Okay, so we're in that time of year where schedules tighten up, priorities shift, and (for us, anyway) leisurely dining-out takes a back seat to travel, family feasts, and shopping for presents. As such, the November big list is shorter, and more modest. Coffeeshops, small meals, and takeout dominated the month. Appropriately, my review of Gates and Brovi was published in November; compared to its sibling restaurants (Marigold Kitchen and Sardine), G+B is a step in a smaller, less ambitious direction.
Big place, little meal
Certainly, the biggest little deal of the month was a quick lunch at The Rigby following a (nearly) front-row spot for President Barack Obama's visit to Madison on the day before the election (thanks, Jenni!). The menu is full of ultra-dorky Beatles puns, but the Sunshine Burger was juicy and topped with an egg and a sauce that called to mind egg-devilry. Quirky, but fun. (The prez was pretty entertaining, too.)
I wish I'd been to the Avenue Bar before its Food Fight days, but I have no complaints over its current operation. The Sunday baked hot ham special was thickly sliced and not lacking in white gravy. While not literally small (it was enough for three meals), it was quaintly old-school and unrefined. And an early dinner at the Forequarter bar was a nice way to spend a Saturday. The fennel purée next to the finochiona was remarkable, sweet and smooth. Plus, bar witch Hastings Cameron brought out an experimental holiday cocktail that my little group was happy to weigh in on. You may have sampled it as the Buttered Hot Potato. Woulda been a great dessert with the Sunday ham.
Little place, little meal
There were dueling exurban meatball sandwiches, at Alberici's Delicatezza of Oregon (formerly Evansville) and Famous Yeti's of Stoughton (formerly closed due to fire). The former sandwich was well-balanced and reasonable; the latter was doused in strongly herbal marinara, and huge. Both satisfied the primal meatball urge. There were also dueling slices at two pizza joint's named Sal. The Appleton version offered complimentary garlic knots (especially delicious late at night); the Sun Prairie one put on a great private party for a lucky friend (hey, John!).
Nanobrewer One Barrel Brewing serves up food from surrounding eateries in addition to a small menu of house-brewed beers. My wife and I had chips and salsa from neighboring Tex Tubb's, while I lusted after the pizzas from Fraboni's. (The beers were great, especially the Strong Ale No. 2, a boozy Belgian dark.) And oh boy was the Hunger Danes outing to little Cottage Cafe a treat.
The best thing I ate
November was, frankly, a heads-up battle between two plates: the baked ham at Avenue Bar, and the walleye and eggs from Cottage Cafe. Avenue's ham came with all the fixins (salad, soup, bread -- the menu doesn't lie) plus a boat-load of the aforementioned gravy. The ham itself was thick and full of salty flavor, and the server was one of those pleasant, no-sass-allowed gals that you'd hope to find at a place like the Avenue Bar. Cottage Cafe is full of similar ladies and straightforward food. I was pretty well blown away by the crisp batter on the walleye, and the precisely-cooked eggs. As you might have guessed from reading the District 17 Hunger Danes entry, the walleye and eggs wins November's Best Thing; against a time-honored joint like the Avenue, that's no small feat.