Archive for the ‘Bar Reviews’ Category

The Robin Room

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

I’ve been drinking Chad Vogel’s creative cocktails for years (example) and was looking forward to a visit to his bar on the near east side called The Robin Room, which opened in February.

Having visited many fine establishments in Chicago and New York City, I felt like I was visiting a neighborhood bar in one of those cities. That’s because of the 20- and 30-something crowd, the refined yet completely unpretentious atmosphere and of course, the wonderfully crafted cocktails.

Pick your poison: The cocktail menu is separated by spirit. You’ll have classics (e.g. Manhattans) along with the Robin Room’s special creations from which to choose.

  • The Champs Elysee ($12) is comprised of cognac, green chartreuse and lemon. It comes in a small glass, but it’s still a strong drink due to the 110-proof chartreuse.  Speaking of chartreuse, you usually find it paired with gin because of its botanical-ness, but it seemed to work well with the cognac.
  • The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club ($10) has La Favorite Rhum Agricole (which uses fresh sugar cane juice instead of molasses), lime, falernum (a sweet syrup) and dry curacao. The falernum added a nice sweetness to this refreshing beverage, which may remind you slightly of a pina colada.
  • The Vesper ($9), with its St. George vodka and gin and Lillet Blanc, is as elegant and smooth as a martini can be.

Emporium of Fine Potables: That’s the tagline here. In addition to the lengthy cocktail list, you’ll also find a big selection of tap beers and every type of cocktail glass among the shelves that display the impressive collection of spirits.

The Robin Room is open every day at 4 p.m. You’ll find street parking in the surrounding neighborhood.

The Robin Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Toot + Kate’s

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Remember when Madison had a sudden influx of frozen-yogurt shops? The common theme was that they were all self-serve. The Madison-area, specifically Verona, now has a self-serve wine bar called Toot & Kate’s.

Here’s how it works: you fill a card with money, then insert the card into a machine. You can select from eight whites and eight reds (the Rioja was my favorite), and each pour size (2.5, 5 and 7 oz.) has a different price, ranging from $2.50-$12.

Toot & Kate’s is owned by Toot (real name: Megan), her sister Kate and Kate’s husband, Ryan. Here’s my excerpted interview with Kate:

EatDrinkMadison: You, your husband and Megan live outside Milwaukee, right? How did you pick Verona for your location?

Kate: Ryan and I actually live in Waukesha. My sister, Megan, lives in Verona. We spend quite a bit of time in Verona with her and truly felt there was a void or white space in the bar scene for something like this.  A rapidly growing community, combined with an enormous company like Epic–we felt really strongly about taking a chance on this idea in Verona.

EatDrinkMadison: The space previously housed a salon. How difficult was it to a) envision the layout and b) convert it to a bar?

Kate: It sure was a salon! A nail salon, actually. There was a LOT of work to be done, but fortunately, with where the plumbing had been previously hooked up, it allowed for us to have a starting point for where we should build our bar. Once we had that solidified, we tried to maximize our space, working our way out from the bar. My sister and I have very similar taste in décor and vibe, so the fun part was really executing our vision. Ryan has had a lot of experience in bar ownership in the past, so he really led the charge with ensuring the flow was all making sense and plumbing/electrical was being set up in the appropriate places.

EatDrinkMadison: Tell me about the wine dispensers. Why did you choose this self-serve concept?

Kate: There are a couple of places in Milwaukee that have the self-serve wine dispensers. One of which, Ruby Tap in Wauwatosa, was where Megan hosted my bridal shower in 2013. It was brand new at that point, and we absolutely fell in love with the idea. We truly feel (the concept) is a great way for those who know and love wine to explore all different kinds, without being too committed thanks to our different pour sizes.

EatDrinkMadison: Were the machines hard to install?

Kate: While the machines are manufactured in Italy, we worked with a regional company who helped install and train us on the equipment. We did experience a few hiccups here and there with getting our wine system and POS system to communicate with each other, but our issues were relatively minor and quick to fix.

EatDrinkMadison: How often will you change the selections?

Kate: Since we currently only have 16 selections on tap, our plan is to bring in new wine selections monthly. We’ll also be sure to keep a healthy balance of wine types, so we’re never too heavy on any one kind.

EatDrinkMadison: Do you plan to add more machines?

Kate: We would love to add another 1-2 machines. The initial feedback and response has been better than we could have ever anticipated, so if traffic continues to be strong, we’ll definitely look to add more dispensers down the road.

EatDrinkMadison: How often will you have live music, and what kinds of music?

Kate: Ideally, we’d like to have live music one night a week, or bi-weekly. We’re still very much getting into the swing of things and trying to determine what nights would work best. We’d love to keep it fresh and different all the time.

EatDrinkMadison: You have a full liquor license. Is offering spirits on the horizon?

Kate: We’re still gathering customer feedback on the spirits piece. We do not want to stray too far from our wheelhouse and would like for our brand to be your neighborhood wine bar. We’ve thrown around the idea of craft cocktails–a more limited, specialty drink menu. We’ve really received a mixed bag of feedback, so we’ll take our time and do what we feel would be best for our customers, at the end of the day.

EatDrinkMadison: What are your plans, if any, for serving food?

Kate: We actually do serve cheese and chocolate currently. We will likely also include a tasting plate, which will include different cheeses and chocolates to pair back to specific wines. We’re also discussing options to work with local restaurants for food delivery/take-out options, as well as allowing customers to bring their own food in.

Toot + Kate's Winebar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Parched Eagle Brewpub

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

It’s easy to drive on Highway M in the Town of Westport and not see Parched Eagle Brewpub. One, you don’t expect any restaurants/bars in the area, and two, it’s tucked away in a shopping strip near Skipper Bud’s.

After a day at the beach at Governor Nelson State Park, I stopped by the Parched Eagle from some refreshments. Like other brewpubs, it has its own beers–five “all-year beers” and nearly 20 seasonals–plus guest beers on tap. If you can’t decide, you can get the four-beer sampler for $6. Otherwise, pints are $5-$6.

Be sure to try the Parched Eagle Golden Ale. I’m impartial to Kolsch beers, and this one is a crowd-pleaser (or in the words of the owner, a “lawn-mowing beer”). It’s got a bit of sweetness to it, too.

Want really sweet? According to the owner, the current batch of Crane Ale, an APA, wasn’t brewed correctly, and consequently gained a strong malty (sweet) flavor, which he dubbed Texas Grapefruit. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s such a unique taste, you should get some while it lasts.

Unfortunately, neither the Janethan (porter) or Verily (dubbel) were available during my visit, but I did have two other beers: The Hop-Bearer (IPA) for sure sported a strong hoppy bitterness, and the Grainne’s Special Bitter (seasonal) had a slight sour note to it.

I look forward to a return visit to try the Senor Smoke (Scotch ale), Dreamland (witbier) and the Weakling (trippel).

Parched Eagle Brewpub is open Wednesday-Sunday. It has lots of seating indoors (plus board games), and it serves a few sandwiches and snacks.

Click to add a blog post for Parched Eagle Brew Pub on Zomato

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