I know BOOM is going to think we decided to go here because of her dogs, and I’m content to let her think that. A happy BOOM means a happy everyone else. We needed some real food, and this place looked like it might have real food instead of just standard fried bar food. We were in luck.
The Great Dane is a multi-level microbrewery in downtown Madison. We walked up three different levels to get to our booth, and it is clear they hate handicapped people because of this (I’m kidding – I’m sure there’s an elevator or ramp somewhere… right?) We also found out there’s a hidden secret bar in the basement (the Rathskellar) which was also filled with people. This bar can fit a crap ton of people in it. Then there’s an outdoor beer garden and another patio, and a billiards lounge – this place is monstrous. And there are stairs everywhere -- it's like a freakin' M.C. Escher painting.
We perused the menu, which is designed like an old newspaper – really fun layout. Design aside, this is a seriously comprehensive menu for a brew pub. There are dishes from all over the world and very little of it is fried. They do have some appetizers which seem fairly recognizable, but then there are soups like West African Chicken Peanut Stew, Falafel and Reuben sandwiches, Drunken Jerk Chicken, and Bacon and Mac and Cheese Pizza. This place has all the bases covered and then a few more. It was very tough to narrow this down.
Rita decided on the Fish Tacos – tilapia strips with cornmeal beer batter, served with chiptole BBQ and habanero hellfire sauce. She also needed some French onion soup. Betty ordered the falafel - seasoned and fried chickpeas ina wrap with lettuce, hummus, yogurt sauce, and onions - and a bowl of the West African Chicken Peanut Stew. D.Rough got the Sesame Seared Tuna Salad – sashimi-grade ahi tuna marinated in soy, sesame oil and chili garlic sauced then seared, with black and white sesame seeds, served over romaine, red cabbage, carrots, peanuts, soba noodles, cilantro, and snow peas and a peanut dressing. She also needed a bowl of West African Chicken Peanut Stew. And I ordered the Brat and Bacon Pretzel Burger – applewood smoked bacon and sharp cheddar on a pretzel roll – and a bowl of the West African Chicken Peanut Stew (sense a theme here?). I got a glass of house-made cream soda as well, since it sounded right.
The soups came out – it sounded like the French Onion soup stole the show. Rita made a number of comments about how awesome it was and D.Rough concurred after borrowing a taste of it. The Peanut Stew got sort of mediocre reviews. It was good, but it wasn’t a game-changer. Just a good chicken-based soup without a lot of peanut flavor. We all seemed to have the same thoughts on it – it was fine.
The food got really fantastic reviews. Rita raved about her fish tacos and was sure she made the right decision after having some last minute regrets. The habanero sauce also got passed around to prove it melted people’s faces off. Rita studied in Cuba, so she’s no stranger to spice. She really liked these fish tacos. The falafel got really good reviews and even got boxed up when she couldn’t finish the wrapped up fried deliciousness. Betty also raved about the Scottish Ale – she’s a beer snob – and even told her husband that they needed to stop by the Great Dane on their way through Madison next trip! D.Rough’s salad looked amazing, and tasted even better. The noodles and peanuts were a fun flavor combination and the seared tuna ended up being pretty amazing. I even liked this dish.
My burger was quite good, honestly. It has a third pound angus beef patty, but it also has a quarter pound brat patty as well, but the pretzel bun was what really made the flavors pop. The burger was good and the cheese and bacon parts are hard to go wrong with, but this was a top-quality burger. No complaints at all on this one. And the cream soda was also amazing. I love me some cream soda and like to try it whenever I see a house-made version. I was glad I tried this one. It is up near the top of the list. And you get free refills – which I took advantage of – so you can drink as much as your blood sugar will allow. It was like liquid marshmallows!
This place was pretty awesome better-than-bar-food. We all got good and full, and all of us said how much better it was than we thought it might be. This was a good call, and I’m not even sure who made this one. Even the Packer playoff game happening in many other parts of the bar couldn’t dampen our spirits. Believe me, rollergirls can yell MUCH louder than drunken Packer fans, even on a bad day.
Top 5 things about the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company
1. Brat and Bacon Pretzel Burger
2. House-made cream soda (with free refills – cha-ching!)
3. Jaime’s Fish Tacos
4. Sesame Seared Tuna Salad
5. French Onion Soup tied with Scottish Ale – so say Rita and Betty
Bottom 5 things
1. West African Chicken Peanut Stew was a let down
2. The menu is so diverse, you’ll never get to try all of the things you want
3. Parking is kind of a pain, but there is a paid ramp on the same block
4. Sadly, the Dane Burger is made with beef - hahahahaha
5. The bathroom is in the basement – just when you think you might have gone past it, there it is another quarter mile.