By Michelle Li
The love of good food and drink didn't exactly come naturally to the man behind Brasserie V.
"I wasn't a great eater," jokes Matt Van Nest, owner of the Monroe Street restaurant. "I was kind of old-school meat and potatoes."
His palate, however, got a significant upgrade when he met his wife, Andrea. She drew on her experiences of living in France and introduced Matt to quality food. Soon they found themselves inviting friends over for hearty feasts and Belgian beer.
"We were always the entertainers of our group," says Van Nest. "And we both still love it to this day."
Perhaps that's why the restaurant feels like an extension of their home. Since 2007, the pub has served Europe's finest beers—more than a hundred Belgian beers are on-site, plus three hundred other brews—and staple foods, like mussels and duck. But you must order the house favorite, mussels and fries, or moules-frites. This heaping bowl of mussels is prepared in a classic Belgian broth of garlic, wine and butter and balanced out with fries and two types of aioli.
Other must-haves include the V burger on sourdough with Muenster cheese and beer-soaked onion straws. Or order the duck and pair it with a St. Bernardus Abt 12—a rich brown ale that eventually became the house beer due to its popularity.
The recipes come from abroad, but farm-to-table is a priority. That's because in the end, it is all about community. "The customer relationships have been unbelievable," says Van Nest. "It's very interesting how that's evolved."
Read more Madison Magazine stories about local restaurants here.