You'll tend to find a) no one, b) one other dining party, or c) some conventioneers breaking out from their breakout groups chatting (but not ordering anything) at the Grandview Cafe in Monona Terrace.
Despite the online promo from Monona Terrace that its Grandview Cafe serves "pastries, sandwiches and desserts," there's not a sandwich on the menu. That thumbnail description makes the Grandview sound like two dozen other coffee shops around town that carry a few sandwiches.
But this ten-table corner within the lakeside community and convention center features a more interesting, even somewhat striving, menu. The Grandview -- which does deliver on its grand view, overlooking Lake Monona -- serves six entrees. They are....
A couple of small pizzas; it's your choice of caramelized onions, mushrooms, herbed mascarpone and bacon; or white cheddar, roasted garlic, pine nuts and tomato ($7). The wait for a pizza is approximately 15 minutes, the lone counter-person/server informed me: "I say that because not everyone has that kind of time." It does take about 15 minutes for the six-inch pizza to come out of the oven. The mushroom, mascarpone and bacon is crispy and a little greasy, as you might expect.
It's pretty tasty in the way of a cocktail party appetizer, but overall, none of the elements stand out. The mascarpone is lost, and only one bite of the caramelized onions comes through with any caramelized onion taste. And it's a little pricey for lunch without some kind of side salad, the addition of which would balance the pizza nutritionally, too.
The Orchard Salad ($6.50; with chicken, $8) is more successful: a generous selection of baby greens, quite fresh, with apples, gorgonzola, and walnuts, with a cup of sweet/tart fig/grape seed vinaigrette on the side. The apples and the gorgonzola gave the greens some punch but it might be worthwhile to order the chicken to give the entree more staying power.
Also on the menu: mussels baked with butter, spinach, bacon and parmesan cheese ($7), a chorizo pastry puff served with salsa ($7) and mushrooms stuffed with pork and beef Italian sausage ($6). All this makes for an odd menu, and makes me wonder if the Grandview Cafe wouldn't be more successful if it did move to sandwiches, soups, and wraps.
The cafe does not attract a large crowd, but then, it's not really set up to. You'll tend to find a) no one, b) one other dining party, or c) some conventioneers breaking out from their breakout groups chatting (but not ordering anything). Convention-goers tend to have their lunches catered (in fact the large lakeside room was set up for a private group getting some sort of wrap, which looked tempting).
You can't beat the view, but it's hard to imagine Madison downtownies coming back for the pizza or even the salad. And mussels? Not really a prime item for lunch. Considering the prices at Grandview, you'd be getting a better deal by heading down Wilson Street to Osteria Papavero, where you can get a small fresh real Italian pizza and your choice of side salad or soup for $7.
The cafe also features a chocolate-coffee pudding ($3) for dessert, plus a few cookies and pastries wrapped in cellophane, which, how can I say -- does not really add to their allure.