Full Disclosure: I paid for this meal with my own money and the opinions are completely my own.
The thing about Madison is that it is filled with good, local, quality, restaurants. I feel like I start almost every Madison restaurant review post with a version of that sentence. But it is true! Even if you don’t agree with me that that is the case for Madison as a whole, you have to agree that downtown Madison – specifically the capital square area – is filled with restaurants.
Recently, the Husband and I couldn’t decide what we wanted to eat for dinner so we headed downtown. After passing by a few possibilities, I remembered that I wanted to try Merchant. I had heard great things, and we don’t honestly get downtown all that often, so I figured this would be a good chance.
Merchant is know for their fresh and local ingredients, so I knew the menu would be pretty small. Sometimes this totally stresses me out because there is even less for my picky self to choose from. On this day though I was ok with it and excited to try a restaurant that I had heard so many fabulous things about!
To start I had a glass of wine. I tried the Summer Blend, Meeker, “Roller Coaster.” I may have picked it because it had a fun name, but it also tasted delicious!
I’m not sure that anyone ever needs an appetizer to start a meal, but when there are deep fried cheese curds on the menu it is very hard for me to resist! I’m very glad that we made the decision to get them though because they were delicious! Definitely some of the best cheese curds I’ve ever had. The breading and cheese were both unique. They are battered in Hopalicious Ale (a local brew) and were still crispy but probably the least greasy cheese curds I’ve ever eaten. The cheese inside was more liquid than other cheese curds that I’ve had and I can’t decide if I like it more or less than the stringier cheese that many others are. Even with me being unsure about the cheese they were really delicious, we both had to force ourselves to stop eating them to make sure that we had room for our entrees.
For his entree, the husband had the Merchant Burger which is house-ground sirloin and brisket patty with crispy braised brisket, charred scallion, fresh tomato & basted egg. He said it was good, but kind of hard to eat since it was so juicy! (although I suppose its better extra juicy than super dry!)
For my entree I had the heirloom tomato, fresh mozzarella, and arugula panini. For some reason it was much different than I was expecting. The biggest difference was that I was expecting a cold sandwich, and it was warm. Also, the cheese was much more melty and gooey than fresh mozzarella that I am used to – although I don’t often heat my mozzarella sandwiches so maybe that is just to be expected with a warm sandwich. It was good though, the cheese and crispy bread were yummy. It had lots of tomato – which for some I would imagine would be a good thing, but I ended up picking a few of them out because it was a little too much for me.
Both of our meals came with fries. I was a big fan of the fries, I thought they tasted very fresh and like real potato with just a little bit of salt for seasoning. The husband, however, apparently didn’t get the same batch of fries as I did because while some of his were as good as mine, many of them were underdone which made them more solid and obviously not as appealing.
Overall the meal was good. The cheese curds were the best part of the meal for sure! The restaurant itself is very cute and quaint – but a bit loud even though there weren’t very many tables. The waitstaff was friendly and our meal came quickly. Another good, local, Madison restaurant!
Taste: A-, we didn’t love everything but much of it was delicious!
Cost: A, not bad at all especially considering that they locally source as many ingredients as possible.