Having lived on the East Side of Madison for several years now, I was excited to hear that Monona Terrace would be opening a restaurant with a lake view. After all, Lake Mendota has its share of lake side dining with the Memorial Union, Edgewater and several others. I was rather surprised anyone would attempt opening a restaurnat in this current economy but after speaking with the counter staff, learned that the cafe has been in the works for some time now.
I finally seized the opportunity to try the new venue this past weekend with some old friends in town for a graduation party. We visited the cafe on Saturday. The rooftop was very busy, apparently there were two wedding ceremonies also on the roof. We made our way to the far East side of the roof and found the cafe was rather busy as well, a welcoming sign for any business. Once we secured a table, we made our way to the counter. The menu was surprisingly extensive for the relatively small space.
We each decided to order an appetizer and sandwich. My wife ordered the Tandoori chicken skewers and Creole Crab Cake, our friends ordered the chicken wings, fish tacos and burger, and I ordered the artichoke dip and buffalo chicken wrap. We each sampled the others food and were very impressed. The chicken skewers had a nice sear on them, while still juicy inside. The marinade was not too spicy but had a rather nice balance of flavor. They were served with a yogurt dipping sauce. My artichoke dip was also delicious, having a nice amount of artichoke pieces in it. I've had artichoke dip at other restaurants but feel that none other can compare. The chicken wings were also very good, a nice amount of heat from the siracha sauce and some type of citrus, I'm guessing lime. They were served with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks.
The Creole Crab Cake sandwich was large and moist. It was served with a side of tartar sauce, which complemented it perfectly, lettuce, tomato and a pickle. Our friends said they've had crab cakes out east that didn't compare to this one, which is saying something. I too thought it was delicious, having a surprisingly large amount of crab as opposed to bread crumbs. As for my buffalo chicken wrap, I was again impressed. The crispy chicken pieces were still warm and coated with the same sauce the chiken wings came with. It was a good sized sandwich for the price. Our friend raved about the fish tacos. She said the fish was still moist and juicy and had the perfect amount of spice blend. As for the burger, it was cooked perfectly. According to the menu, the burgers are seasoned with homemade worchestershire (forgive my spelling) sauce. Our friend said this gave the burger a distinct flavor while not overpowering it. Again, the food was moist and juicy.
After resting for a few minutes after our meal we decided to split dessert. We went back to the counter and asked what they recommended. The young lady suggested the lemonade pie and the Tuscan Torte, which was a special. She was right, they were the perfect ending to a wonderful meal. The lemonade pie was light and airy with a crisp graham cracker crust--perfect on a summer's day. The Tuscan Torte was also good, I'm not a huge fan of rhubarb but it was very nice with the vanilla bean cake.
All in all, we were very impressed. Despite its small size, the cafe delivers big on flavor. The prices are in line with similar restaurants in the area. My wife and I definetly plan on returning throughout the summer.