Restaurant review: Farm-to-table is focus of Verona's Jordandal Cookhouse

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By Bill Livick/Special to The Gazette
Thursday, August 31, 2017

VERONA—Farm-to-table dining doesn't get more authentic than what's cooking at Jordandal Cookhouse.

All of the meat served at this small restaurant on the city's west side is raised at Jordandal Farms near Argyle and Darlington, which along with the restaurant are owned and operated by Carrie and Eric Johnson.

The rest of the food is sourced locally as well, with bread, cheese, coffee, vegetables and fish from Madison-based suppliers such as Madison Sourdough, Batch Bakehouse, Just Coffee Cooperative, Ancora Coffee Roasters and vendors of the Dane County Farmers Market.

The restaurant opened in August 2012 and initially offered only take-out food. Two years later, the owners added a dining room and did enough farm-style decorating to make you forget you're in a nondescript strip mall.

The cookhouse serves lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and breakfast and lunch from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Customers place orders at a front counter, take a number and then find a seat in one of two small dining rooms. Orders are served quickly.

The kitchen offers about a dozen sandwiches on its lunch menu. Employees say one of the most popular items is the Cubano sandwich ($9.50), which is a hearty feast of slow-roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on a hoagie roll. The meat is unusually tender and flavorful, and pickles also add flavor and crunchy texture.

A classic hamburger ($10) packs more flavor than the average, thanks to a one-third pound, grass-fed beef patty and bacon aioli, cheddar cheese, pickles, red onion, tomato and greens.

Other favorites on the sandwich menu are pork tacos, fish tacos and a meatball sandwich.

The pork tacos (two for $9.50) feature seasoned pork with pickled onions and peppers, cabbage and orange parsley crema wrapped in corn tortillas. The tasty fish tacos (two for $11) combine baked cod with bacon and the same ingredients found in a pork taco. The meatball sandwich ($9) is an absolute winner for those who like a filling meal: house-made meatballs with marinara and farmer's cheese on a hoagie.

The sandwich I'll repeatedly return for is the bahn mi ($9.50), which is made with Jordandal ham and spicy sausage, pâté, pickled vegetables, cucumber, jalapeño and spicy mayo and cilantro.

There's not a lot here for vegetarians. One exception is a walnut and black bean burger ($9.50).

Sandwiches are served with a choice of sides ranging from homegrown greens to a tasty pasta salad that is perfect at this time of year.

The dinner menu, which is served after 4 p.m., offers six well-conceived entrees that could loosely be considered comfort food. Some are more successful than others.

The most popular include an apple cider-braised pork chop ($14.50), shepherd's pie ($12.50) and meatloaf ($13.50) made from pork and beef. The latter is served with a house barbecue sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and roasted veggies, while the shepherd's pie also features the mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables along with buttered cornbread crumble.

The pork chop is my top choice. It includes a surprisingly tender bone-in chop with smashed garlic sweet potatoes, wilted spinach, caramelized apple and onion.

Other entrees include a plate of farmhouse nachos ($12), a meat sampler plate ($14) and curried beef kabobs ($14.50).

The nachos—corn chips, shredded beef and beans (or seasoned pork), cheddar, pickled jalapeño, black olives, pickled onion, salsa and orange parsley crema—sound good on paper, but they are a bit disappointing in comparison to the rest of the menu. The plate has a lot going on, yet it comes off as something you could put together easily enough at home.

Service at the cookhouse is terrific, and friendly staffers create a welcoming atmosphere. The restaurant offers several types of bottled beer, and desserts vary daily.

Simply put, Jordandal Cookhouse is a gem. If I lived in Verona, I would dine there frequently. The restaurant is a bit out of the way, but it's certainly worth the drive.

Bill Livick is a freelance writer who writes entertainment stories and Madison-area restaurant reviews for The Gazette.

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