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Frida's, Lao Laan Xang, Sunroom Cafe, Chocolate Shoppe (LONG)

mailsf | Aug 1, 200511:26 PM

A month or so ago I wrote in asking about vegan-friendly places in Madison. My friends and I just had a fantastic weekend in Madison, Mt. Horeb, and New Glarus, and I thought I'd share my thoughts:

We had lunch one day at Frida's on State Street. Mexican food. The food itself was quite good, but the service was horrendous. We were explicit about needing no dairy, no meat, etc in one person's food, and the waitress totally understood, but proceeded to bring a chicken and cheese burrito. They also forgot our guacamole (twice). We were hoping they might comp something, but they didn't even apologize properly. Overall, it filled us up after the drive from Chicago, but still left us wanting more. Tacos Locos (or something like that) were great, as was the Burrito de Campo. When we finally got the guacamole, it was incredible. So were the chips they give you.

We took the advice of several posters and went to Lao Laan Xang on Williamson. I can't even tell you how incredible an experience this was. We were seated immediately, the server was incredibly knowledgable and accomodating, and the food was to die for. We had the spring rolls that can be made vegan, the mock duck curry (it's really seitan), the squash curry, and the tum som. The mock duck was very duck-like in texture, taste, and look, and the dish was perfectly seasoned, if not a bit mildly spiced (we ordered it at level 2 on the spice-o-meter). The squash curry we were told is probably their most popular dish, and I can understand why. The butternut and acorn squashes perfectly complemented the curry sauce. We ordered this at the same spiciness as the "duck," but it was much hotter. This was a but annoying. Finally, the Tum Som was supposedly one of their most authentic dishes. Shredded green papaya salad and a yummy fried chicken. Served with sticky rice. We tried to eat it the traditional way, using the sticky rice as a utensil, but we just couldn't get it. But the chicken was possibly the best chicken I've ever had in a restaurant, and the spiciness and the cool green papaya were great. Again, we ordered this at level 2 spiciness, but it was pretty hot. My one complaint about the restaurant would be the inconsistent spiciness. Everything else was beyond great. Service was attentive (we never had empty, or even nearly empty, water glasses), and knowledgable. One thing to note, though, is that their vegetarian dishes sometimes have fish sauce, so if you don't consider that vegetarian, specify that you don't want it. They'll accomodate you, but you need to specifically ask.

After Laotian we went to get ice cream (or italian ice, in the vegan's case) at the Chocolate Shoppe on State. I had almond joy. Perfectly cocounut, just the right amount of fudge. Could have had a bit more almond. Friend had Fat Elvis (Banana ice cream, fudge and peanut butter swirls). She was in heaven. It was cheap, counter staff friendly. Awesome place.

Breakfast the next day was at Sunroom Cafe (also on State - are you seeing a pattern?). Tofu scramble was good, but more like a stirfry than a typical breakfast. Unexpected taste and texture for breakfast, but that's not a bad thing. Veggie scramble and Lox scramble were good, lots of non-egg ingredients in there, which is always nice. The turkey bacon was a bit wiggly for my taste, and the waitress forgot it the first time around, but I wasn't charged for it. The highlight of breakfast was the blueberry wheat pancake, though. I make buckwheat pancakes at home all the time, but I'm almost tempted to drive to Madison (from Chicago) instead. Overall, a satisfying breakfast.

Sorry this was so long, but I had to thank everyone for their suggestions, and give my two cents. We also went to New Glarus and Mt. Horeb for Beer and Mustard, respectively, and I would highly recommend both.

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