It's got imaginative cocktails, gallons of craft and mainstream brews, and hearty comfort food, but The Hotch Spot is as much about what you do as what you eat and drink. Depending on the date, there might be a live band rocking out on the stage or a board-game day with a DJ. The bar's '80s and '90s nostalgia permeates everything from the special events to the scrunchie slingshots that land plates on tables.
And while the food's homestyle preparation may remind guests of family meals, modern touches such as organic ingredients and craft beers update the fare. Weekend brunches feature the signature Hotch Hash, full of entire refrigerators worth of mix-ins, from broccoli and artichokes to turkey and andouille sausage. At lunch and dinner, burgers, salads, and pizzas quell appetites. The bar pours drafts and cracks open brews from New Glarus, Angry Orchard, and Stella Artois, among others. Bartenders can also mix up a variety of drinks, including The BLT, a bloody mary with Guinness garnished with practically a side salad: bacon, lime, and tomato.
The menu at Pancake Cafe is impressive—almost as impressive as their nine straight awards for Best Breakfast in Madison Magazine’s Best of Madison. For breakfast, the staff serves home-style meals such as oven-baked omelets or house-made biscuits and gravy. The eatery’s namesake comes in unexpected varieties, including an award-winning apple pancake that’s baked for 20 minutes with fresh fruit, baker’s sugar, and Sinkiang cinnamon glaze. Pancake Cafe also whips up gluten-free versions and an old-fashioned potato pancake capped with applesauce or sour cream. They even squeeze fresh orange juice by wringing out a traffic cone as aggressively as possible. At lunch, servers put the waffles down for a nap and begin presenting plates of white-albacore tuna melts, Angus burgers, and Chicago-style italian beef sandwiches.
The pizza makers at Palio's Cafe crown regular, whole-wheat, and gluten-free crusts with fresh vegetables, preservative-free sauce, and roasted chicken. Chefs take the burden of putting together the best toppings with 17 specialty pizzas that pair gourmet ingredients such as artichoke hearts, roasted chicken, and fresh basil pesto. Ovens create bubbling pies, stuffed calzones, baked ziti, and italian sub sandwiches that servers carry through both chic, cozy locations. Leather-lined booths and flat-screen televisions keep diners comfortable and entertained while they enjoy Palio's BYOB policy and sip wine or Capri Sun pouches brought from home.
Though typically The Papas House only stays open for breakfast and lunch, Fridays are a bit different. Doors stay open until 3 p.m. so that patrons can enjoy its signature Friday fish fry, just one of the many tempting dishes cooks create from fresh ingredients. Daily menu items include towering stacks of flapjacks and french toast, crepes and waffles, sandwiches and burgers, and hefty omelets and breakfast skillets.
Featuring a culinary team that boasts training in kitchens from Italy to New York, D Mo's Pasta & Chop House stimulates salivary glands with an alluring array of Italian-American dishes. From their perch atop dark-chocolate-leather chairs, dinnertime diners can staunch growing hunger tides with orders of crispy fritto misto––calamari and shrimp with marinara ($9.50)––before plunging face-first into any number of enticing meat or pasta entrees. Unstuffed raviolis jump through hoops of spinach and ricotta to become ravioli di ricotta e spinaci ($12.50), and a steaming bowl of brodetto alla veneta––a seafood stew in a stewed tomato and pinot grigio base––treats taste buds to a grounded tour of the ocean's most popular speakeasies ($17). Hand-powered knives can hew 14-ounce New York strips ($21.95) or double-cut pork chops ($17) into bite-sized morsels before hiding them in a choice of side dish, inciting teeth-led search-and-masticate missions.
The Metropolitan's chic, lounge-like interior gleams with polished wood and rich-colored furnishings, with exposed brick walls showcasing a variety of eye-dazzling art pieces. Adventurous appetizers cushion culinary landings, ranging from bacon-wrapped water chestnuts served with honey dipping sauce ($9), to spicy chicken egg rolls packed with jalapeño and mozzarella ($9). The Metropolitan's high ceilings accommodate the towering flavors of entrees, which include steak frites, a succulent cut of beef napping fitfully in a bed of potatoes and fresh greens ($24), and the shrimp and scallops, shyly cloaked in a veil of white wine sauce with asparagus and lemon ($26). The Metropolitan opens its lush interior to the public for lunch and dinner on weekdays but limits epicurean visits to dinner hours on Saturdays to encourage people to catch up on cartoons and lazy clocks to count faster.