Kyle Ate Here - All tastes, Great and small

If August is typically the "dog days of summer" period, maybe it's best to think of the month like an actual dog. In this case, most of August was comfortable -- certainly, less godawfully hot than July. But for about seven of those days, which were spent at or above 90 degrees, August was really awful.

Comparing this to, say, our pug, the distinction becomes obvious. That little guy is wonderful most of the time, but when he's a jerk, he's a real jerk. Like our Monty and his general charm, August's eats were pretty solid. These dog days went really south on one occasion, but most meals were distinctly pleasant.

(My Isthmus review of Double S BBQ in Cambridge, Wisconsin, was based on meals that happened in August. The link is over there in the upper right-hand corner.)

Low 90's, humid

I'm going to get this one out of the way, right away. You may have noticed an unremarked-upon trip to Red Lobster in July's big list. We had gift certificates to use, and that trip didn't exhaust them. So in August, we hit Longhorn Steakhouse -- another in the Darden family of restaurants. From the salted hockey puck that surely was substituted for my actual order a la Folger's Crystals, to the bizarrely smirking, quiet-talking server, to the stale and unpleasant complimentary (perhaps its better to say free) honey wheat bread (whither the cheddar biscuits or unlimited breadsticks of your other properties, Darden?)...well, I think that actually about sums it up.

Compared to that comically bad experience (did I mention the guy seated behind me repeatedly farting?), the doughy clump of thick noodles in my pad kee mao from Ha Long Bay was a trifle of inconvenient stickiness. The worst thing about a dinner at Graze early in the month was the sticky weather outdoors; the dining room was packed. (Two still-clamped mussels were the only other blot.) And where were the cornflakes on my Sushi Muramoto side salad?? Like a humid but sunny summer day, I guess even the kinda-bad is only a matter of perspective. Could be raining.

Mid-70's, light wind

And oh, the glory of summer is indeed glorious. The Saturday that annually witnesses the Great Taste of the Midwest beer festival was about as perfect as anyone could ask for from an August afternoon. Deep-fried bacon on a stick from Smokin' Cantina satisfied yet again, and crunchy falafel with the works from Banzo took the drunken edge off at the end of the day (even if the owner sassily told me my folded chair looked like a yoga bag).

Other meals better than their averages or my expectations included: enchiladas campeche at Laredo's East, with tender seafood and ample portions; a long-awaited return to form at Takumi (hot gyoza, warm shrimp tempura roll, and cool, silky salmon and cucumber roll); and whoa, a genuinely fresh-flavored and delicious BBQ chicken and corn salad at Noodles of all places.

Standard fries, exceptional burger.

Standard fries, exceptional burger.

The best thing I ate

Umami's expanded mantou bun offerings -- in August's meal, the Korean beef -- make a strong case for consideration. So too does the Mexican street corn pizza from Salvatore's. I'd add a little more spicy kick, but the fresh corn and crispy Underground nduja made for a superlative pie. And while I'd almost go back-to-back posts in lauding Oasis Cafe's pelmeni, I'm going to give this award to the double cheeseburger at Oregon's Capital Creamery. Using A Hamburger Today's burger style guide, I don't think there's a better fast-food-style burger to be had in the area. Hot, lightly seasoned patties with fresh veggies and oozing cheese... (Also, the salted caramel shake. Get one.) A drive-through burger that supports a local underdog? Ain't nothing wrong with that.