With his eyes set on playing football on college, Noah decided to take it easy his senior year of high school and signed up for a coaster class, Foods 1. Foods 1 led to Foods 2 and Foods 2 led to the realization that this is what he should be doing with his life. He took a year off after high school and enrolled at the culinary program at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, WI. During that break, he worked as a butcher at a local grocery store. After completing his degree, he stayed in Central Wisconsin for two years and then made the big move to Chicago. In Chicago, he worked at Everest where he met his wife, Julie. He also worked at North Pond. After two years, they moved up to Madison to be closer to family and both worked at Harvest downtown. Noah came to Capitol Lakes four years ago.
Capitol Lakes is located at 333 Main Street, near the corner of Henry and Main Streets off the square. There are three restaurants in Capitol Lakes:
- The Seasons– a fine dining room serving dinner from 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm.
- Henry Street Café– serving breakfast and lunch from 8:00 am to 1:30 pm
- The Lunchbox– a sandwich kiosk serving lunch from 11:00 am to 1:15 pm.
When Noah was hired, he was hired as the Executive Chef for The Seasons. By the end of his second day, he took on the role as General Manager putting him in charge of the front and back of the house. After his third day, he was given the Henry Street Café and six months later, he took on the catering for the skilled nursing, health center, and assisted living facility.
Pre-Noah, Capitol Lakes residents ate a variety of frozen meals steamed by the kitchen staff and were only offered one wine option, Copper Ridge White Zinfandel. Post-Noah, the kitchen makes all the dishes from scratch, offers a choice of 29 wines (including the beloved Copper Ridge White Zin), utilizes local products, and even grows some of their own produce in an urban garden outside of the center.
Noah has also seen an increase in a non-resident clientele. Once a family member comes to Capitol Lakes for a meal, they never leave. Loved ones may pass on, but families keep coming back. Given the menu, this is not surprising.
The Seasons Menu
Noah walks the line between satisfying the meat and potatoes crowd while also giving customers the downtown dining experience with exciting, seasonal items. Each week, he changes 4-5 menu items (roughly 1/6 of the menu) with new dishes that are in season. He is famous for his herb vinaigrette. Burgers and salads are always popular menu items but he also recommends trying the new seasonal items. Entrees are all around $8 and the average individual check hovers in the $11 range.
Madison’s Best Kept Secret
No one knows that Capitol Lakes exists or that the general public can eat there. When you check out Noah’s blog, you’ll understand why this is such a travesty. The general public is welcome to come to Capitol Lakes. If you have a big group, you may want to call ahead. He also advises coming between 6:30 and 7:00 to beat the early bird rush.
Capitol Lakes is located at 333 West Main Street.
Just off the corner of Henry and Main.
What does the future hold?
Noah is hoping to transform The Seasons, the formally dining room at Capitol Lakes, into a three meal a day restaurant so that residents and the public have more options for breakfast and lunch. That would also allow him to make the café more upscale in its food options and offer more menu items a la carte. Noah wants to continue to push for more local ingredients and better utilize the garden. This was the first year they used the garden for produce and they learned a lot. Quite honestly, it warmed my gardening heart to hear that that the first year is for learning.
He also mentioned that he is willing to do cooking classes if someone else organizes it (hint, hint). He would love to share his knowledge but with running three restaurants and a catering service, he does not have time to handle the logistics.
Noah’s Advice to New Cooks
- Taste as you go.
- Don’t substitute inferior ingredients. Dried herbs do not equal fresh herbs. Frozen cod does not equal fresh tuna steak.
- Don’t be afraid of salt. Campbell’s soup isn’t good because it’s Campbell’s, it’s going because it’s packed with salt. Use salt to enhance the flavor.
Noah’s Weeknight Frittata and Rustica Soup
Click here for Noah’s Weeknight Frittata.
Check back in the next week for his version of Olive Garden’s Sausage and Pepper Rustica soup.