Where: Captain Bill's, 2701 Century Harbor Rd., Middleton
Why you should go: For a good meal and a great view of Lake Mendota.
Ahoy, Captain Kris - what's the scuttlebutt on this sloop?
Captain Bill's celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Before that it was the Hatch Cover - it's been here a long time. It's part of von Rutenberg Ventures - you know, Mariner's Inn, Nau-ti-Gal, Westport Marine and Betty Lou Cruises. It's a family business, run independently by a nice bunch of brothers. Their parents opened Mariner's Inn 40 years ago - quite an achievement, being around so long.
As for me, I came to Madison with a band from Eau Claire called Jimmy's Comet. I played guitar and keys and sang. I got a server job at Captain Bill's - that was 2002. Shortly thereafter I became floor manager, and then I got moved up to the general manager slot. I never guessed restaurants would end up being my career, but I majored in philosophy, music and modern English - really, isn't that how everybody gets to be a restaurant manager?
What goes on in your galley?
Beyond seafood there's chicken, pasta and fantastic steaks, the best in the world. I love 'em. We charcoal grill them - your choice of tenderloin, sirloin, New York strip or the daily special, usually a porterhouse or ribeye, mmmmm. They come with rice pilaf or seasoned fries and our homemade whiskey peppercorn sauce.
I'm not much of a fish eater, but I really like the mahi mahi. There's a section of the menu called "Go Fish." You pick the fish you want and how it's prepared. I like my mahi mahi grilled, with teriyaki-sesame sauce. It's unbelievable served over a nori salad. But you can get salmon, swordfish, tuna or shrimp, blackened, grilled or broiled, with one of 10 sauces. There's an Oscar sauce with crab, asparagus and hollandaise, a firecracker mango habanero glaze, an imperial sauce of Parmesan crème and a tropical mango-pineapple barbecue sauce - I think I'll have salmon tropical for lunch today.
And the vegetable sides! I just started working with Buy Fresh Buy Local, which has a pilot program designed to make farm-fresh organic produce available to local restaurants. Partipants partner with particular farms. Ours is Driftless Organic, out of Soldiers Grove. I'm so excited about that. It's so much better than going to a massive farm in California - it's good for everybody.
For dessert, homemade Key lime pie is our specialty. The woman who makes 'em for all of our restaurants has been doing it for 40 years. She's a sweetheart. Her name is Judy.
How do you stay afloat, with so many chain restaurants clinging to the city of four lakes like barnacles?
Madison Originals helps. We're members, and I'm on the board. The group's primary goal is to band together and market collectively as independents, to combat the huge budgets the chains have. It's also a great resource - a supportive group where people share information and take up good causes, like the annual garden party we do for HospiceCare in July.
Since you're a musician, can you play me a hornpipe?
Nope, sorry, I'm a non-practicing musician these days. No more band life for me. My new weird hobby is making steam-bent wooden furniture in my basement - lounge chairs!