190509PASTURE

Gazette restaurant reviewer Bill Livick ordered this seasonal grain bowl during a recent visit to Pasture and Plenty in Madison. The dish featured such grains as quinoa, faro, barley and brown rice and added roasted vegetables, a poached egg and pepitas.

MADISON

Pasture and Plenty, another trendy farm-to-table restaurant in Madison’s progressive culinary scene, opened two years ago on the city’s near-west side and has blossomed into one of the most popular eateries in the UW-Madison campus area—with good reason.

The operation offers fresh, tasty breakfasts, lunches and early dinners using locally sourced foods and serving them in an expansive dining room on University Avenue. The food is prepared and served relatively quickly, catering to UW students and staff and local business professionals. On Wednesday nights, it even offers “ready-to-go” dinners for customers who pre-order from a list of daily options, along with its regular table service.

You could think of Pasture and Plenty as the opposite of a country café or greasy-spoon diner, yet with its own distinctive charm. It’s got an energetic vibe in a great location (kitty-corner to Lombardino’s Italian Restaurant) and serves food that is nutritious and delicious.

Part of the attraction is the space itself: Large windows on two sides allow for lots of natural light, and a high ceiling adds to the feeling of spaciousness. The dining room’s clean, sleek look complements the healthy food and a friendly wait staff. Customers place orders at a front counter, where lots of enticing homemade sweets are on display in glass cases, and orders are served at the table. The dining room has long communal tables for those who like that sort of thing, or more private tables for parties of two to four.

The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Saturday and serves dinner Monday-Friday.

Pasture and Plenty is busiest for its deli-style lunch, and its smaller breakfast menu is available all day, as well. Its menus change frequently based on what’s growing and available from dozens of partnering farms and producers.

The lunch menu includes sandwiches such as braised pork, turkey, ham and Gruyère, fresh mozzarella and roasted vegetable. There is also a kale-Caesar wrap, soups, a seasonal grain bowl and a bowl of RP’s local pasta. The restaurant also has an impressive list of smoothies and other beverages, from an array of coffees and teas to kombucha and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

A seasonal grain bowl ($12) includes grains such as quinoa, faro, barley and brown rice and adds roasted vegetables (sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, carrot), a poached egg and pepitas (or pumpkin seeds) for a healthy and filling meal. I’m not normally a huge fan of roasted vegetables, but the flavors and textures in this blend of ingredients definitely convinced me to reconsider my assumptions.

A roasted vegetable sandwich ($9) had all the right flavors for a friend, who couldn’t recommend highly enough the mix of roasted squash and sweet potato with alfalfa greens and garlic aioli on a thick, crusty baguette.

I preferred a ham and Gruyère sandwich ($11), which came with coarse mustard on a baguette, while another in our party was happy with a chicken salad sandwich ($11) served on a large croissant. The best thing our party of four ordered, however, was a braised pork sandwich ($14) with Swiss cheese, giardiniera salad, arugula and garlic aioli. The meat was super tender, and complementing flavors were a perfect fit.

For dessert, the kitchen’s dark chocolate sea salt brownie ($3) was a big success at our table. A granola cookie ($3) also received rave reviews.

Service and the general atmosphere at Pasture and Plenty is terrific with its friendly and professional staff. The restaurant also does a terrific take-out business with prepared “meal kits” for busy families available Monday and Wednesday nights. Its catering side also is in high demand, and owner Christy McKenzie opens her “kitchen studio” regularly to the public for educational opportunities.

But you don’t have to take advantage of any of the extras to enjoy this dining experience. It’s very solid on the basics of preparing and serving really good food.

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

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