Restaurants Archives

Double dipping in Monona’s fast food lanes

A trip through the Taco Bell drive thru to get a tostada…

Immediately followed by a trip through the Taco John’s drive thru to get potato oles.

Yeah, I did that for lunch one day last week (cough, cough).

By the way, the Taco John’s facebook fan page is here. They regularly update it with their monthly specials, which is how I found myself going there last week.

Pac-Man got a lot of attention recently on its 30th birthday, when Google made Pac Man its logo for the day.

Ms. Pac-Man deserves the spotlight too and was my preferred arcade game back in the day. Fortunately Red Robin in Monona provides a way for us Ms. Pac-Man fans to indulge ourselves.

Those of you under the age of 35 probably prefer video games and would claim that they require more sophisticated skills. Fine.

But if I ever have a game room someday, I want it to have a Ms. Pac-Man machine (preferably a cocktail table version), along with a pinball machine, tangerine orange pool table and vintage foosball machine. No video games for me.

Red Robin in Monona has a Ms. Pac-Man machine so whenever I visit there I like to end the visit with a round of Ms. Pac-Man.

It takes me straight back to my college days at UW when I was fairly proficient at Ms. Pac-Man because the Brat und Brau on Regent Street had a  Ms. Pac-Man cocktail table game. It looked a lot like this one. Oh how I’d love to own that but, yikes, it’s $3000.

Because we were poor college students we’d get the free popcorn and order cottage fries and soda for dinner, served in those cool Brat und Brau glass mugs and play Ms. Pac-Man. Ah the good old days. I’m glad Red Robin lets me relive that a little.

My favorite place to get Chinese takeout

One day last summer I was sitting in the front yard working on a writing project on my netbook while my youngest daughter played in the yard.

A woman walked past, smiled, and handed my daughter a menu.

It was a menu for Taste of China on Monona Drive (next to Blockbuster).

I confess I had never noticed Taste of China before even though I’ve driven that stretch of Monona Drive hundreds of times.

I liked that the woman was willing to walk the streets of Monona and hand out menus. She didn’t make a sales pitch, didn’t have a flyer announcing a limited term offer… she just quietly handed out menus. So I ordered takeout from Taste of China that evening.

I’ve since ordered takeout from there many times. It’s now the only place I go for Chinese takeout.

It appears to be a family business (sometimes there are two adorable little boys there playing or using the laptop) and I see that same woman there cooking almost every time. They are hardworking and friendly so I keep going back. The food is decent too. Give them a call at 224-0017. They also deliver.

Yet another way in which Monona is special

Tonight I had an epiphany…

Order takeout burgers from Red Robin!

I’m embarrassed to say that in all these years I’ve forgotten about Red Robin’s takeout option until now.

That means you can get their delicious burgers without having to sit in their loud restaurant.

Now, may I introduce you to Red Robin’s lettuce wrap burger?

Red Robin is the only restaurant in the area that offers lettuce wraps for burgers. I have to follow a gluten-free diet for health reasons so their lettuce wrap burgers are a special treat.

Plus, this is a good option for you, too, if you ever want a burger but don’t want to feel as full afterwards. Or want extra room for their steak fries or onion ring tower.

I’ve asked other restaurants if they have lettuce wraps and they always look at me as if they can’t understand what I’m talking about.

Then I’ll ask, “Do you at least have some lettuce leaves I can use to make my own wrap?”

The answer is always something like, “Lettuce LEAVES? Hahaha! What, do you think we have a vegetable garden back there? Girlie, the best we can do is shredded lettuce.”

OK, they don’t use that exact wording. :-) But being told shredded lettuce is your best option makes it feel like that’s what they said.

Also, not every Red Robin offers the lettuce wrap option anymore. But Monona’s still does.

This is just one more way in which Monona is special.

An ode to the Monona Taco Bell

During the past couple of years I’ve developed a habit of visiting the Taco Bell in Monona once or twice month, usually with a daughter or two in tow.

I do this not because the food is extraordinary… although their tostadas hit the spot… but because the service is exceptional.

Everyone who works there is friendly and not at all a stereotypical fast food employee. There’s one employee in particular who stands out.

If you dine regularly at this Taco Bell you probably know who I’m talking about. His name is Tellie.

Thanks to the service there I could say that when I visit this Taco Bell I’m not actually buying a tostada, Wild Cherry Pepsi, and two kid’s meals with crunchy tacos… I’m buying an experience.

This young man always recognizes us and smiles and makes eye contact during the transaction at the counter.

Then he usually insists on delivering our food to the table when it’s ready so that I don’t have to.

As we eat he checks in on us and delivers mints and wipes and offers to carry away our trays. He does the same at all the other tables. I’ve often heard the people at the other tables express awe at how remarkable this young man is.

He provides as much, if not more, service than a waiter at a restaurant even though he doesn’t earn any tips.

I once talked to the manager about this young man and he says that he is having a positive effect on all his co-workers as well.

Visiting this Taco Bell is always a nice reminder that life’s too short to phone it in… it’s possible to be remarkable no wonder what kind of job or circumstances you’re in.