Jan 27, 2016

A double dose of deliciousness at Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry

If there’s one thing I have in common with my co-workers, it’s a love of food.  So, while we were all working in Madison, Wis., last fall, we made it our mission to find not only the best cheese curds in town, but we expanded our mission to include the best burger as well.  Wisconsin is the dairy state after all, and what goes better together than beef and cheese?  

I’ve already made it pretty clear in previous blogs that Madison has more than its fair share of bar and grills where burgers and cheese curds are staples on the menu, but while we were researching places to try, Dottie Dumpling’s Dowry seemed to strike a chord with everyone.  Maybe it was the alliteration in the name.  Maybe its initials invoked something subliminal in men with healthy appetites.  Maybe it was the notion that bigger is actually better when it comes to a good, juicy burger (each one begins with six ounces of fresh Wisconsin-raised ground beef).  Whatever the case, the place had an impeccable reputation going back 40 years, and we wanted to find out why.

Although it has moved a few times over the years, Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry is a downtown mainstay.  It’s close enough to the University of Wisconsin campus to be a game day (or anytime, for that matter) destination for partying college students.  It’s also close enough to the capitol to draw its share of state workers and professionals.  

Frankly, we were surprised the place was relatively calm when we arrived right before 5 p.m. but quickly realized we had just beat the happy hour rush.  We were greeted by Dotty’s cheery hostess who seated us at a high-top table …

… with a great view of Dotty’s well-stocked bar.

The interior of Dotty’s reminded me more of an English-style pub than your standard Madison bar and grill.  Maybe it has something to do with being named after a character in an Arthur Conan Doyle story, but Dotty’s seems to have a cleaner and clubbier feel about it.  The woodwork and red walls give it a very homey feel, and the eclectic mix of antiques on display are nice distractions while you wait the required 20 minutes for them to properly cook your burger.  

As you’d expect, the grill area is open for all to see, but it also appears to be “cleaner” than your basic dive bar cooking area.  I suppose that’s to be expected given the mix of clientele and the expectations that come with their reputation for the best burgers in Madison.

And with a menu that allows you to build your own burger (they also have three signature sauces to make the process even more challenging) or choose from one of their many speciality burgers, how do you choose?  

This burger was simply smokin'!
Easy … just order the week’s special creation.  In this case, it was the appropriately named smoker burger -- topped with cheddar cheese, haystack onions, bleu cheese dressing and an ancho-fig barbecue sauce.  It was bite after bite of drippy, messy deliciousness.  For starters, the patty was cooked a perfect medium/pink in the middle.  The haystack onions kept sliding out the sides but they also served to hold the sauces together while adding a nice crunch to every bite.  And, as the special, it came with the fries and soft drink.  Even at $10.99, it was an excellent deal.  

A fuzzy photo of non-fuzzy (but wonderfully chewy) cheese curds
And while the burgers turned out to be as awesome as advertised, the cheese curds did not disappoint either.  I’m not sure they matched the ones at the Old Fashioned, but they were very satisfying.  Served with the traditional ranch dressing, each deep-fried piece of breaded white cheddar squeaked with every chew, just as intended.  And notice the cheese oozing out of the cracks in the side of so many bites?  That’s a very good sign of stretchy, pull-apart goodness.

All in all, Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry was a Triple D-licious excursion for our group.  I highly recommend seeking this place out if you ever find yourself in downtown Madison.  Their selection of craft brews isn’t too shabby either, and you’re sure to find a selection to match well with the burger you choose.  The staff is very helpful, and the food is worth the trip.  

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