When’s the last time a farmer—an actual farmer—delivered dinner to your restaurant table? At Jordandal Cookhouse in Verona, farmer and owner Carrie Johnson takes her own home-cooked and homegrown food to tables every day, giving new meaning to the term “farm-to-fork dining.”
Despite its location in the corner of a city strip mall at 600 W. Verona Avenue, Jordandal Cookhouse is about as close to the farm as most people ever get. That’s because the cozy little eatery serves just about the most wholesome, affordable, home-style meals you’ll find this side of Mayberry. “Everything is made from scratch from beginning to end, and even before the beginning, because all of the meat used at the Cookhouse is raised at our very own Jordandal Farms,” says Carrie.
Launched three years ago by Carrie and her husband, Eric, Jordandal Cookhouse is a natural extension of their Jordandal Farm near Argyle, as well as a partner farm run by Matthew Walter near Darlington. Together, the farms supply every bit of grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and turkeys, and hoop-house pork served at the restaurant.
House-baked desserts, freshly prepared salads with produce from local farmers’ markets, handmade breads from Batch Bakehouse and Madison Sourdough, sauces from scratch, hand-mashed potatoes, house-simmered stocks, and pickled vegetables fill a menu overflowing with hearty sandwiches and comfort foods. The menu often changes with the seasons, depending on what’s in prime condition from the farm.
One of the restaurant’s mainstay menu items is the Cubano, a slow-roasted pork and ham sandwich with swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, served on a hoagie for $9.50. Customers often comment they’ve never tasted pork so good. Carrie says it’s because their hogs are allowed to roam pastures during warm seasons and take shelter in comfortable hoop houses in the winter. No matter the weather, the hogs always have access to farm-raised grain, and in the summer they root for grasses and acorns in the farm’s woods. “If you like the Cubano, you’re going to like anything and everything on the menu because that sandwich signifies just about everything we’re trying to accomplish,” Carrie says.
Open Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and on Saturdays for breakfast from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Jordandal Cookhouse is a popular stop for locals and visitors alike. Carrie says she decided to open the restaurant directly across from Verona’s Holiday Inn Express when she realized the hotel didn’t feature a kitchen or restaurant. Today, the hotel is the restaurant’s biggest fan base, with customers from coast to coast talking up the Cookhouse on Yelp and Facebook. “We’ve been here more than three years, but still have new customers coming in every day,” Carrie says. “We’ve got visitors from Baltimore to Texas raving about our food online, but two blocks down the street, someone still may not know we exist, so we have a lot of room for growth.”
Last year, Carrie significantly grew the restaurant by expanding from a take-out counter to a full-fledged eatery with ample seating space. Last year, the restaurant also started offering Saturday breakfasts, which have become increasingly popular with both locals and out-of-town visitors.
Two stellar menu items anchor the Cookhouse’s breakfast menu. First, the deceptively simple Farm Fresh Breakfast Sandwich features two sage sausage patties, maple bourbon bacon jam, cheddar cheese, avocado, and a fried egg on a hoagie. All that, served with choice of potato, runs $9.50. The second item, an increasingly rare find in a region once full of small-town, home-cooking diners, is the Cookhouse’s Biscuits and Gravy. Made entirely from scratch, the dish features a mile-high, split house biscuit topped with sage sausage and pulled-pork gravy, served with two fried eggs for $7.50.
From PB&J Waffles to Breakfast Enchiladas to Loaded Breakfast Chili topped with a fried egg, avocado, red onion, bacon, and crema, the breakfast menu features something for everyone. The chili is served with cornbread for $7.50. Sides of smashed sweet potatoes and american fries with caramelized onions are also available, with all eggs sourced from Yuppie Hill Farms in Walworth County.
The dinner menu, available Tuesday through Friday after 4:00 p.m., proves to be an exercise in self-restraint as customers must choose from an array of comfort foods ranging from $11.00 to $13.50.
The Beef and Pork Meatloaf is a classic Cookhouse entrée served with house barbecue, garlic mashed potatoes, and roasted vegetables. Meanwhile, the Turkey and Waffles beckon with a two-piece turkey wing and drummie, Korean chili sauce, buttermilk waffle, maple syrup and butter, and sweet ginger slaw. Then there’s the Shepherd’s Pie, a hearty favorite, made with beef and pork, served with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, and buttered cornbread crumble.
Despite a menu extolling the much-deserved virtues of farm-raised beef, pork, and poultry, the restaurant also serves several vegetarian and gluten-friendly items. And of course, the Cookhouse wouldn’t be a true Wisconsin eatery if it didn’t serve a Friday fish dish. An entrée of baked, wild-caught cod, sourced from Bering Bounty in Verona, serviced with avocado citrus tartar, a jalapeño corn muffin, house coleslaw, and a baked potato runs $14.50. For the hungry, Carrie recommends upgrading the potato for just $1 to add bacon, caramelized onions, and cheddar cheese. Also available Fridays is the half rack of St. Louis-style pork ribs for $12.50, served with house barbecue, slow-simmered beans, a jalapeño corn muffin, and house coleslaw.
Going back to its roots, the Cookhouse serves its fair share of take-out dinners, and also offers catering for weddings, parties, and on-farm dinners. In addition, Jordandal offers frozen meat cuts and frozen entrées, and customers are welcome to purchase fresh-made pizzas, soups, pastas, meatballs, beef stroganoff, chicken liver pâté, and bolognese sauce to heat at home.
“Just like Grandma used to make” is one of Carrie’s most-used taglines, and anyone who has enjoyed her home-style cooking knows the saying is well-earned. “There’s nothing better than farm-fresh food,” she says.
Jeanne Carpenter is a cheese geek and food writer living in Oregon, Wisconsin.