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The Old Fashioned

Madison WI

23 N pinckney st, madison WI 53703
tacos- 11am-10:30pm, tuesdays only

Old Fashioned (Madison WI) - taco review

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Price: $$

The To-Go

17 tacos ordered communally for a 'Taco Tuesday' special, including one of each flavor for me (chicken, pork, fish, vegetarian). Underwhelming overall, with the chicken and fish ranking above the other flavors.

The Sit-Down

Don't go to the Old Fashioned any old-fashioned night expecting tacos. It's a Tuesday only affair, which made it exceedingly difficult for the taco reviewing squad to acquire these tacos (we have a long-standing engagement to a 'Pizza Tuesday' special on the East Side, having consumed 197 pizzas over the previous 8 months). However, fate intervened this February with a pizza kitchen renovation, and the team pounced on the opportunity to check out the Old Fashioned's oft-noticed but never sampled taco deal.

The special, for those of you unaware, is $1.50 tacos, available in chicken, pork, fish, and vegetarian styles. The Old Fashioned, for those of you unaware, is a Madison Capitol Square staple featuring (arguably) the second-best cheese curds in town, along with a variety of excellent burgers, sandwiches, unbelievably good french fries & onion rings, and a kick-ass selection of beers; prices are not rock-bottom, but reasonable. Needless to say, I've been to the OF many times, and put a lot of faith in their food.

When our scheduled Taco Tuesday appointment rolled around (February 26th, to be precise), the weather was questionable. Winds were strong and it had been snowing all afternoon. Luckily, this drove away the crowds, leaving plenty of room for our elite squadron of weather-resistant taco reviewers and business associates: myself, Erin, Lindsey, Steve, and Tim. We got a nice seat near the bar, ordered a pitcher of the keg of the month (it was an Irish Red Ale of some sort), and checked out the menu. Eventually, we placed an order for 17 tacos; I got 1 each of the pork, chicken, vegetarian, and fish.

The tacos came out very quickly. My 4 tacos were on a small plate, nested in flour tortillas, and were fairly sparsely topped. No limes came on the side (though Lindsey, who ordered the platter [which included rice & beans] did get some lime wedges) and as salsa options we had sriracha and tabasco sauce. Undaunted by these ominous signs and motivated by hunger, we dug in quickly.

I started with the chicken taco, and was pleasantly surprised. The chicken was well-spiced and juicy. I put on some sriracha and tabasco, but it didn't add much. The flour tortilla was kind of smushed against the chicken, and didn't contribute much flavor or texture to the package. Old Fashioned tacos, we learned, are to be judged exclusively on fillings; fortunately, the chicken was respectable. After the chicken, I moved on to the vegetarian taco, and my dreams were shattered. It was basically a scoop of beans on the flour tortilla, with a bit of onion and corn thrown in. Any shot at redemption was squandered when I tasted the beans, and found out they were undercooked. This made the lack of a good salsa particularly notable. This taco could be generously described as "bland".

Next up was the fish taco. It had just a couple small pieces of breaded fish, with a bit of cabbage and some of their (delicious) smoked paprika sauce. The fish was fine - anything breaded at the OF is reliably good - but the taco was really saved by the paprika sauce, which is excellent. While the taco definitely could have used more fish, it was an enjoyable taco overall. Last up was the pork, which was similar to the chicken in color and texture. The pork was shredded and there was a bit of tomatillo salsa on top. However, the pork was bland and a bit dry. Compared to the chicken, this was mostly flavorless.

Overall, the tacos at the Old Fashioned were an extreme disappointment, especially due to the high standard that OF had set for themselves over the years. I guess it's just not their thing. The chicken and fish tacos could be called "good", if not spectacular; the pork and vegetarian, on the other hand, I'd just call "bad". We all left OF taco night wishing we had gone with the burgers and cheese curds, and planning to return to our Tuesday pizza tradition ASAP.

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