The Chicken Diablo sandwich lends the menu some genuine heat.
There isn’t nearly enough space in the overfilled parking lot, and the surrounding street parking is packed as well on a recent muggy Wednesday night. The walk from the car is steamy, and it’s a relief to get inside Off Broadway Drafthouse, where it’s cool. Hand-drawn chalk beer logos on two giant boards loom above the long bar. A giant black-and-white aerial photo of the area when it was just a large airfield dominates the rest of the space, which is filled with tables and booths.
Beer is the big deal at Off Broadway Drafthouse. Picnic Ants Saison and Ya Du Sun hefeweizen from O’so (of Plover, Wisconsin) probably win the daftest name award even with stiff competition from other craft beers, but both are light and refreshing, ideal to take out onto the spacious Drafthouse patio. Currently multiple beers from Founders (Grand Rapids, Michigan) populate the 24 taps, including its Redankulous, Sumatra Brown and Curmudgeon Old Ale. It’s a thoughtfully curated selection, with small Madison-area breweries like Dead Bird sharing space with out-of-staters like Epic and Coronado.
A 5 Lizards Gringolandia witbier from 5 Rabbit (Bedford Park, Illinois) had an initial sourness that receded to notes of passionfruit, lime and coriander. It went well with a spicy chicken sandwich called the Chicken Diablo. The combination of pepper pesto, cheddar cheese and honey citrus aioli is indeed spicy, and this was my favorite item; it was a bit hot for the kids at the table, but they loved it anyway. The kids’ menu here is well done — a quesadilla is served in just the right portions and comes with mulberries, blueberries, strawberries and melon.
The shaved beef speziato, unfortunately, came in at the opposite end of the quality spectrum. It was apparently conceived as akin to an Italian beef sandwich, but the house-made giardiniera had no spicy peppers and was overloaded with cauliflower, rendering the sandwich bland, bulky and disconcertingly crunchy. Standards like grilled cheese and the burger are more successful.
The Drafthouse is quite casual. There are few full dinners on the menu: ribeye, roasted game hen, ahi tuna and veggie risotto. The fare at the table is apt to be a few rounds of beers and a collection of starters. The Green County meat and cheese board works well in this context for stalwart Midwesterners who like heaping portions of braunschweiger and cubed cheese. French fries are outstanding: crispy, thin cut, delicately salted in the style of frites. Hot chicken wings come with a generous heap of gorgonzola-topped greens.
Brunch is served on the weekends. A wonderful french toast uses Stalzy’s thick-cut white bread and comes adorned with pastry cream, maple syrup and a splay of fresh blueberries, mulberries and strawberries. The “Cro Mag” three-egger works roasted potatoes into the omelet itself, along with red onion, Muenster cheese and Jones Farm bacon, to a texturally confounding (but certainly filling) effect. For the truly hungry, consider the steak and eggs or the “Breakfast War Pig” (with bacon, ham, pork loin and greens on ciabatta). There’s a lunch/dinner version too.
The parking situation proves Off Broadway Drafthouse is doing just fine bringing people in. There is room for improvement, however. While the menu is upscale brewpub, expectations may still be for traditional Wisconsin tavern. And that may mean diners will feel sticker shock when the bill arrives. Ten dollars for a burger and another $10 for chicken wings adds up fast. Off Broadway is going for more imaginative dishes, but at higher prices. Here’s hoping they can maintain the right balance. The crowds seemed to be most in their element at the Friday fish fry — $14 for either cod, perch or bluegill; $15-$17 for walleye. There’s something to be said for Wisconsin traditions.
Off Broadway Drafthouse
5404 Raywood Rd., 608-630-9111, 11 am-9 pm Tues.-Thurs., 11 am-9:30 pm Fri.,
7 am-9 pm Sat.-Sun. (brunch served until 1 pm), $5-$17