Surrounded by farms, dairies, cheese makers, wineries, microbreweries and distilleries, Madison is becoming a great restaurant destination with outstanding dining options featuring local farmers and producers. Our top finds include:
L’Etoile Restaurant: At 1 South Pinckney St., across from the State Capitol. This is a fine dining restaurant located in a stunning, contemporary space. The food and service are outstanding. I loved my Halibut entree, salad plus acorn squash creme brulee. The restaurant was started in 1976 and is today owned by Chef Tory MIller. Miller received the James Beard Award in 2012 for Best Chef Midwest.
They also have the hip Graze next door for more casual dining. They are open for lunch, dinner and brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Cento: At 122 Mifflin St., this is a popular spot for Italian specialties. I had a wonderful meal with friends. I chose a pumpkin filled ravioli with two great sides, an asparagus with with pesto and roasted carrots drizzled with a yogurt sauce.
Colectivo Coffee: This Milwaukee based coffee roaster has three locations in Madison. I tried two. The location at 583 State St. was close to my hotel and the other on The Square at 25 S. Pinckney St. is another great option. Both offer food items in addition to excellent coffee drinks.
Red Elephant Chocolate: Located just off The Square at 119 State St. this is a fun store and cafe serving handcrafted chocolates, desserts and ice creams plus beverages. I enjoyed the brewed cocoa bean tea for a needed pick-me-up.
Other dining options in town include Marigold Kitchen for breakfast and brunch, Sardine for brunch, the Tornado Club Steak House for an authentic supper club experience and Tempest Oyster Bar for seafood. My local friends also love Tempest. Smoky’s Club is a supper club dating from 1953. It is located at 3005 University Ave. For another supper club experience you might you enjoy Kavanaugh’s Esquire Club since 1947 at 1025 N. Sherman Ave. They offer a Friday night fish fry,
Heritage Tavern: I enjoyed brunch on Saturday at Heritage Tavern. It is a fun casual spot a block off the Square. I thought the lobster scramble was very good. I would recommend it on your trip. The dinner menu features small plates, large plates and family style options. 131 E. Mifflin.
Local friends recommend Brasserie V for its French and Belgian-inspired menu including beers and wines 12 1923 Monroe St., La Brioche True Food at 2862 University Ave., A Pig in a Fur Coat at 940 Williamson St. and Merchant is an Industrial-chic gastropub and liquor store serving farm-to-table fare and craft cocktails. They also feature live music and DJs.
Mickey’s Tavern is a bar and restaurant located in an historic building from 1902. 1524 Wiliamson St. Located at 315 W. Washington Ave. RED is a popular sushi bar in the heart of downtown at 316 W. Washington. For good burgers, Dotty’s Dumpling’s Dowry gets good press. Mint Mark gets good reviews or its homemade biscuits, local cheese selections and a popular weekend brunch. It is a small bar and restaurant offering cocktails and small plates.
Other suggestions include The Old Fashioned at 23 N. Pinckney St. and Harvest at 21 N. Pinckney St. featuring a modern interpretation of Italian, American and French cuisines; both are popular.
Candinas Chocolatier: At 11 West Main, across from the Capitol, this is a small chocolate shop featuring their exquisite chocolates truffles made in Verona, WI.
Fromagination is an outstanding cheese chop at 12 S. Carroll St., across from the Capitol. They have a huge selection of sheep’s milk, cow’s milk, goat’s milk and mixed milk cheeses. They feature Wisconsin cheeses as well as organic, artisan and specialty cheeses. I loved that they also features, crackers, chocolates, beer and wines. I highly recommend the merlot cheese, a hard cheese soaked in merlot.
Colectivo Coffee State St.