Kyle Nabilcy is, among other things, a food writer. Jenni Dye is, among other things, a Dane County Board member. We'll be visiting a restaurant, cafe, or bar in each of the county's 37 board districts in a feature we're calling...
The Hunger Danes.
Well, we've hit our first Hunger Danes food desert, no doubt about it. Every time Jenni and I draw a number for the next district (or have someone draw it for us), my next step is sitting down and generating the Big List for that district. Come up with as many from memory as I can, then pore over the side-by-side district and Google maps to ensure it's an exhaustive accounting. For example, in District 35 -- in the somewhat remote Stoughton -- there were thirty entries.
This time, for District 18 on Madison's north side, there were three. And two were chains (Culver's and Pizza Hut).
So hey, welcome to Jim's Meat Market and Deli, everyone! Jim's is a small butcher shop in a nondescript strip anchored by a PDQ, but humble as it is, it deserves to be more than a choice by attrition. Any place that doesn't passive-aggressively encourage you to leave when you walk in right before closing -- even accidentally, I swear -- and then actually fries up some chicken to order is worthy of heartfelt props.
Our original plan was to bring home some meats to cook on the grill, but the weather conspired against that plan. Fortunately, Jim's has a wide selection of prepared items available for takeout, including fried fish and chicken, grilled burgers, and various salads. (Still, the 10-for-$10 brat and hot dog special was tempting.) Jenni went with fried catfish; my wife chose the grilled cheeseburger; I've been on a major fried chicken bender lately, and picked a mixed four-piece.
Jenni liked the seasoning on Mount Waffle Fry, and appreciated the inclusion of both tartar and hot sauce in the basket. (She stuck primarily with the hot sauce, which I agreed was very tasty, but that's nothing against the tartar sauce.) Two massive planks of fried catfish were enough for two meals, and super cheap.
Kristine's cheeseburger had a decent grilled flavor, pretty standard. (Of course, I'd take it over the McDonald's across the street in the neighboring district.) My fried chicken, though, had a nice crisp skin and the meat was generally nice and tender. It seems to me they fry in batches and serve it out as people order -- but, like I indicated, when a fellow rolls in oblivious at 10 minutes to closing, and orders something that isn't in the basket, Team Jim appears completely willing to fill the order fresh.
The Northport Drive corridor is going to be a busy place in just under 24 hours, as the Rhythm and Booms firework festival kicks off at Warner Park at dusk. For those who aren't inside the friendly confines of the ballpark, the eats gotta come from somewhere. It'd be a crying shame if those eats didn't come from Jim's -- even if you have to get the food a little early and reheat it, or grill it yourself. There's very little competition, and the shop closes at 7, I've learned.