180614COZYINN

Helene Ramsdell, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, ordered this delicious entree of shrimp subgum chow mein during a recent visit to the historic Cozy Inn, 214 W. Milwaukee St., Janesville.

JANESVILLE

The story of Cozy Inn has been told many times, but really, it’s a great piece of Janesville history.

I would venture to say the place has not changed much over the years. Housed on the second floor of an historic building downtown, it features a steep staircase that visitors need to climb to enter this long-established, family-owned restaurant.

It might be noteworthy to mention Cozy Inn is located directly next door to another fine restaurant. Be sure to open the correct door ... the stairs will be your tip off.

Once we made it to the top, it felt as if we had entered a film noir movie set in the 1940s.

Our server, whom Jennifer recognized from years ago, was friendly, courteous and relaxed. I don’t know how she did it with all the activity, but she kept the atmosphere serene.

For a rainy weeknight, it was amazing to watch people come and go. There were young children asking about the syrup pitchers filled with mustard sauce. There were people picking up take-out orders, and others were settled in for long conversations over leisurely meals.

Jennifer remembered vividly her parents taking the family to Cozy Inn. The excitement built as they walked up the stairs—hoping one of the round booths would be available.

Not much has changed since the 1960s. From the green floral wallpaper to the red carpeting and those famous booths, everything remains the same. Beautiful Chinese lanterns hang from the ceiling, and Oriental vases and Buddha statues add to the Asian decor.

Perusing a Chinese restaurant menu can be a tad daunting because there are so many choices. But Cozy Inn’s menu has many old favorites.

I ordered a Singapore Sling ($5.95), a sweet and sour concoction of brandy and cherry brandy. It was really too sweet, but the tartness was fun. It went nicely with our appetizers.

The crab Rangoon was pretty and cheesy ($4.25). I dipped it into the wonderful mustard sauce Helene loves so well. We also tried the paper chicken ($6.95), which featured dark chicken meat tightly wrapped in aluminum foil. It was a little messy to uncover, but the plum and teriyaki marinade resulted in a juicy and delicious treat.

Main course dishes come with a choice of soup and an egg roll. I like spicy food, so I tried the Szechuan pork ($12.95). Cozy Inn keeps the heat light, so I was a bit disappointed. I did enjoy the sweet and sour soup, however. Again, it was not as spicy as some others I’ve tried, but that let me really enjoy the unique flavors.

The egg rolls consist of pork and vegetables, and there is a note on the menu that mentioned the egg rolls contain peanut butter. I could taste it, and it added a lot.

Jennifer ordered shrimp kew ($11.25) as her entree. Served in the classic, stainless steel-covered pedestal dish, her main course was full of shrimp, pea pods, broccoli, mushrooms, water chestnuts and Chinese vegetables in an authentic Chinese gravy consisting of oyster sauce, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. While there wasn’t one prominent flavor that was distinguishable, her meal was quite appetizing.

Nikki went with one of her favorite dishes, the Mongolian beef ($13.95). It was listed on the menu as one of the chef’s specialties, and it also had the notation for being “spicy.”

The beef, which was tender and flavorful, was served in a thick brown gravy with green onions. Like my entree, though, it was a pretty mild rendition of spicy. Still, it was filling and tasty.

Helene chose the shrimp subgum chow mein ($12.35), which came with egg foo young (something Helene had never tried before) and a bowl of crispy chow mein noodles.

The egg foo young, which is basically a small, folded egg omelet, came with a salty, tasty sauce. The subgum dish, which refers to a choice of meat or fish being mixed with an assortment of vegetables, came in a clear sauce loaded with onions, bell pepper, tomatoes and celery.

Between the appetizers, the ample portions and the extras that came with dinner, we all had to-go leftovers to enjoy the next day. We carefully made our way down the stairs, leaving the exotic world of the Cozy Inn for the streets of Janesville.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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