Getting Cozy at Cozy Inn

Here in Dane County, we are lucky that there is always a restaurant to satisfy our cravings. It’s not a matter of if there’s a place with the food you’re craving, it’s a matter of which one to go to. Craving Mexican? There are a hundred options, how do we decide? Craving ramen? Which ramen place this time? Craving some authentic Chinese? Well now you can cut the “eenie, meenie, miny, mo” because the Norse Star staff members know the perfect spot for that: Cozy Inn in Janesville.

Since many default to the Madison area for those spontaneous dinners with friends or random lunch dates, Cozy Inn has stayed under the radar, or better said, under the county line.It’s only about a 30-minute drive south to downtown Janesville in Rock County, where hungry craving conquerors can find Cozy Inn nestled atop a steep flight of stairs at 214 W Milwaukee St.

The attending Norse Star staff members pose with their coveted leftover boxes post—meal for a photo taken by Cozy Inn’s kind, attentive wait staff. The circular booth seating adds to the “cozy” atmosphere as they keep the noise down and contained within groups.

The family-owned Chinese restaurant opened in 1922 and, according to their menu, is the oldest Chinese restaurant in the state of Wisconsin and the second oldest Chinese restaurant in the United States.
A steep stairway leads to a dimly lit space filled with authentic Chinese artwork. It decorates vases, tapestries, statues, even the light fixtures boast art and delicate gold metal working. The cherry wood lining the walls gives a sense of comfort and brings the space in. It does not feel cramped, just cozy.
Their extensive menu is organized based on the focal protein in the dish: chicken, pork, seafood, and beef. There are also sections for fried rice, chop suey, chow mein, soups, egg foo young, and other dishes. Most of the meals can be ordered two ways: à la carte or as a dinner. If you order the dinner, you get a steaming egg roll and hot egg drop soup prior to the main course.

A majority of the dinners range from about $16 to $18, with the a la carte options coming in at a few bucks less. This is a small price to pay for the large portions you receive, which are served hot in covered dishes on pedestals. When the dishes are served, they are set in front of you by friendly staff who briefly lift the lid to show you your plate.

photo by madison luick

Right as the hungry Norse Star staff reached the top of the stairs and stepped into the restaurant, they were greeted and promptly brought to a circular booth. So began the flipping of menus and the chorus of “oohs” and “ahhs” as the staff read through the plethora of selections available to them.

After some back and forth between this soup or that soup, that dinner or this one, the staff placed their orders. The Norse Star staff ordered meals that spanned the range of the menu, including Vegetable Chop Suey, Beef Subgum Chow Mein, and Orange Chicken among others. Two staff members ordered their dishes as dinners and received an egg roll and egg drop soup, which were given high praise by both.

photos by madison luick

“Fantastic” was only one of the many compliments the egg roll received. It was described as being, “sweet and savory at the same time. It had a brown-sugary taste that [I] absolutely loved. The vegetables were perfectly soft while the shell was very crunchy.”

The staff member who ordered the Vegetable Chop Suey appreciated that the menu had a variety of vegetarian options, and said that the price was fair because the portion sizes were large. The other staff members seemed to agree with this statement, each offering enthusiastic statements about not only the portion size, but also how “the leftovers were just as good.”

The food was complimented all around, with the staff member who ordered the Beef Subgum Chow Mein saying their dish was, “super rich, but in a way where you could keep eating it without it getting [to be] too much.”

In addition to the food, the Norse Star staff appreciated the promptness and kindness shown by the wait staff throughout the visit. It was evident that they care about their craft and the authenticity of the food they serve. They were attentive, answering the staff’s questions about the menu, offering refills, and ensuring any unused dishes were cleared away to make more room.

The warm, authentic food, excellent service, and vast set of options are worth the 30-minute drive south. For all these reasons and more, it is clear that Cozy Inn deserves five out of five egg-drop soups.
The alluring atmosphere, dim lighting, and unique decorations caught the attention of the attending Norse Star staff members who all agreed, nothing more was needed to be convinced that Cozy Inn is indeed a cozy inn.

art by miles heritsch