calamari at Hawk's was nothing fancy, but appropriate for its time and place. (If Appleton's Cena, which I also visited in August, was in Madison, it would be Hawk's. This is fine.)

The best thing I ate

This is really challenging. The deep-fried bacon on a stick at Great Taste (via The Smokin' Cantina) was glorious, and that Haus pork was luxe and wonderful. But neither--made of pig parts as they are--can compete with memory and nostalgia. And here, Bandung steps in and takes the prize. We'd gone eight-some years in Madison before trying this Indonesian spot, and since my dad was born in Indonesia, this delay itself is kind of a crime. But their starter menu includes hot, crispy-fried krupuk udang--shrimp chips--and these take me way back, to my dad at the stove. I lost my dad in 1996, but this reintroduction to shrimp chips brought back the best of warm memories.