Please note: These “Change from a Twenty” restaurant reviews are from 2012-2013. We’ve noted which ones are now closed, but have not updated other information such as prices.

I’ve often lamented that Fat Tuesday does not occur more than just once a year. Turns out, there’s a little slice of New Orleans – The Bayou – right here in our fair city where you can enjoy it EVERY Tuesday, complete with drink specials and beads.

The Bayou restaurant on South Butler Street specializes in Cajun cuisine. Photograph by Deborah Nies

A larger than life court jester at the center of the dining room at The Bayou. Photograph by Deborah Nies.

A trompe l'oeil Badger fan at The Bayou. Photograph by Deborah Nies.

In fact, my Bucky Book coupontold me The Bayou invited us to “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez” or translated, Let the Good Times Roll!! Since my trusty dining companion and I have found great culinary happiness in Cajun dining in the past, we decided to give it a try.

The Bayou is located just a few blocks from the Capitol on South Butler Street. Metered parking is available near the entrance, but if you’re willing to walk a bit, free street parking is available just two blocks away.

As soon as we spied the green and yellow facade, along with the carnival masks and jester faces on The Bayou’s windows we suspected all the other Cajun restaurant in the city could be called mere poseurs. This suspicion was confirmed when we walked inside, and spied the larger-than-life court jester towering in the center of the dining room — not to mention the entire 2nd floor painted to look just like the infamous balconies on Bourbon Street. For the uninitiated, a sign warns, “Caution! Flying Beads!”

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After recently enjoying the sumptuous Belgian frites at Brasserie V, we heard rumors of some nearby frites that could give them a run for their money. When I say “nearby,” I mean just blocks away on Monroe Street.

Interior of Jacs on Monroe Street. Photograph by Deborah Nies.

The interior of Jacs is stunning and warm; its brick red walls complemented with wood floors and chairs. It reminded me of an old speakeasy. The wall art is charming and in some cases, amusing. (Check out the man walking the badger.) An artful and colorful chalkboard on the far wall highlights the nightly specials for food and beverages. The bar seats perhaps ten people, and although I only had a brief glance, it looked like an enjoyable spot to belly up.

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When I recently learned of an upcoming Madison Originals discounted gift certificate sale, I knew exactly what restaurant I wanted to try: Brasserie V on Monroe Street.

The bar at Brasserie V on Monroe Street boasts 26 tap beers and over 200 bottled beers. Photograph by Deborah Nies.

Whenever I’d ask people “Where can I find the best fries in Madison?” Brasserie V’s name was always mentioned in the top three. And, although the Potato Whisperer wasn’t able to join me, I found another dining companion and off we went to investigate all the fuss. (Oh yes, I had my Madison Originals gift certificate firmly in hand!)

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Brothers Three was blinged out for St. Patrick's Day when out reviewer visited. Photograph by Deborah Nies.

No, this review isn’t about “Five Guys” or “Three Sisters,” or “Brothers,” the recently departed campus watering hole.

Whew, it’s hard to keep all of these family-named restaurants straight. In fact, unless you’re a regular, you may not have even heard of Brothers Three.

Brothers Three has been in the same spot (at the intersection of Highway 30 and N. Fair Oaks Avenue) and under the same management for over 25 years. Here’s the cool part: In a former life the restaurant used to be a gas station with two filling station bays. In fact, be prepared park under the canopies which served to keep gas pumpers dry in the old days.Take care not to block anyone’s car.

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Waunakee has long needed a new restaurant. The downtown is currently populated with many fast food chains and saloons offering limited menus of “bar food.” And, while Rex’s Innkeeper is pleasant, one can only eat there so many times.

Dining room at Lucky's in Waunakee. Photograph by Deborah Nies.

Last Fall, Waunakeeans were delighted to learn Lucky’s Bar & Grille would be opening in the long-deserted Sweet Sophie’s location, located just outside of town in the Arboretum Office Park. Lucky’s-Waunakee opened last October, after substantial renovations. The other Lucky’s restaurant is located on Regent Street on the UW Campus.

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Update (1/10/2016): Joey’s Seafood & Grill is still owned by the same people, but has changed its name to North and South Seafood & Smokehouse. The menu now includes some “smokehouse items” such as pulled pork, ribs and brisket as well as homemade BBQ sauces. There is still a fish fry on Friday nights.

I feel like a thief. My dining companion and I had THE MOST AMAZING dinner ever, and for a ridiculously small amount of money.

Joey’s Seafood & Grill is locally owned and operated by Keith and Erin Stoesz. The restaurant began as part of a small franchise, but has been locally owned and operated for over five years.

Exterior of Joey’s Seafood & Grill. Photograph by Deborah Nies.

Although coupons for Joey’s are readily available, we did not have any when we visited. All we had to do to get Change from a Twenty was take advantage of Joey’s great daily specials.

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Beef Pho at Dragon I restaurant. Photograph by Deborah Nies

As we strolled State Street in search of cheap eats, my companion announced she was “in the mood for something ethnic.” As soon as she spied the availability of Pho at Dragon I, we stopped in our tracks. We were greeted and seated within moments.

Our server, Isaac, arrived with menus in hand, and gave us several moments to look over the numerous pages. Dragon I is described as an “Asian Fusion” restaurant because it combines cuisines from several different Asian countries. The categories include: Noodle soups, Noodle Salads, Pho noodles, Fried noodles, Lo Mein, Fried Rice, Curry, and Rice Platters, as well as other beef, chicken, and vegetarian dishes.

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Osher 101 burger, potato knishes, and potato latkes. Photo by Deb Nies.

Update (1/10/2016): Cafe Osher no longer has a dine-in location. It is only doing catering.

I am not Jewish, but since Hanukkah is being celebrated during December, several people suggested I try Cafe Osher on the UW-Madison campus.

Cafe Osher is billed as “Wisconsin’s only certified kosher meat restaurant.” Before my dining companion and I ventured out we had to do a bit of research. We Googled “What is kosher?” as it seemed like that would be a good place to start.

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Las Islas Del Mar, billing itself as a “Seafood Mexican Restaurant,” opened October 20 at 5696 Monona Drive. The translation means “the islands of the sea.” In fact, it would be difficult to miss the ocean blue building that formerly housed a Burger King, and later became a Crandall’s location for a few years.

Las Islas Del Mar restaurant in Monona. Photo by Deb Nies

Upon entry, we noticed a small bar/waiting area to our left, a hostess station directly ahead of us, and a dining room of 15 tables to our right. The decor is definitely island and ocean-influenced. Palm trees line the walls, and the table tops are deep blue. The bar area and the dining room each have a large flat screen TV.

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Last things first: Our reviewer says the Death by Chocolate brownies were the stars of last week's Slow Foods UW meal. Photo by Deb Nies..

Sure, you’ve heard of “fast food,” but do you know about “slow food?”

Before we dig into this week’s review, a definition of “slow food” is required. I like this explanation from Margaret Mendel: “The Slow Food Movement is an idea about a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. There is a strong belief that everyone should enjoy delicious food that has been created with care from healthy plants and animals, and that food should help build community, celebrate culture and promote regional diversity.”

A local UW-Madison chapter invites the public to “celebrate the good, clean, fair food that supports our community.” The group has been serving slow food since 2007. For the past two school years, they have offered a Family Dinner Night (FDN) each Monday night at 6:30 p.m. Family Dinner Nights are open to the general public, and are held in the basement of The Crossing Church at the corner of University Avenue and Charter Street.

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