Serving Up For Spring: The Best Grill-Out Menus of the Season

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photo by Lesia Witkowsky

by Heather Laing

With spring in full bloom, Madison restaurants are doing their best to ensure students on campus aren’t missing out on any of the best food of the season. As the weather gets continually warmer, restaurants are working to create some excellent grill-out menus, serving up burgers, drinks and other season specials to give people their favorite backyard barbecue flavors without having to fire up the grill themselves.


State Street Brats
603 State Street

When asked about spring specials, owner Kelly Meuer raved about his restaurant’s red and white brats. The red brat, the one for which the restaurant is famous, has been served since 1936. An alumni favorite, Meuer says he anticipates the beef brat will remain popular during the spring. This precooked, pre-smoked brat contains polish sausage and is packed with savory flavor. An equally delicious grill-out option, the traditional white brat is a beer brat that contains pork and is grilled over an open flame. Meuer says it is a perfect choice for anyone who enjoys the brats sold at Milwaukee Brewers games or those found at any of the popular brat fests in Sheboygan.

Meuer has noticed the side dishes people choose to compliment their brat or hamburger have changed lately. “People are doing a lot of lighter stuff right now,” he says. Along with traditional cheese curds, he says he considers fresh fruit and veggies to be crowd pleasers, especially in the spring. Fruit and vegetable trays are also popular items in the restaurant’s catering orders.

Like any good meal, a grill-out isn’t complete without a drink to wash everything down, and Meuer says beer is always the drink of choice. He expects Miller Lite, Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss, and Coors Light to be popular season favorites, but says that New Glarus is one of the best breweries around and recommends Spotted Cow for an accompanying beverage. He also realizes not everyone wants to drink beer with every meal.

“Sometimes beer sits too much,” Meuer says. For something a little less heavy, he recommends Sand Creek Hard Lemonade, a refreshing, lighter alternative that he says may be a little more drinkable with hearty cookout foods.


Hawk’s Bar and Grill
425 State Street

General Manager Murray Snyder says the restaurant hand packs its own burgers just like people would in a backyard grill-out. He says they use fresh ground sirloin cooked to perfection over a flame grill. Aside from the Hawk’s Classic burger, Snyder says one of the restaurant’s grilled favorites is the portabella mushroom cap sandwich, marinated and baked with provolone cheese, sliced tomato, fresh spinach and a roasted red pepper sauce. He also recommends salads as the weather gets warmer and people are looking for lighter meals. Grilled tuna, chicken, or sirloin steak can be added to any salad on the menu, making them perfect grill-out options.

Hawk’s also offers a variety of soups on the side. Synder says they’ll soon be offering gazpacho, a cold soup suited to the warmer temperatures. More seasonal menu changes can be expected in the future.

Hawk’s is featuring many new drink specials, including $6 “bomb bottles,” or bottled beers containing a shot of liquor. In addition, Snyder says the restaurant is offering brand new $7 frozen drinks with light and fruity springtime flavors including Blue Hawaiian, Laffy Taffy, Orange Julius, Peaches-N-Cream, and Sweet Tart.


Mackesey’s Irish Pub
317 State Street

Manager Taj Janssen says they serve hamburgers with a special seasoning that gives them that delicious grill-out flavor. Aside from their classic bacon cheeseburger, Janssen recommends a hamburger served with barbecue sauce or a grilled chicken sandwich served with honey mustard, tomato, and asiago cheese. She says the restaurant also makes a tasty burger topped with sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, and Swiss cheese.

As with any cookout, Janssen says chips and potato salad complement each other well. She also thinks lighter beverages are the way to go and, for beers, says Corona, Spotted Cow, and Summer Shandy are common favorites.



Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry
317 N. Frances Street

Known for its world famous hamburgers, manager Nick Voidt believes anything on Dotty’s menu would be suited to a spring cookout. The Cheddar cheeseburger is, in his opinion, a classic, though he also recommends the Melting Pot, the restaurant’s best selling burger made with cheddar, swiss, and provolone cheese and served with bacon and an English garlic sauce. Aside from the burgers, Voidt says the one-third pound brat or the Chicago-style, all-beef hotdog topped with yellow mustard, onion, relish, peppers, tomato, pickle, and celery salt will satisfy people’s cravings for mouthwatering grill-out flavors.

Voidt says cheese curds continue to be a popular side dish no matter what season it is. He also recommends a Madtown margarita to cool down.




If you’re having your own grill-out (or getting some food to-go), these restaurant managers have a few suggestions:

Meuer and Janssen agree that Olin Park is a great spot for students to grill because it’s close to campus and is perfect for some quiet relaxation. Meuer suggests picking up a cheap, portable grill from Wal-Mart or even using just a pan and some charcoal to keep things inexpensive.

Beaches are a popular destination for the grilling-minded, as Meuer and Snyder can attest to. Snyder favors Lake Monona’s Brittingham Beach, while Meuer prefers the nearby BB Clarke Beach.

Nick Voidt likes Library Mall and considers it a great place to relax and eat outdoors.

photo by Lesia Witkowsky