When I was a little girl, traveling with my parents on the East Coast, we stopped every time we passed a silver diner. Mango Mama is a huge fan of the original silver diner aesthetic and its mirror in Airstream trailers and the old fashioned metal toasters. Unfortunately, the only real examples of these are out East. In the West, Burgerville (see earlier post) and others have tried to replicate it to some degree. The Hubbard Avenue Diner in Middleton, Wisconsin is a Midwestern example of this faux retro trend.
The exterior has an art deco facade with silver accents and neon lights. The interior features a counter with red swivel stools and vinyl booths. The metal sheen of the kitchen is visible from the counter. Faux Fiesta ware teapots and dishes decorate the shelves. The only thing that escapes the retro, at least to some degree, is the menu. In addition to diner classics like the burger and the BLT, the Hubbard Avenue Diner boasts such updated offerings as a black bean burger, a portobello sandwich and a tuna steak sandwich. It also includes salads, wraps, quesadillas and a list of “Big Bowls,” which involve things like “Bombay Shrimp” and “Parmesan Penne.”
Empanada Boy and I are traditionalists. When it comes to diner food, we are looking for the fried, the cheesy and the meaty. If we wanted shrimp, penne or chicken cordon bleu, we would have looked elsewhere. Following those general guidelines, I ordered the cod fish and chips, which is battered in beer from Madison’s own Capitol Brewery. The dish came with three pieces, which was plenty. These were serious pieces with some serious fried batter. I also got a nice tangy coleslaw and some cripsy waffle fries, which I promised to Empanada Boy after he expressed concern that his meal didn’t come with them. The final element of this dish was a somewhat boring roll, which I found entirely unnecessary considering the amount of food (and grams of carbohydrates) already on on the plate.
Empanada Boy ordered the Reuben, a large sandwich on dark rye piled high with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. The combination of the meat, the bite of the cheese and sauerkraut and the creaminess of the dressing was delicious. It inspired plate envy in me, but luckily EB let me have a few bites. His dish came with coleslaw too. At the end of the meal, I had eaten all my coleslaw and almost no fries while he had eaten all the fries and almost no coleslaw. That is one difference between Empanada Boy and myself. At heart, he is still a meat and potatoes kind of guy.
Hubbard Avenue Diner is known for its pies, all of which are feature prominently in a glass case at the restaurant’s entrance. The menu lists approximately 92 different varieties of pie ranging from cherry rhubarb to Mississippi Mud, but there are about 25 or so available at any given time.
I was so full after eating all that fried stuff that I relinquished the pie decision to Empanada Boy. That was my first mistake. EB and I often have different taste when it comes to dessert. He likes peppermint and coconut cream, for example, while I prefer fruit or chocolate flavors. I’m not saying he’s wrong, only that we tend to lean in different directions. In this case, he ordered a piece of lemon meringue pie, which came with a huge dollop of whipped cream on the side. A pie-maker myself, I am very critical of crusts, and I wasn’t particularly impressed with the flavor or texture of this one. The lemon part was very lemony, but I consider meringue to be one of life’s great disappointments: it always looks like it will taste so much better than it does.
Pie aside, I would like to come back to Hubbard Avenue Diner, perhaps for breakfast next time. I wouldn’t mind another one of those Reubens either.
Hubbard Avenue Diner
7445 Hubbard Ave.