Joey Dunscombe is the executive chef at The Weary Traveler Free House in Madison. Located on the east side, The Weary Traveler is a Madison landmark.
While the restaurant is known for the Bob’s Organic Bad Breath Burger, the rest of the menu showcases Madison’s diversity. Yes, you can get a burger, but you can also get multi-ethnical comfort food dishes, tofu and vegan fare, and my favorite, a black bean and quinoa salad.
Joey Dunscombe is the personification of the Madison food scene: relaxed, humble, quietly confident, and passionate about showcasing local foods and giving back to the community.
Dunscombe grew up in New Hampshire before moving to Wisconsin in his late teens. At 19, he began working at an upscale restaurant in Wausau. The experience was life-changing. As the staff flew around him, he had two thoughts: these people are crazy and this is awesome. He had found his calling. He loved how the team pulled together to feed the customers. Different characters moving with one thought and one mind.
He made it to Madison in his early twenties. He did construction work for Restaurant Magnus and the moved into the kitchen. He worked himself up from line cook to sous chef and then transitioned over to The Weary Traveler.
The Weary Traveler
Dunscombe has been the executive chef at The Weary Traveler for 10 years. Known for its cozy and eclectic vibe, customers can play board games while they wait for their food to arrive.
With an emphasis on sandwiches and international comfort food, the menu remains fairly static. As Dunscombe explains, each menu item has a strong following so it doesn’t make sense to remove items or change things around too much. The Bob’s Bad Breath Burger is the most popular item followed closely by the West Andes sandwich. Dunscombe also waxed poetically about the French Toast and Bacon from their late riser Saturday and Sunday brunch menu.
In typical Madison fashion, the emphasis at The Weary Traveler is on local products and made-from-scratch fare. Dunscombe makes everything from the breads to the hot sauce to the bacon in-house. He uses the daily specials to showcase local farm ingredients and display his creativity. Whenever possible, he also buys everyday staples from local farms.
Langes Family Farms– All ground beef
Sweet Magnolia– fresh produce
Jordendahl Farms- pork belly, pork chops, breakfast sausages
Underground Meats– charcuterie
Quince and Apple– preserves and tart cherry grenadine
The Weary Traveler Logistics
Restaurant opens at 4:00 pm on Mondays.
Tuesday through Sunday, the restaurant opens at 11:30 am.
Phone number: 608-442- 6207
Dunscombe and REAP
In addition to giving back to the community through local partners, Dunscombe is also active in the Madison REAP organization. REAP is dedicated to making local foods and produce accessible to all populations in the Madison area. Dunscombe regularly participates in the Farm to School program. He travels to two local schools (Cherokee Middle School and Stoughton High School) to teach students basic cooking skills and recipes. The students know him as the ‘Chef Joey.’
Later in the year, the high school students take a field trip to the Dane County Wednesday Farmer’s Market to buy local foods and then come over to The Weary Traveler. After completing a tour of the kitchens, Dunscombe cooks with them in the restaurant kitchen.
On the first Tuesday of every month, The Weary Traveler donates 10% of all proceeds to the Farm to School program.
Dunscombe’s Advice to New Cooks
1. Read the recipes. If you want to make a dish, find at least four different recipes for it. Read and compare. What do the recipes have in common? What are the variables?
2. Make it your own. If you don’t like thyme and the recipe calls for thyme, odds are you won’t like the recipe. Sub in ingredients you like for ingredients you don’t like.
3. It’s just cooking, it’s just food. Don’t stress about it. Each time you cook, it will get faster and easier. Just make it look and taste good. Don’t worry about it so much.
Fave kitchen tool: sharp boning knife
Fave cookbooks: Charcuterie, Joy of Cooking, and Epicurious website
Fave magazines: Bon Apetit, Saveur, and Cooks Illustrated
Fave Flavors Combo: Spicy and citrus, something crunchy on a sandwich
Dunscombe’s Guide to Making the Perfect Sandwich
When asked for a go-to recipe, Dunscombe described the art of the perfect sandwich.
To read more, click here.