As you first step inside the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, an interesting scent mixture of coffee, soups, and pastries guides you to the source, Aldo’s Cafe. Upon arriving, your other senses are flooded with activity. Through the large glass windows, you can see students hustling down University Avenue while inside the cafe, the sounds of dozens of customers ordering the daily coffee blend or baked goods produces a lively atmosphere.
Ordering from the coffee menu and bakery is a simple process (walk up to the register and place your order). However, if you want to order one of their soups, salads, or sandwiches, you have to fill out an order form located on the countertops. I decided to go with half a Tuna Sandwich and one of their “Soups of the Day,” Creamy Cauliflower, and my photography friend ordered the Roast Beef with Au Jus.
Our order was placed and our food arrived promptly, which was a surprise, seeing as we came at the peak hours of lunch. This should have set off a red flag in my head but my overwhelming hunger proceeded to ignore it. Since seating was very limited during lunch hour, we decided to explore our seating options within the WID. Once seated, we began our meal, which I immediately regretted ordering.
The menu reads as follows: “Roast beef, horseradish cream, green peppers and caramelized onions on a baguette with a side of au jus.” My friend’s description of his sandwich was something more along the lines of bland, chewy, stale, and cold. The slices of roast beef were tough and flavorless and the horseradish, which was supposed to add a nice spicy kick, was lackluster. The green peppers were measly and were a terrible textural companion to the stale, perhaps even day-old, sandwich bread and the au jus was served cold (Au jus is served hot with sandwiches) and tasted like heavily watered down beef stock. The most absurd part of all was that it lacked two of the stated ingredients: Caramelized Onions and Baguettes.
As for my own sandwich, it followed the trend of being very bland. The wheat bread was a nice addition but the star of the sandwich, the tuna salad, was disappointing to say the least. I felt like the salad’s biggest component was actually mayonnaise and the tuna was an accompaniment. To call that mixture a tuna salad was rather misleading because the only hint of tuna I tasted was similar to the water that canned tuna is packed in. The Creamy Cauliflower soup was the only redeeming part of the meal. Although it remained a bit chunkier than my liking for a cream soup, the refreshing clean taste of cauliflower remained and was not heavily masked by the heavy cream. It could have used a bit more seasoning since it was leaning on the blander side, but overall, it was filling.
Perhaps my mistake was ordering soup and sandwiches from a cafe but never have I ever been this disappointed by the food in an establishment in the Madison area. For the amount of money spent here, the food did not live up to standards. If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat around the campus area, there are plenty of other options besides cold and bland sandwiches served at Aldo’s.