The galvanized metal lid that Famous Dave’s All-American BBQ Feast is served on is the closest this deliciousness will ever come to a garbage can.
Madison may well have a reputation as a holier-than-thou local food bastion, but it’s also proud home of the White Trash Burrito at Burrito Drive. This irreverent conglomeration of, admittedly, junk food wrapped in a tortilla celebrates the highly processed ingredients that food purists love to hate — Tater Tots, Spam, baked beans and Velveeta cheese. And that’s okay (once in a while). For one thing, it proves that Madison doesn’t always take itself so seriously. And it heads our list of Madison’s “trashiest” foods.
This sampling of old childhood flavors melds into a sticky mass of surprising deliciousness. Plus, it’s served with an upscale chili ketchup salsa that has a nice spicy kick. The baked beans offer a little sweetness and give the whole burrito balance. It’s easy to find yourself liking this burrito far more than you’d expect.
Famous Dave’s also has some fun with the concept with its All-American Feast — a smorgasbord sampling of nearly the entire menu, served cheekily on a large trashcan lid. A whole rack of smoked ribs a whole roasted chicken, pulled pork, brisket, corn, coleslaw, baked beans, and french fries.
The St. Louis-style ribs are nicely smoky and come out already well sauced, but Famous Dave’s also provides a nice array of sauces at the table. It takes a lot of work and care to make brisket tender, but the kitchen puts in that work. The smoke ring penetrates deep into the meat.
The “Wilbur beans” have a lot of flavor from the flecks of smoked meat throughout; overall, there’s a satisfying balance of sweet, smoke and spice.
It’s a platter to feed the whole family, and the family can still reasonably expect to take home a doggie bag. It may come on a trash can lid, but none of that smoked goodness will end up in the trash.
Different in spirit are the dishes that began as ways to extend the life or usefulness of ingredients and keep food out of the refuse bin. Offal, skin, tendons, organs and stale starches are often treated like trash and thrown away, but in the right hands, they can be turned into beloved dishes.
The French name for french toast is “pain perdu,” or “lost bread,” and the dish originated as a way to use up stale loaves. Madison Sourdough Co. makes an incredible french toast by soaking its day-old sourdough in vanilla custard, which has a lot more sugar then most recipes call for. This gives the outside a satisfying caramelized crunch. Topping it with caramel apple compote, real whipped cream and toasty almonds makes this some of the best pain perdu in Madison.
Bread pudding is another great way to use up stale bread. A Pig in a Fur Coat’s dessert Pandoro bread pudding is one of the finest in Madison. Originally from an old family recipe, it now changes with the seasons. The dried bread, transformed with custard, might also boast different nuts, spices and dried fruits, even caramel and white chocolate.
The necessity of using the whole animal has always been a staple of peasant cooking. Heritage Tavern makes headcheese from their own farm’s pigs. Headcheese is a pig’s head that’s boiled until all of the meat and assorted bits are so tender that it falls off the bone. Then the bones are removed and the bits are cut up and placed into a loaf pan. The thick broth is added, and the whole loaf is chilled into a solid block. Heritage cuts these into slices, breads and fries them in one of the best presentations of headcheese around.
Menudo is a classic Mexican dish utilizing parts of the cow most Americans would throw in the trash. Beef tripe and meaty joints are cooked for four to eight in a chili-based broth. This is a dish traditionally made by a whole family working together to feed a crowd for a celebration. Menudo can often be found on weekends at authentic taquerias. Locally, Taqueria Sabor Queretano serves it with a thick chili-beef broth, with the tripe and tendons cooked until they are unimaginably tender.
And tongue, another part of the animal that the squeamish might toss, is available at Sabor Queretano as a filling for tacos and, yes, burritos. Once again, trash is transformed to treasure.
Burrito Drive 310 S. Brearly St., 608-260-8586
Famous Dave’s 900 S. Park St., 608-286-9400
Madison Sourdough Co. 916 Williamson St., 608-442-8009
A Pig in a Fur Coat 940 Williamson St., 608-316-3300
Heritage Tavern 131 E. Mifflin St., 608-283-9500
Taqueria Sabor Queretano 4512 E. Washington Ave., 608-249-0877