Delaneys: Classic Never Goes Out of Style

Photo by Eric Tadsen

Second generation steakhouse co-owner Dan Delaney knows a thing or two about serving good food, selecting great wine, and offering excellent customer service. Growing up at Delaneyshe started on the table-bussing staff in 1992 when he was 16 years old and is now general managerDan and his seasoned team have carved out a reputation as being one of the best restaurants in Madison.

Weve been here 40 years and were still going strong, Dan says. His late father, Jim Delaney, started the restaurant in 1973 after building a career working for Texaco, and operating a Texaco service station at the corner of Park Street and Badger Road. It was the only service station in town where fuel attendants wore white pressed shirts, and where Jim designed a leather cover for his belt buckle so he wouldnt scratch clients cars as he leaned over them washing windshields and pumping gas.

Photo by Eric Tadsen

That precise attention to detailed customer service carries over into Delaneys, where bar staff today still wear ties and crisp oxfords, and waitstaff work in teams of two, never missing a beat whether serving a table of two or 10. Delaneys has a well-deserved reputation for serving the best steaks in town, Dan says, and thats because their meat is sourced locally from Neesvigs in Windsor, Wisconsin, and then cut and aged in-house.

On any given night, after enjoying a generous cocktail at the newly renovated barBar Manager Tim Akins has worked at Delaneys for 20 years and also knows a thing or two about customer servicecustomers enter the classic dining area of Delaneys, split into six rooms for a more intimate dining experience. All tables are dressed with white linen and are placed with wine and water glass for a classic steakhouse look. Wood paneling completes the retro feel, while new, updated photographs of Madison by local photographer Cassius J. Callender dot the walls, giving the space a modern vibe.

In the kitchen, Manager Scott Forcier, a veteran of Delaneys since 1987, manages a team of first-rate chefs, who expertly prepare steak, seafood, chops, and chicken entres. One of the most popular dishes is Delaneys Black Angus Beef Prime Rib, available Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday in regular and extra thick cuts. Steak entres include a choice of potatoa perennial favorite is the hash browns with cheese cooked insideas well as a side salad or soup, and home-baked sourdough bread.

Photo by Eric Tadsen

An array of classic steak cuts are also available, including New York Strip, Filet Mignon, Top Sirloin, Ribeye, Bone-in Filet, and a mammoth T-Bone thats nearly impossible to finish in one sitting. But other entres share the spotlight as well, including the popular Iowa chop, a French cut loin pork chop served with roasted potatoes, herbed vegetables, and tangy mustard sauce. Lamb chops and Chicken Oscarserved with Alaskan king crab meatround out the carnivore side of the menu.

Then theres the seafood. With a reputation as a top-notch steakhouse, many customers dont even realize Delaneys serves first-rate lobster, shrimp, and walleye. The Cedar Planked Salmon Fillet, served with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, julienned vegetables, and Door County cherry chutney is one of Dans favorite menu items. Combos round out the entre menuthink steak and lobster, chicken, and shrimpfor those who just cant decide what they like best.

And anyone whos ever eaten at Delaneys knows about the onion rings. If you think you wont have room to eat your entrée if you order an appetizer, order the onion rings anyway. With a one-word description on the menu, famous, these deep-fried crispy beauties are worth the minor mess theyll make on your tablecloth (which will be expertly removed by your waitstaff). Dipped in ranch, Delaneys Onion Rings are worth the trip alone.

Photo by Eric Tadsen

As if appetizers, complimentary bread, and substantial entrées werent enough, Delaneys is one of the very few restaurants in town to still offer old-school ice cream drinksthe kind of after-dinner drink that serves as both dessert and cocktail. Order a Grasshopper, Pink Squirrel, or Brandy Alexander, and youll be greeted with a tall glass of dairy goodness big enough for two, made with ice cream containing 15 percent butterfat.

In addition to renovating the bar area this past year, Delaneys also updated the look and feel of their private party room with all new audio/visual capabilities for corporate meetings and private family celebrations. The room comfortably seats up to 40 diners, and is perfect for special events, with selections from Delaneys dining room menu, as well as special appetizers suitable for larger parties.

Were all about the experience, and making sure people enjoy themselves, Dan says. Our most important goal is to put on a show that makes people want to come back. We are honored to serve generations of customers who came here as kids, and who now bring their children to Delaneys. And we are particularly happy that when new customers find us, they become regulars pretty quickly.

Jeanne Carpenter is a cheese geek and food writer living in Oregon, Wisconsin.