The Statehouse not just a hotel restaurant
There’s big change happening inside The Edgewater Hotel, and local foodies should probably take note.
The Statehouse, the Edgewater’s signature restaurant, is quite different than it was a few short months ago, and it would be remiss to write this place off as a hotel restaurant reserved for travelers and tourists.
The biggest change comes with the hiring of new executive chef Joe Heppe, a Milwaukee native who rose to critical acclaim through his work in Chicago kitchens including Vermilion, Mercat a la Planxa, Untitled and Oak + Char. He doesn’t have formal culinary training (but neither did this guy) and says he “bluffed” his way into Vermilion, an Indian and Latin fusion restaurant. But it’s Heppe’s “modern Midwestern” food concept that’s taking hold.
“It’s real food, prepared simply to highlight the quality of the products we use,” says Heppe. “People in the Midwest, especially in Madison, value how their food is grown and sourced, whether it be locally, or from other regions. To me, this respect for the ingredients is what defines the ‘modern Midwestern’ palate.”
Nabbing Heppe was a coup for The Edgewater. Heppe says he originally thought only two restaurants would convince him to come to Madison to work as a chef.
“L’Etoile or Harvest, that was it.”
But the Edgewater team went to great lengths to recruit Heppe, says Amy Supple, senior vice president and chief operating officer at The Edgewater.
Heppe overhauled The Statehouse menu, which is still focused on seafood and steak, as well as the menu at Augie’s Tavern, the hotel’s newly renamed bar dedicated to Augie Faulkner, the Edgewater’s longtime manager and owner.
With a number of elevated dishes to choose from at Augie’s, you might not believe that two standouts are what sound like hackneyed bar food: chicken wings and popcorn. Heppe’s take on both will have you saying otherwise—his MSG (maple-sherry gochujang) wings are drizzled in a smoked cilantro yogurt sauce, a much less pedestrian pairing than ranch. The Cracklin’ Jack popcorn is a chef favorite, thanks in big part to the slathering of bacon fat spread across caramel popcorn, peanuts, pork rinds and bits of bacon. (Try to eat just one handful, I dare ya.)
At the bar at Augie’s, sip on a Spring Thaw, made with Ketel One, crème de violette, St. Germain, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and ginger. Despite its name, it might just become your summer favorite (as it has become with other patrons who’ve made it the most-ordered, most-notable drink on the menu.)
Heppe’s new Statehouse menu officially launched graduation weekend, but it’s been tweaked ever since. Two gigantic claws of broiled two-pound lobster need not much else other than drawn butter and grilled lemon. Heppe’s smoke roasted half Amish chicken is served on a bed of creamy potato brie fondue (let’s make this a side offering, eh?).
Local sourcing is a much bigger focus now, and fresh, familiar ingredients show up throughout the menu: a local cheese selection, crab cake lyonnaise served on a bed of Vitruvian Farms greens, market vegetables, a Heritage Farm Tomahawk pork chop, Hook’s blue cheese on the wedge salad. And seafood is well represented with offerings including the lobster bisque, snow crab claws, broiled octopus, a sautéed Skuna Bay salmon and a number of raw bar selections.
Heppe’s entrance is coupled with the onboarding of Bartolotta Restaurant Group, which has helped as a consultant for the hotel’s food and beverage team across the board—The Boathouse, The Icehouse and banquet dining included. The Statehouse dining room has also undergone a few interior updates, including the closing off of a portion of the kitchen near the host stand, a new paint job and table reconstruction. The updates are meant to make to space feel a little more comfortable, while still offering a formal dining environment, Supple says.
“The addition of Chef Joe to our team at The Edgewater is refreshing for us all. With his new menus and the updated physical space, we are entering a new era at The Edgewater, and I think this era will be noticed for the creative, market-driven cuisine and comforting, warm hospitality from our staff,” says Supple. “It’s a new atmosphere, a new approach to operations, a new Edgewater. We’re extremely pleased to have him here.”