4622 Park Boulevard, University Heights
Madison in University Heights has been open for about a year. My wife and I dined there in February and liked the cocktails, but we felt the food needed more seasoning. Then my wife said that she thought the place might be good for brunch.
Since then, other esteemed reviewers such Barbarella Fokos have reviewed the place and enjoyed it, so we thought we’d go back. A good call. Madison’s brunch menu is spicy and tangy, with some nice Mediterranean elements that add that veneer of healthiness not usually associated with brunch dishes.
Take the Mediterranean Breakfast ($13), which has two eggs, hummus, pita, cucumbers, and a light salad or seasonal vegetables. It’s a delicious but healthy way to start a Saturday — a good dish if you plan on being active afterwards. I like feeling my gut push out after a heavy brunch as much as the next person, but it’s nice knowing that lighter options exist.
Another highlight is the White Bean Shakshuka with Carnitas ($15.50). Shakshuka is a North African dish featuring eggs poached in a soup-like blend of peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Madison’s version adds cannellini beans and tops it with carnitas.
The broth just pops with that slightly fruity tomato-pepper sauce, which combines well with the runny yolk from the poached eggs. The carnitas have that perfect blend of crispy-on-the-corners, soft-in-the-middle exterior. I sopped it all up with the crispy pita bread. I hope to see this dish on more breakfast menus, as it is flavorful without being too filling.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not obsessed with healthy breakfasts all the time. My wife and I loved the Waffled Churro Sticks ($11), which are basically deep-fried waffles that have been cut into strips and dusted with sugar. They are served with two dipping sauces, a maple cream cheese sauce and blackberry jam. If you have more than two people in your party, order at least two servings. They will be eaten quickly. Using waffles instead the typical churro dough makes these crispy throughout, and the sauces stick nicely to the indentations.
As far as brunch drinks go, I admire how Madison approaches its Bloody Mary ($9) — strictly old school. Most places that serve craft cocktails try to gussy up the drink with all sorts of garnishes. Some work, some don’t. For instance, I like the idea of bacon in a Bloody Mary but only if it’s crispy, not softened by the liquid. Madison has a very tomato-y, spicy mix and garnishes it simply with a choice of olives, radishes, and slices of lemon and lime. It’s simple but not simple-minded. I like that the restaurant trusts its recipe enough not to weigh it down with extras.