We don’t normally write restaurant reviews, mostly because there are so many reviews out there plus an abundance of fabulous restaurants in Madison. However, this week we’d like to make an exception because we have become so fond of a neighborhood restaurant. More than anything, a local establishment you can walk to for a great meal from a place you call home is really something special.
The Spot, a restaurant at 827 East Johnson Street, opened just a couple years ago. It took the place of Mildred’s, a sandwich shop in business there since the early 1970s. From the beginning, we’ve enjoyed The Spot because it goes about its business without pretention, offering excellent food at reasonable prices. It’s simple but with an eye toward the palate of our “foodie” nation. Week by week and month by month, The Spot becomes more inviting the longer it’s there. After all, the restaurant survived the nightmarish Johnson Street re-construction, emerging last fall as one of the places to be when the street re-opened. The street re-reconstruction now allows The Spot to have front patio dining in addition to its delightfully cozy back patio. The interior is equally inviting with a neighborhood feel – a small but functional bar in the back and tables nestled around an open kitchen. But let’s get to the food.
There has been some turnover in chefs at The Spot but we’ve not seen it affect the quality of its food. The menu still features a broad range of items starting with its already famous saltimbocca-wich – a chicken sandwich with prosciutto, sage, arugula, mozzarella and aioli. There’s also the gorgonzola chips as a tasty way to start a meal along with well-prepared salmon, pasta, and sirloin entrees. Everything is made with fresh ingredients for both the meat-eater and vegetarian along with homemade desserts and a nice selection of cocktails, wine, and beer.
Just this week, Peggy and I went for dinner, a welcome date after a busy fall at the inn. The cioppino is some of the best you can find anywhere, and I was happy to discover it as delicious as ever. We started our meal with the vegetarian trio, which Peggy had the week prior. Served with pickled green beans, each spread of sweet pea hummus, spinach saag, and muhammara was perfectly seasoned and light, ideal as an appetizer. While I savored my cioppino, Peggy enjoyed an impeccably cooked salmon fillet with mashed potatoes and green beans. It was the ideal comfort food on a cold, snowy evening in Madison. We each complemented our meal with a very nice, and reasonably priced, glass of Pinot Noir. To finish, I tried The Spot’s homemade citrus sorbet. I’m not a big chocolate fan when it comes to dessert, and the sorbet was a superb way to end the meal, refreshing my palate with something not too sweet or heavy.
There are a lot of restaurants in Madison and many new ones making a splash lately. It’s exciting to see, but when it comes down to it, we are so happy to have a place like The Spot just a couple blocks from The Livingston Inn. Even though the restaurant is still in its first few years, it’s somewhat like its predecessor, Mildred’s. It’s a place you can count on despite so many changes around you. The Spot has found the simple things you need in a great restaurant: excellent food with friendly service and a place that welcomes everyone. Whether you live here in Madison or visit us sometime soon, we highly recommend you include The Spot in your dining plans.