Melthouse Bistro elevates a favorite childhood classic with its innovative roster of gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches. The menu lists handcrafted creations such as the Maliblue whose country fresh bread is stacked high with Wisconsin blue cheese, alongside smoked turkey breast, pecanwood smoked bacon, avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, hard boiled eggs crumbles, and roasted garlic mayo. Each crispy medley of veggies, cheeses, and meats—which range from The Brasserie's braised short ribs to the hand-battered fried chicken of The Buffalo Bill—sidles onto plates tucked between locally baked artisan bread from Breadsmith. The bistro looks to local farms for its produce as well, prizing the down-home vibe of made-from-scratch meals over the artificial hum of fluorescent-light hoagies. Suggested wine and craft beer pairings whisper under each item listed on the menu, fleshing out the gustatory revelry.
The Melthouse's merger between modest and stylish cooking has garnered praise from OnMilawukee.com, the Journal Sentinel and A.V. Club Milwaukee, which praises the "delicious sandwiches, solid sides, and stellar service." Its decor mirrors the edibles, walking the line between rustic and modern: wood reclaimed from a century-old granary decks the walls, while floor-to-ceiling windows and metallic stools flaunt crisp edges.
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.
Inspired by eateries on the coasts, Plae Bistro dishes out creative, health-conscious American fare in an elegant yet zippy atmosphere. Nothing on the lunch and dinner menus is breaded, deep-fried, or made entirely out of butter, and dishes are made with locally sourced and organic produce whenever possible. Inaugurate your meal with Plae Bistro’s signature spinach and artichoke dip, a creamy baked delight that’s served in a bread bowl and accompanied by toasted pita slices and fresh veggies ($9.99). Amply appetited eaters can move on to hunt larger gastro-game, including gourmet pizzas, sauce-doused noodles, and eclectic entrees such as fish tacos with grilled grouper ($16.99) and apple-brie-stuffed chicken breast ($16.99). Plae Bistro’s fresh-loving chefs also assemble a plethora of sandwiches; the selection of new lunch sandwiches includes a Philly cheesesteak hoagie ($9.99), Mediterranean veggie panini ($9.99), and several wraps ($8.99 each).
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.
Named after the early-morning first shift for crew aboard seafaring vessels, First Watch ensures chefs arrive at work with the rising sun, chopping fresh produce, baking muffins, and mixing french toast batter each day. As guests arrive, perky servers greet them with an entire pot of Sunrise Select coffee, as well as the morning paper and free WiFi. Since 1983, First Watch’s carpe-diem philosophy has spread to more than 100 locations across 13 states, pleasing crowds with thin, sweet crepes and fluffy whipped eggs, hash brown skillets, and enormous multigrain pancakes. Recently placed at the top of a Consumer Reports list of best family restaurants, First Watch takes the customer experience seriously. Chefs focus entirely on crafting nourishing sunrise feasts and midday meals, shunning afterthoughts of steaks and burgers for edible masterpieces of omelets, belgian waffles, homemade biscuits, and wholesome lunch salads and sandwiches.
Since 1924, Scray Cheese has been churning out an assortment of fine cheeses from its family-owned factory. Smoked swiss ($6.50/lb.) gives dairy devotees a taste of local flavor, while the cheddar blue cheese ($6.50/lb.) and olive jack ($5.00/lb.) provide infrequent fliers with a sampling of more far-out fare. Grab a wheel of Scray's renowned gouda or mold a mound of edam into an edible bust of town titan Vince Lombardi. Once curd cravings have been quelled, enjoy 10% off any product of your choosing above and beyond your $10, from Usinger Meats and Door County Wines to espressos, shakes, smoothies, ice creams, or more curdulgences.