Home base for this trip was the beautiful suburb of Middleton, located just 10 minutes from downtown. The town has been named numerous times as one of America’s “Best Places to Live” by Money Magazine, and it’s easy to see why.
For starters, one of the two centerpieces here is Greenway Station, a unique lodging, shopping and dining area connected with landscaped walkways and fountains; many of the entities easily accessible on foot. And if you’re in town for a convention, family reunion or other event, you will find several budget hotels with excellent customer service including Country Inn and Suites, Staybridge Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Madison Marriott West and Fairfield Inn and Suites, just to name a few.
The second is the downtown area, highlighted by several historic structures including the Middleton Historical Museum and Middleton Train Depot & Museum, boutique shops and two local and national favorites--the National Mustard Museum, featuring more than 5,500 mustards from all 50 states and more than 70 countries (yes, there are that many varieties!), and Capital Brewery, an internationally acclaimed, over quarter-of-a-century old brewery and must-stop for beer enthusiasts.
Outdoors, Middleton proudly boats a nationally-recognized community trail system and miles of wonderful hiking trails and other recreational activities at nearby Governor Nelson State Park.
Gastronomy in Middleton is plentiful as well, encompassing many locally-owned and operated pubs and taverns, grills, bakeries, burger joints and the like.
An honorable mention goes out to Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse, which although a chain found in several cities in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, it feels like a special, upscale, local mom ‘n pop place reminiscent of yesteryear, complete with the original (think Sammy Davis, Jr. and friends) and contemporary (Harry Connick, Jr-esque) Rat Pack sounds—together evoking the ambiance and memories of the Speakeasy era heydays.
The food here is amazing, created by venerable African American Executive Chef and Culinary Maestro Rod Ladson who adds touches of his southern influences and excellent epicurean talents to every dish on the menu.
For a great starter order the Little Italy Combo featuring calamari marinara, sausage bread, toasted ravioli and bruschetta, then try any of their signature salads including the Waldorf, created with boutique greens, tri-colored apples, Gorgonzola cheese, sweet toasted pecans, and Waldorf dressing and served family style (yee ow!).
For dinner I had the Veal Milanese - breaded veal scaloppini with roma tomato, fresh arugula and a balsamic vinaigrette. But my tablemates and I could not resist dipping into each other’s crusted steak and shrimp, cedar planked salmon, seafood pasta pomodoro or Johnny’s filet medallion trio. In fact, tthere was so much moaning going on, we almost drowned out the music!.
And don’t miss dessert – simply amazing and humongous creations large enough to share like their own unique Turtle Cheesecake, Limoncello Cake and the Mounds Bar--coconut macaroon shortbread, warm chocolate sauce and coconut ice cream. Shut up!
Chef Rod comes around during the meals to greet all of his guests, and is just as friendly and laid-back as you can imagine, exuding a true love of people and for creating unforgettable culinary memories to last a lifetime.
Next up? All Around Madison!
(To start at Part 1 click here)