In addition to a healthy serving of melt-in-your-mouth order of beef brisket, this to-go order Gazette restaurant reviewer Aaron R. Conklin’s picked up from Ziggy’s Smokehouse in Oregon featured a good-sized piece of Texas Toast, saucy baked beans and butter-basted baby baked potatoes.


Every community has them—those bedrock restaurants that seems to have been there forever, even when they actually haven’t. They just seem to fit their footprint, sliding neatly into a niche local diners probably didn’t even know they needed to exist until it did.

Ziggy’s Barbecue Smokehouse has become one of those places for the fine citizens of Oregon. It’s only been open for five years, but the interior rocks a weathered, Old West vibe that makes it seem as though it’s been around much, much longer.

The tables, with their red and white checkered tablecloths that scream “barbecue,” are more spread out in this Time of COVID-19, and the dining area is delineated by a set of metal wagon wheels fused together into an impromptu fence. It looks like the kind of place that might deploy a faux set of twinkling stars on its ceiling.

Oddly, one of the things Ziggy’s does best isn’t even in the restaurant’s title: pizza. Regular and gluten-free crusts are available, but the beer crust option was only $1 extra on a 12-incher, so we went for it.

There’s nary a hint of a beer taste, but it’s the impact on the crust’s consistency that makes it a worthwhile investment. The crust is firm, crispy and delicious, and more than able to support whatever you’re putting on it.

Because it’s not the headliner item, it’s not surprising the pizza options are limited to build-your-own with standard ingredients and a mere four specialty pies.

The most pointed option is, as you’d probably expect, the Smoke House ($14.95-$22.95 depending on size), with a choice of four barbecue sauces (including, unexpectedly, a Carolina mustard) and three types of meat (brisket, pork and chicken.) Given the delicious sweetness of the tomato sauce Ziggy’s uses on its traditional pies, I’d urge sampling the barbecue as part of its own plate rather than as part of a pizza.

Now let’s talk about that ‘cue.

My to-go order of beef brisket ($18.99), a nondescript pile perched atop a piece of Texas Toast, came sans sauce—a seeming stroke of heresy that evaporated the minute I put a bite of meat in my mouth. Put it this way: There’s a reason this place is called a smokehouse.

And while it’s true most Madison barbecue merchants use some type of meat smoker to flavor their meats, Ziggy’s must somehow be super-powered. The smoky flavor permeated every inch of the meat—not just the crust. And it was strong enough to flavor even the non-smoked side dishes. Talk about a looks-can-be-deceiving situation.

The side of baked beans had a similar heft, and just barely edged the sweet potato fries and buttery baby potatoes for the title of best side. The beans were oversized, and the sauce was so thick with smoked brown sugar sweetness that it defied gravity as we tried to shake it from its container.

Hamburgers are part of the mix at Ziggy’s as well, including a real honker that marries multiple parts of the menu into a single sandwich: It’s the appropriately named Zig Zilla ($13.99) a third-pound burger topped with pulled pork, two types of onions—caramelized and onion rings—mac and cheese, pepper jack cheese and coleslaw. It’s one of those entrée sandwiches that arrives at the table held together with a steak knife and feels like a burger that decided to subsume its side dishes into a brioche bun that’s ill-equipped to handle them.

I’d argue the coleslaw is superfluous, since the mac does the job of tamping down the double onions. But for those who need some kind of lettuce on their burgers, well, there it is.

Ziggy’s is a community restaurant which, because this is Wisconsin, naturally means there’s a fish fry on Fridays. The battered pile of fried cod ($12.49 for three pieces) was soft rather than crispy and flavorful enough to be satisfying, but not essential enough to be a thing you plan your Fridays around. Where most places offer perch or walleye as the cod alternative, Ziggy’s goes with a pan-fried grouper ($12.95).

The ice cream parlor part of the operation looks a little sad and neglected at the moment, between the rapidly plummeting temperatures outdoors and the pandemic. But it does mean a solid dessert option is basically right in front of you once dinner’s done.

Ziggy’s fronts Cedar Crest ice cream and sorbet—32 flavors, as a scoop in the eye to Baskin-Robbins, apparently. If you’ve smartly gorged on the pizza and smoked meats, chances are good you’ll find a sweet cap to a surprisingly filling and tasty meal here.

Aaron R. Conklin is a freelance writer based in Madison. He has written about food, theater and pop culture for publications such as Isthmus, the Wisconsin State Journal and Madison Magazine.


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