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Madison, WI dining


Elizabeth Ann
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Unexpectedly in Madison for a few days, I turned to eGullet to look for dining recommendations. This thread was buried pretty deep but eventually I found it and consequently last night I dined at L'Etoile. The service was excellent and dishes ranged from good (wild striped bass entree) to excellent (beef carpaccio). I'll definitely go back next time I'm in the area.

Total bill for one including three glasses of wine and a decent tip was around $100.

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Willie, what did you have?

I've been frequenting the Thai-Vietnamese place next to Bandung. I'm originally from Falls Church VA and accustomed to fabulous Vietnamese food, so this stuff isn't perfect, but it certainly does the trick when I'm craving a bowl of pho and spring rolls/rice noodle.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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  • 3 weeks later...

As sara's fiance, I feel like we're taking over this thread, but nonetheless... :raz:

Muramoto at 106 King Street, just off Capitol Square, in Madison has become a favorite of ours. I guess it's best described as Asian fusion, but I think that term turns some people off. Trust us--this place is good. Maybe not worth driving from Chicago for, but perhaps from Milwaukee! :laugh:

Our meal there on Friday night may have been our best so far. Sara had her customary oyster shot. We then shared the miso black cod (outstanding, but perhaps a touch oily), the curry oyster (3 oysters, fantastic!), the duck/mango/avocado roll (yummy-it works), and the spicy tuna roll.

Muramoto just updated their wines-by-the-glass list and have added some nice new offerings. I had a glass of the Edmeades Zinfandel and sara had a glass of the Westry Pinot Gris.

Other Madison eateries I've enjoyed and which are worth going back to include Takara (sushi), Dotty's (burgers), Bandung (Indonesian), Mekong (Thai/Vietnamese), and Sophia's Bakery & Cafe (amazing breakfast).

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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Where is Sophia's Bakery and Cafe?

831 E. Johnson St. It's a tiny place, and it's only open for breakfast/brunch on weekends--and on the occasional Wednesday evening for dinner, I understand. I've only been for breakfast--they serve up amazing omelettes and buckwheat pancakes. I've never tried their pastries which are also supposed to be very good.

Here's another egullet blurb on Sophia's: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...2729entry762729

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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Where is Sophia's Bakery and Cafe?

831 E. Johnson St. It's a tiny place, and it's only open for breakfast/brunch on weekends--and on the occasional Wednesday evening for dinner, I understand. I've only been for breakfast--they serve up amazing omelettes and buckwheat pancakes. I've never tried their pastries which are also supposed to be very good.

Here's another egullet blurb on Sophia's: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...2729entry762729

Had a DELICIOUS "farmer's breakfast" at Sophia's early this afternoon: scrambled eggs, potatoes, apples, onions, cheddar cheese, and spicy sausage. Yum. Sara and I also picked up an almond croissant and brioche that we'll sample for breakfast tomorrow morning! :biggrin:

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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  • 1 month later...
Absolutely agree that L'Etoile is a great place for convincing someone to move to Madison. 
Anyone been to L'Etoile lately? Looks like I'll be taking a client here in the next month.
"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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  • 1 month later...

Odessa Piper has sold L'Etoile to her chef de cuisine, Tory Miller, and his sister. Read more in this Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story or on L'Etoile's web site. Piper was honored by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef/Midwest in 2001 and was a 2004 nominee for outstanding chef.

An added note: L'Etoile's downstairs cafe is definitely worth checking out for pastries, Ancora coffee, coffee/espresso drinks made with homemade syrups, and lunch (hearty sandwiches and soups). The egg salad sandwich is terrific. The cafe is open Tuesday-Saturday until 1:30 pm.

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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  • 2 weeks later...

Report of a new wine bar & speciality food shop that just opened in downtown Madison...

It's called C'est le Vin, located just off the Capitol Square on the ground floor of the Capitol Point condominiums, on East Mifflin Street.

A 3/30 Capital Times story described it as a "small 750-square-foot space, which also serves as an espresso bar during the day and elegant cocktail lounge at night....The shop features an extensive beer selection, open cheese counter with local and imported artisanal cheeses, and sleekly designed kitchen products, including bamboo cutting boards, stainless steel wine holders and bottle stops. The cafe serves a signature coffee blend roasted locally by Etes-Vous Prets that combines light, medium and dark roasts, and baked goods by pastry chef extraordinaire Sophia Barabas, who owns Sophia's Bakery and Cafe on East Johnson Street. Select wines, sometimes featured by region, can be ordered by the glass or customers can enjoy a bottle off the shelf by paying an $8 "corkage" fee."

When I visit, I'll report back. The ice has thawed, where are all the Madisonians on eGullet? :unsure:

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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  • 2 weeks later...

In Madison for a conference and a daughter's college-decision tour.

I only have Sunday free. Is any Farmer's Mkt. open that day? Any other stores with a good selection of Wisconsin artisanal cheeses that would be open Sunday? That would respond to the terroir needs of this trip.

Sophia's seems a good choice for Sunday brunch-breakfast, assuming it is open then. Any other options for Sunday, brunch and/or dinner?

I would have liked to try L'Etoile Cafe, but they are open only when I am NOT free. And the restaurant would be too expensive and slow for that college kid- oriented part of the visit. Kabul might make more sense for a Saturday night dinner.

