Lunch Squad Slurps at Morris Ramen

Lunch Squad. That’s the name this group came up with when we first met back in September over lunch at the new West Washington Avenue location of Madison’s Red sushi restaurant. We’ve gathered at a different location every month since, usually on the last Thursday and have sampled some of the city’s new and solid standbys.

This month I put out the call again on Facebook: I have a reservation for eight at Morris Ramen, just off the Capitol Square. If you’d like to check out this new restaurant with us, say “I’m in!” in the comments. You should come!

Every month familiar faces blend in with new around the table and every month the group hits it off. By the time our checks arrive, new friends are exchanging Instagram handles, websites and random foodie facts–last month, someone asked what the difference in taste was for fresh tumeric vs. dried.

Lunch Squader and photo stylist @sunnyfrantz (check out her Instagram feed!)
Lunch Squader and photo stylist @sunnyfrantz (check out her Instagram feed!)

In October we visited Ha Long Bay on the east side–a stand-out is always the feel-good Tom Kha. In November we went downtown to Osteria Papavero (owner/chef Francesco Mangano’s Pasta al Forno that day was a tower of pasta, sauce, meat, cheese and peas–I ate that and followed it up with his That’s-so-damn-good! creamy and caramelly budino).

We went a bit farther east Madison in December to Om Indian Fusion. One look at the Galab Jamun at the buffet had us all eager to head back up for those fried pastry balls in cardamon syrup with cocoa and coconut.

Last month, we met back downtown and down the steps to cozy Layla’s Persian restaurant. I am still dreaming of the lamb shank I ordered that Laila Borokhim, owner/chef, served over fragrant butterful rice.

I can’t wait to share more about the Lunch Squad and what we eat next month. If you’re in Madison and we’re friends on FB, you too should come!

In the meantime, if you go to Morris Ramen and you should, here’s some helpful info.

  • Name: Morris Ramen
  • It’s about: fresh ramen noodle bowls from chefs/husband & wife: Matt Morris (who spent the last eight years at Shinji Muramoto’s Restaurant Muramoto–now Muramoto Downtown–and several months in Japan, immersing himself in the food and culture) and Francesca Hong, who gets props for being one of the youngest female executive chefs while at Shinji’s 43 North. And Shinji Muramoto himself (Muramoto Downtown, Muramoto Hilldale, 43 North) is also in this kitchen rounding out one hell of a ramen team.
  • And eat the: pork bun with pickle, hoisin and Hong’s chicken wings with kimchi ranch, pickled daikon
  • Open since: December 2016
  • Helpful Hint: Got long locks? Bring a hair tie and tie it up for maximum noodle slurpidge.
  • Location: in the former Red sushi restaurant just off the Capitol Square on King St. And before that, Muramoto’s first restaurant location.
  • Address: 106 King St., Madison
  • Hours: Lunch: Mon-Fri 11 am -2 pm; Dinner: Mon-Sat 5-10pm
  • Website:




Last month I announced on Facebook that I was hoping to gather interested friends to have lunch with me at a newly located restaurant in Madison.  I made a reservation for five and in no time I had received confirmation from four individuals allowing me to easily fulfill the reservation. Ruth Reichl, the award-winning author, one-time New York Times restaurant critic and the last editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine, promised me in an interview I conducted with her a couple of years ago that foodies find foodies.  I feel it’s time I find mine.

What’s great about this group is that its purpose is to be fluid and ever-evolving, quite possibly never the same group twice. I announce the restaurant on my FB page and friends can decide if they’re interested in that particular menu of the month. There is so much diversity in Madison’s food scene that there is sure to be a restaurant offering for everyone interested in going out for lunch and meeting new friends.

That’s what happened last month at Madison RED, a favorite sushi restaurant. Although I knew all the women sitting around the table, few of them knew each other. Before we even ordered our rolls we had come to be fast friends and actually came up with a name for ourselves. We are Madison’s Lunch Squad.

Because I couldn’t help but take a few notes, I thought I’d share with you my impression of the new space.

Farewell to RED Sushi, the cozy raw joint of King Street and Hello to the lady in red–Madison RED Dine Lounge, now on West Washington Avenue. Dressed to the nines in red, black and gold; draped with sparkling stainless chandeliers, the new restaurant looks as if it has matured from what was once an intimate locale just off the capital square.

The bar now is an expression of sophistication and good taste, sweeping through the room like the train of an elegant evening gown, adorned with intimate booths cradling smartly-dressed guests. Chopsticks pirouette over creative rolls and sashimi, seared filet mignon and halibut. On a recent lunch date with friends, we each enjoyed the two-roll lunch special for $13. A toothsome favorite was the tropic bintoro roll (see above)—spicy, buttery albacore tuna, sweet tempura-battered mango, cuddled with smooth avocado.

Both raw and cooked as well as vegetarian rolls are offered. Whichever rolls you choose, consider getting the pork bun as an appetizer and the sweetly seasoned seaweed salad with crunchy cucumber slices involved in your dining daydream.

See you this month at a yet to be disclosed location!