I’m lucky that my hometown is also very close to my college town. And I’m even more lucky that I have enough old college friends that live in the area (or are willing to travel) that when I’m home for the holidays, there’s also time for a mini-reunion. This past December (yes I realize this post is over-due) a group of friends and I met up in Madison to catch up and spend a bit of time remembering the “good old days.” Since I’m the only one of the bunch who’s vegan, I made sure to pick a restaurant that I knew I could eat at and that we would all enjoy. That restaurant is Graze – a farm-to-table organic restaurant that has one of the best views in Madison.
Seriously. Who can beat that view? The restaurant has huge windows and is right on the Capitol Square – close to all downtown happenings while being far enough away from campus to feel grown up. I first discovered Graze over a year ago when searching for a place to eat dinner shortly I became vegan. While it doesn’t have a ton of vegan options (in fact, only one main dish when I was there – though the menu changes often) the place is so cute, and the drinks are so good that I can’t help but overlook that fact.
One of my favorite things about this restaurant, though, is its total transparency when it comes to where the food you’re eating comes from. The menu has a list of all the farms (all local) where the produce comes from. Same goes for the meats and cheese. They even have a wall for the “featured farmer” where they highlight one of the farmers that’s contributing to the restaurant. Now, I can get down with supporting the local farmers.
For an appetizer we went with the pickle board – with pickles (of course), pickled beets, pickled daikon, pickled sweet potatoes, and kimchee. I loved all the different flavors and it was a really interesting starter for everyone to share. I was a huge fan of the kimchee, but I think that’s a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it food. And there were of course fried cheese curds – because no Wisconsin meal is complete without them. I didn’t partake. And my photo didn’t turn out well. But you can imagine. Fried. Cheese.
Everyone was happy with their meals, from the pork chops to the mussels. I went with the bibimbap with tofu and no egg. Their take on bibimbap is a little different than what I’m used to. Usually, it comes in a hot bowl and the rice kind of sticks to the sides and can get crunchy (I LOVE that). Here, the rice is already crunchy – maybe fried? In any case, it is delicious. Full of fresh veggies and a little spice, you will tell yourself not to eat the whole thing because it’s huge. And then you’ll eat every last bite and not even regret it.
Though I have to say, maybe my favorite part of dining at Graze was getting to catch up with these friends. Graze was more than accommodating of our large group, and our waitress was awesome. It was a great place for us to start the night. We caught up, and were walking distance to some old college hang outs where we continued to reminisce. All in all, if you’re in Madison and looking for a good place to check out – definitely hit up Graze. You won’t be disappointed.
Miss you all already!