The restaurant reviewed last week was Madison’s Tea Room and Banquet Center, 144 E. Ferguson Ave. in Wood River, right next door to Big John’s Cuban Cafe. It was a lovely experience!
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My regular dining companion and I were privileged to have two family members from out of state accompany us on this visit. We drove to a town not too far away but had a hideous time finding parking places for both our vehicles. We finally wound up in a city lot and had to walk a couple of blocks to get to the restaurant I had in mind.
As we entered, I was immediately drawn to the art on the walls. All the pieces were original, and even the 11 tabletops in the main dining room were each decorated in a different original design. Six other tables in the bar area were likewise decorated, and there were four wire tables in a small patio area outside. All the tables were square and could seat four people. The inside tables each held salt, pepper and sweeteners. Bell-shaped lights illuminated the area, and a string of rope lights added more interest. Three chalkboards listed beers, wine, specials and desserts.
We were greeted and led to a table near the large windows in the front of the restaurant. Our server gave us menus, flatware-in-a-napkin and took our drink orders. Between the four of us, we had Pepsi, tea, lemonade and water with lemon. My sister told me that in the Southern state where she lives, when ordering iced tea it would automatically come sweet. Here, sweet tea was not an option. One has to sweeten it himself.
Our server told us pizza was not available because the dough machine was out of order. However, there was a large variety of specialty subs and sandwiches with clever names to choose from. My dining companion chose the King of Clubs, which was turkey breast, bacon, Swiss cheese, roma tomatoes, lettuce, and chipotle aioli with house-made chips as a side. I went for the Memphis Club, which was chicken breast, bacon, a mozzarella/provolone blend, lettuce, ranch dressing and sweet barbecue sauce I could add myself, on a sesame kaiser roll. I chose sweet potato fries as my side. My sister ordered the Roast Beef, which had banana peppers, mozzarella/provolone cheese, and balsamic peppercorn ranch dressing in addition to the beef. She had cheddar broccoli soup for her side, and her husband ordered a sub with the same name as the restaurant so I can’t give it here, but it consisted of roast beef, salami, ham, smoked cheddar, Swiss cheese, pepper jack cheese, red onions, lettuce and tarragon vinaigrette dressing. He chose rosemary potatoes as his side. My Memphis Club was $8.50 and the subs were $8.75 each. The drinks were $2.50 each.
I left the table to “poke around” and when I returned my sister was enjoying her soup. It was in a 4-ounce cup and she said it was delicious. As soon as she finished, the rest of the food arrived. I was very pleased with my sandwich and the bright orange and crispy sweet potato fries suited me fine. My brother-in-law said that the cubed, fried potatoes with rosemary were not what he expected. My companion’s house-made fries were very dark, with a mild smoky flavor that may have been chipotle.
The two restrooms had a stylized representation of a boy and a girl on the doors instead of signs. The one for women was being renovated and had an apology taped up inside. They both had everything necessary for a restful visit, including a changing table in the women’s room.
The restaurant filled up very quickly. When it was full, it was difficult to carry on a conversation. Music was playing, but it could not be recognized over the hubbub, and our server seemed to be trying to get our group to leave so she could seat others at our table. She said they had run out of menus. No one was using the patio tables, but there was no shade out there, so that was understandable. We paid from the table.
Overall – 4 ½ stars
Service – 4 stars
Cleanliness – 4 ½ stars
Food – 4 ½ stars
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