The Orpheum Theatre was built over 80 years ago, back in the heyday of moving pictures. Not only did the place feature first-run movies, but also big name orchestras and stars of the stage. Names like Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly, Artie Shaw, and Louis Armstrong all made their appearance at the Orpheum. More recently, performers like Sonny and Cher, Johnny Cash, Liberace, Bob Marley, and Elvis Costello have graced the Orpheum’s stage.
Eventually, the Orpheum fell into a state of decay and disrepair. In 1999, it was purchased by Henry Doane, who established a small restaurant inside and is also making efforts to preserve the theater. While preservations are still ongoing, the restaurant and bar of the Orpheum are top notch.
One may order all kinds of good-quality American style cuisine when dining at the Orpheum. For lunch or dinner, there are such appetizer selections as tomato bisque, smoked trout salad (with chopped egg and sour cream horseradish over greens), grilled peppercorn crusted salmon (with cucumber dill sauce over greens), mushroom tart (sautéed wild mushrooms with shallots, butter, white wine, and leeks in a pastry shell), potato pancakes, mussels, and fried cheese curds (of course).
Main entrees include pan-seared duck breast, braised beef brisket, flank steak, salmon, walleye, pork tenderloin, and vegetable gratin. A variety of sandwiches are also on order, such as grilled eggplant, walleye, BBQ pork, and the Orpheum Burger.
I was recently at the Orpheum for a work meeting and dinner. We had items served on a long buffet table from the place’s special catering menu. Some of our catered menu items included the Imported and Domestic Cheese Board (with seasonal fruits, crackers, and imported meats), Whole Smoked Salmon (with field greens, capers, onions, and crostini), Antipasto Platter (with roasted garlic olives, artichoke hearts, vegetables, roasted red peppers, imported cheeses, crostini, salami, and prosciutto), Quiche Florentine (with mushrooms, spinach, onions, and cheese), Stuffed Mushroom Caps (stuffed with onion, bread crumbs, and garlic), French Loaf Crostini (with garlic and red pepper), Roasted Turkey with cranberry relish, and Glazed Ham with dinner rolls.
Desserts included such items as cream tarts topped with fruit, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and Gail Ambrosius chocolates (a gourmet chocolate shop in Madison).
I found the food to be quite good overall. I especially enjoyed snacking on all the imported cheese and the fruits, and helped myself to at least 6-7 stuffed mushroom caps. While the smoked salmon was tender, it was much saltier than most of the smoked salmon I’ve had. Similarly, I found the glazed ham quite salty. But the desserts made up for everything, especially when I saw the vast array of Gail Ambrosius chocolates lying before me, in shapes of scallops, leaves, and even entire seated Buddhas.
Drinks were served to us via the theater’s small interior bar (which must have been a costume room at one time). The Orpheum had pretty much any liquor one would demand, like top shelf Patron, Absolut, etc.
While I am not sure if a buffet-style meal would suit everyone, it was certainly sufficient for our work meeting. Since I had never before eaten at the Orpheum, this was a great first impression of the place and its restaurant.
Here is some additional information about the Orpheum Lobby Restaurant and Theatre:
Address: 216 State Street
Madison, WI 53703