Cook a beetroot and walnut burger and The Sweet Weather cocktail in #ABiteToEat with Graze in Madison, Wisconsin
How did you get started?
Graze came out of our Executive Chef Tory Miller's love of comfort food. He had taken over L'Etoile, a French-influenced fine dining restaurant, in 2005 from Odessa Piper (who had opened it back in 1976), and kept envisioning a restaurant partnership -- one fine dining, one casual -- that used local ingredients, had shared kitchens, and supported each other. So in 2010, we moved L'Etoile into a bigger space and opened Graze right next door!
Where are you located?
We're right on the Capitol Square in downtown Madison. It's a quick walk from State Street, the UW-Madison campus, and the Willy Street neighborhood.
What are your specialities?
Our Magic Coffee has quite the following. It's a carry-over from the old L'Etoile space, when we had a little cafe and bakery called Cafe Soleil. It's a secret recipe, and we sell gallons upon gallons of it, especially during the Farmers' Market season at our Coffee & Pastry stand.
Other favorites among our regulars are our Graze burger, Farmer John sandwich, Mac & Cheese, Beet & Walnut burger (vegetarian!), Bibimbap (a traditional Korean dish of crispy rice, vegetables, bulgogi pork, and spicy gochujang), and of course, our Fried Cheese Curds. We also have quite a few dishes that will change based on the seasons and ingredient availability, so guests tend to find a new favorite every time they dine with us!
What's your personal favorite thing on the menu?
The Farmer John sandwich is a classic -- crunchy apples, provolone cheese (from Farmer John, you can find him at the Saturday Farmers' Market on the Square), spinach, and basil pesto mayo on housemade baguette bread. A lot of guests add ham for that added saltiness. It's such a simple sandwich, but so delicious.
The Pickle Board is also an under-the-radar favorite. If you're a fan of pickles, you have to try it. There are always traditional bread & butter pickles, but also daikon, kimchi, escabeche (usually a combination of cauliflower, jalapeños, and carrots in brine), beets, and a "seasonal selection" which can be anything from asparagus to watermelon rind to even green strawberries.
What's on the stereo?
Usually a combination of the classics (The Beatles, David Bowie, Talking Heads) and crowd-pleasing indie (Fleet Foxes, The Shins, Glass Animals), but we're no stranger to a little Beyonce or Jock Jams radio.
Where else should we visit in your area?
Definitely, definitely the Farmers' Market on Saturdays (outdoor April to November, indoor during the wintertime). It's one of the largest producer-only markets in the country, and it's quite the impressive feat to see. We recommend going there with an open mind, seeing which ingredients (or farmers) you connect with, and asking for recipe or dish recommendations to make later that night. Grab some bottles from Square Wine, a bouquet of flowers from Sunborn Gardens (also at the market), and invite some friends over for a little porch party. That's the best way to enjoy summertime in Madison.
We also have quite a few local breweries and distilleries in town -- Karben4, Ale Asylum, Capital Brewery, One Barrel Brewing, Death's Door Distillery, Old Sugar Factory (just to name a few) -- and many offer tours, tastings, and food.
Madison is a great city. There are always fun events happening in town -- festivals, free & ticketed concerts, art shows -- just Google "events in Madison, WI" and a whole bunch of neat things will pop up.
Do you host any special events?
We do special events, like beer dinners and dance parties, from time to time. We'll also host bands and music events in our outdoor courtyard during the summer months!
Is there anything else you'd like us to know?
Graze (and all of our restaurants -- L'Etoile, Sujeo, & Estrellón) source our ingredients as locally as we can, but we hate to call ourselves "farm to table." Lately, there've been a lot negative connotations associated that phrase due to "greenwashing," but we really do believe that the best way to support your community, local economy, and environment is sourcing the best sustainably grown, raised, and produced ingredients. The cost is certainly higher (in dollar value, time, and energy), but when you start with great ingredients, you create amazing food.
Do you have a favorite cafe, restaurant or bar in your town that we should feature? Send us a message!