City Life

The Cannery Grill Serves, Savors and Satisfies

I love to eat. Unfortunately, my cooking skills don't evolve much past the microwaving of a Lean Cuisine, so I seize every opportunity to go out to eat that I can—literally celebrating anything for an excuse to eat something that doesn't take up room in my freezer. New job? Finished project? Good hair day? Let's eat! However, for me, it's not just about the food, but about the experience. And frankly, I've had some not so good experiences lately with service. More often than not, my dish will arrive at my table smothered in cheese, that same cheese I specifically requested to be nowhere near my food (yes, I'm from Wisconsin and I hate cheese). I've also noticed a new take on the "dine-and-dash" I call the "serve-and-scramble," where servers drop off food and disappear for twenty minute intervals, leaving you stuck with an empty glass and a plate of flaming hot wings or the wrong dish entirely—like an unwelcomed cheesy burger. That being said, I've grown skeptical of trying new restaurants for fear of being disappointed. Enter the Cannery Grill. The Gods of Dining have finally answered my prayers! I received the correct order and, get this: the service was excellent. Casual, Comfortable, Close The first thing about the Cannery Grill I noticed was the large outdoor patio where patrons sat under a canopy of fading daylight, enjoying laughs and happy hour specials. Upon entering, my attention was drawn to the giant cherry-wood bar area to my left, and most importantly, the young man at the host stand waiting to greet me and offer me a booth seat. As the host showed me to my table, I couldn't get over how spacious the building was. While the metal beams and exposed ventilation of the high ceiling lends the restaurant a hip, modern feel, the cherry-wood chairs, high backed booths and posters from the building's Oconomowoc Canning Co. days give off a cozy, casual feeling. A variety of patrons inform me that the Cannery Grill's menu caters to everyone's appetite as I spot a brooding hipster and his date sitting adjacent to a table of lively seniors. Since the restaurant's opening in July 2007, the delicious cuisine has settled the gripes of many an east-sider who has ever complained, "There's nowhere to eat around here!" Diners' prayers are answered and the short drive to Sun Prairie's blossoming downtown is well worth it. Nestled in Veridian's Cannery Square, the former canning company (which existed from 1901–2001) is one of the many attractions to the updated area. Scrumptious Selection Now for the main attraction: food that more than exceeded expectations. The menu proffered a variety of appetizers, flatbread pizzas, dinner salads, a specialty burger section including their signature Cannery Burger, (as well as a "build your own burger" section), sandwiches, entrees and deserts. The drink menu was just as vast, advertising a large selection of domestic and imported beers, Sea Ridge white and red wines, and specialty martinis including the Flirtini—peach schnapps, Chambord and champagne—and the Cannery—blue curaco, Apple Pucker, Midori and cranberry juice. We began our dining experience a spinach and artichoke flatbread. Though the crust was thin, the pizza was filling, mostly due to the fact that taste was addictive. For the main course, the Shrimp Diablo immediately grabbed my attention after reading the brief but tantalizing description: jumbo shrimp, assorted peppers and onions, chipotle cream sauce, served over wild rice or pasta. I was more than intrigued. Other signature items caught my eye including the Cannery Burger—a seven-ounce patty of beef heaven topped with bacon, guacamole, lettuce and tomato that was just as tasty as it sounded. No More "Secret" Service Our smiling server was friendly, attentive and available. Drinks were quickly replenished and our server waited a sufficient amount of time after our appetizer before delivering our main course, which was still served warm—she apologized for the delay, but I was thankful for the opportunity to digest. After setting down our plates, she made sure that our orders were right and asked if we needed anything else. It sounds standard, but you'd be surprised at how often that's not standard. Though the dining room wasn't full, a decent sized staff could be seen watchfully attending to each table. A busser made sure no table stayed dirty longer than a minute after a table had been vacated. After a satisfying meal and equally satisfying bill—dinner for two including appetizer and drinks cost just over $30—it's safe to say that the Cannery Grill is a welcome addition to Sun Prairie that locals and East-siders can happily enjoy and call their own. The Cannery Grill315 E. Linnerud Dr., Sun Prairie. 837-4999. thecannerygrill.com

Let That Deal Go Down

View Slideshow » Early on an April morning Madison neighborhood activist Bob Queen is taking care of business in room 137 of a worn out Days Inn on the outskirts of Lafayette, Louisiana. The door to his makeshift motel office is open wide to the sidewalk where members of Mali's Mamadou Diabate Ensemble roll metal crates filled with drums, stringed instruments and costumes from a storage room. A tangy blue haze of tobacco smoke floats above the exotic sounds of French-Bambara conversation. Queen slides his Marquette Neighborhood Association business card across the table to a young, French Canadian musician named Tania Elizabeth. As she reaches for the card the petite fiddler's forearm exposes a colorful cross-stitching of tattoos. Elizabeth's band, The Duhks (pronounced "ducks"), Winnipeg's celebrated new traditional string band, will headline one of five stages in the weekend stretch of the Festival International de Louisiane. For five, music-filled days each April, the ratty but lovingly run motel is transformed into a southern fried musician's village. Performers and their managers take over nearly every room of the motel. The small dining area is transformed into a twenty-four-hour drop-in buffet. Tables are continuously replenished with deep pans of freshly made crawfish etouffée, tureens of rice, shrimp, and chicken gumbo, bowls of jambalaya, buckets of fried chicken, baskets of hot biscuits and sheets of fresh-baked cookies.

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