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besides l'etoile, our favorite madison restaurant is lombardino's.  patrick o'halloran has done amazing things with an old spaghetti house.  the menu changes every two months.

http://www.lombardinos.com/

Strangely, I was just reminiscing about Lombardino's the other night and wondering if it was still open.

I used to go there when I was a kid.

That is so cool that they have restored it! I'm definitely going to have to try it the next time I am back in town. Did they keep the stuffed dog by the door, the replica of the Trevi Fountain and the wishing well in the middle of the dining room? It was such a magical place to me when I was a child.

I grew up nearby, went to school and worked in Madison for years (Pasqual's, Botticelli's, etc.) before moving to San Francisco. Sadly, my restaurant info is now about 15 years out of date, though it is nice to see some names I recognize.

Erik

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Hi

A few new finds to add to the list of good cheap eats--

1. Taqueria Marimar-- Beltline to Fish Hatchery, take a left, then another left on Greenway Cross and it's in a small shopping center on the right. Very authentic. We did takeout--4 tacos, sides of guac & refried beans, an outstanding ceviche tostada, chips & salsa, a slice of flan and a slice of excellent tres leches cake--all for only $20!

2. El Pastor-- on Park St. Also very good mex; cheap huge margaritas for $5.50, tho the lime is a mix. Had a wonderful spicy shrimp dish and tacos, and will be back. The salsa is superior at Marimar however.

3. Saigon Noodles on Odana Rd. Vietnamese here is better than at Mekong.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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For anyone wondering ... Madison is good for exotic food, but surprisingly I have yet to find a good sushi joint. I've eaten at 3 or 4 places all along State and it's side streets and none of them have impressed me. Most of the restaurants think they are a lot better than they really are, and unfortunately are priced like it.

So, am I missing something?

Btw, thanks for the heads-up on the Mexican places. We'll check those out in the coming weeks; always looking for good, cheap Mexican (besides Taco Bell of course :cool: )

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Hi

We've tried all the sushi in Madison, and by far the best is Ginza of Tokyo (the downtown location). Not everything is perfect, but if you get the chef's assortment of sashimi, the tuna tataki, some pieces, a cancun roll, it's a very nice meal. Much better than Takara, etc.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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Enjoyed Sophia's. Good artisanal baking. Filling-filled omelettes. Real whipped cream on the well-made waffles, though as a New Englander I would have liked real maple syrup as well.

Kabul gets a down thumb. The appetizers were all right, but the main courses were disappointing. An Afghan restaurant should prepare good rice. No such luck.

Tried C'est le vin near the capitol. They have a wonderful selection and a lot of cheap choices, but their wines by the glass were very limited. Only six. Last week they were all Spanish, but not a roija amongst the choice. How can you offer Spanish wine without including the star of the litter? The seating was chic but sparse and uncomfortable.

On the other hand I did buy two of their Wisconsin cheeses, which I am still enjoying at home. The first was a very creamy aged cheddar. I could do without the food coloring, but the taste was good. The other was a Wisconsin vache, called Prairie Ridge or Prairie Run. It was expensive at $20 a pound, but tasty and complex.

Added: Tasted the Bascom ice cream at the Student Union. Ugh! Sorbitol Sorbet. The stuff tasted ersatz. Never again. Why couldn't they use some of that good whipped cream from Sophia's?

Edited by VivreManger (log)
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  • 3 months later...

Resuscitating this thread...

Having lived in Madison for a good three seasons now, here are some brief musings about what's good around town in addition to some of the aforementioned restaurants:

Eldorado Grill - Slamming margaritas. Fantastic grilled meats. Top notch. On Williamson St., next to Ground Zero coffee.

Eno Vino - Wine-focused bistro in Middleton featuring small plates will transport you out of the Midwest for a spell.

China Palace - New chef has created an excellent, authentic Szechuan menu in a somewhat overadorned restaurant in a mall on N. Sherman. Spicy, wonderful.

El Pastor - Traditional soft tacos, tamales and the like are quite good. Very inexpensive, affordable Mexican food. On S. Park.

Roman Candle - Making pizza like no other in Madison. The Roman Candle - featuring spicy banana peppers - is a winner! Williamson St.

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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  • 1 month later...

I agree on Eno Vino. Really good, inventive, fresh food.

Monty's Blue Plate Diner: Not worth the rude service. After being called to the counter to be seated, we were abandoned and ignored for two minutes, and then told "sit over there" with a vague hand-wave. On another visit, the manager actually rolled his eyes at my friend when she asked how much longer our table was going to be. We had been waiting for an hour- it was not an unreasonable question.

Casbah is good- the m'hamra (roasted red pepper and walnut spread, with pita), was amaazing. Food's a bit overpriced and our server was horrible but the manager was quite apologetic for the bad service and even went so far as to learn the names of everyone in our party! I'll definitely go back.

Bluephie's has good brunch and they are very accomodating to special requests.

Natt Spil: Middle Eastern Snack Plate. Just do it. You won't regret it. Just don't tell anyone about it- it's a very well-kept secret. :biggrin:

Dying to try Roman Candle.

"It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you."

-Nigel Slater

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Has anyone mentioned Real Chili? Place would be my go to during those Wisco Winters... Brrrr.

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Chili is made by the owner who drives from his original restaurant 2 hours just to make it himself..

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And they got taters....

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