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What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Where are you eating and what do you think? What's opening, closing, succeeding, failing?

Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby madgirl » Sat Nov 22, 2008 3:44 pm

Best: Magnus, altho I sorely miss La Paella.
Worst: Smokey's, Club Tavern (breakfast).
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby David Blaska » Sat Nov 22, 2008 4:57 pm

You've got to try Arbat off Cahill Main and Fish Hatchery in Fitchburg. Russian food! Great sole slaw, really a cabbage salad. Beef stroganoff, of course. All kinds of cabbage-wrapped foods and groats (buckwheat) if you want relief from mashed potatoes. Tremendous Russian and Ukrainian bottled beers. Not open Sundays or Mondays.

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in "new Middleton" off hwy 12 is actually a good value -- not cheap but you get your share of food. Steak is amazing. Busier than hell the Saturday night we visited. Just tell the very professional waitress not to pour your wine for you. That is a common scam at most high-end restaurants, unfortunately. It is their profit margin, probably.

The Sardine on Willy Street at Machinery Row is very good. Love the room. Great bar.

Great Mexican Take-out at Laredo's on S. Whitney Way.

Great Italian lunch at the venerable Gino's on State Street.

Day in and day out, the prices and the food can't be beat at the Copper Top, run by two Kosovo/Albanian cousins, on S. Whitney Way. Fish Fry Friday night is great but be prepared to wait. Sunday lunch (dinner) also packed. For good reason.
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby ShaneDog » Sat Nov 22, 2008 5:22 pm

eatingaround wrote:
narcoleptish wrote: We ate at Sardine last night and it was excellent... But being asked to pick up and move inside after 10:00 was absolute crap... I assume this is some rule the city has created to protect the residents next door from the loud obnoxious sounds of people eating oysters.

In fact, it is a self imposed rule, negotiated by the city on behalf of the residents of the Fauerbach. It used to be earlier, they used to make you go in by 9pm, if memory serves. But because the oyster eaters have been well behaved, they are allowed out later.

The early patio close was the only way that Sardine was able to procure the patio in the first place. The Fauerbach is very powerful and was reluctant to see the patio go up at all.

I realize this is old but I just read it today. That is completely ridiculous. What a bunch of killjoys. When you live in a city, you pretty much have to be ok with the sound of people talking outside, and road traffic and whatever no matter what time it is. I'm going to make a point of walking by there as much as I can next summer after bar time.
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby RottoReago » Wed Nov 26, 2008 12:48 pm

Best: Lombardino’s braised shortrib. Is there anything closer to culinary heaven that a beautifully braised piece of meat? And this tops meals at L’Etoile, Harvest and Sardine (and only due to this diner’s taste preference.)
Worst: I could say a meal at the pre-O'Hallorans Lombardino’s. Shortly after moving to Madison, I had a warmed over plate of lasagna still cold in the middle. But the winner in the worst meal has to be a lunch at the late Cleveland Diner. They put the grease in greasy spoons.
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby david cohen » Sat Dec 20, 2008 2:21 am

I've had some good meals at LeChardonay recently...plus their all you can eat Moules & Frites is awesome...good wine lst...now I just have to find time for their "make your own" Pailla night! Duck Confite, mmmmm
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby towanda » Wed Dec 24, 2008 2:11 am

*Edited because I accidentally clicked the Submit button before I was done writing this post*

Following some recommendations found on this forum, I went to the Village Green recently.

The place smelled like an ashtray and the interior looked like a cross between a pole barn and a 1970s mobile home. So I thought that the Forons wouldn't steer me wrong, and that a place with such lousy atmosphere would turn out to be one of those diamonds in the rough with excellent food.

We were seated very near an enormous table full of small, noisy children whose adults, seated at a slightly less enormous table nearby, didn't seem terribly interested in controlling their brood.

The service was bad. Really bad. Ed Debevic's-worthy bad, except that the Village Green isn't Ed Debevic's and the VG waitrons weren't nearly as charming. The same waitron never visited our table twice and we waited a long time for our food. We ordered veggie burgers and split an order of sweet potato fries.

The food was very disappointing. The veggie burgers were just microwaved Gardenburgers. For the price that Village Green asked, the portion of sweet potato fries was very skimpy. The fries were overcooked and the seasoning on them was WAY too salty.

After we were done eating, we sat at the table for forty minutes trying to flag down anybody who looked like they could bring us the check. It finally arrived, and after recovering from the sticker shock for our overpriced and completely unsatisfactory meal, we paid and left. We won't be back and I'm not going to recommend the place to anyone.
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby ShaneDog » Wed Dec 24, 2008 8:07 am

Veggie burgers????? At the Village Green? Ok, I guess.
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby buckyor » Thu Dec 25, 2008 5:05 pm

Sorry, but Veggie Burgers at the Village Green = FAIL. Though I've seen 'em made, and I know they are not nuked.

I don't know about overpriced, but I suppose if you were looking for a $1 burger, I can imagine why you were disappointed.
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby lolagirl » Fri Dec 26, 2008 8:00 am

Personally, I love the Village Green - but Towanda does raise an interesting point. It just isn't valid to rate a restaurant on their "afterthought" menu item. The Village Green is known for burgers and other meat-eater pub fare. It's like going to a steak house and dissing them because they don't do a good job on the vegetarian menu item.
On the other hand, if an item is added to the menu, it' s up the kitchen to make sure it's up to the same standards as everything else. Better not to have the veggie burgers on the menu if they aren't going to be done properly.
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby christopher_robin » Fri Dec 26, 2008 9:38 am

Even in the world's finest restaurants, some damned fools are going to order the chicken.

It's up to the chef to ensure that those fools get the best chicken of their lives.
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby Kovalic » Sun Dec 28, 2008 12:36 am

Gotta agree with David on Arbat. The Holupki (spelled "golubtki" there, or something similar - the Russian and the Czech differ) are even better than my grandmother made...buttery and lucious. My wife loves the pelmeni and the piroghi. We try to get back often. It may not be the "best" meal we've had in Madison, but often, it's one of the most fun. And the Baltika porter is an outstanding beer!

I don't think I could ever pick just one "best meal" in the 20+ years I've been in Madison.

A Few "Best" meals (for differing reasons) - L'Etoile, which I believe has become even more consistent under Chef Tory; Sardine; China Palace (for some eye-opening authentic dishes); Cafe Porta Alba; Lombardino's; Osteria Papavero; LuLus; Hong Kong Cafe (amazing Pepper Shrimp, but ordering off-menu is often the best); Wah Kee Noodles; Wasabi; Muramoto.

A Few "Disappointing" meals - Magnus (even disregarding the soup accidentally spilled down my back by a waiter); Cocoliquot (solid bar, very good chocolates, though); Harvest (it was a good meal, but not great - just not up to the standards I was expecting. Though I've heard superb things recently, and haven't been back in a few years); the Blue marlin (on a night on which virtually very fish was, apparently, off the menu, but we weren't told until we were ordering); And I'm still not a great fan of many of the Food Fight restaurants (though Hubbard Avenue is fun and satisfying, for the most art I find them overrated, considering others' opinions). YMMV on all these, of course.

Nicest recent surprise - the (to this non-Philadelphian) authentic Cheesesteaks at Big Red's Steaks.

Dave - drop me an e-mail next time you're going to Arbat. It's in my neighborhood. Haven't seen you since I was covering Sun Prairie for you at the Cap Times...um...decades ago. I'll buy you some vodka. ;-)
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby wallrock » Mon Dec 29, 2008 12:57 pm

Kovalic wrote:The Holupki (spelled "golubtki" there, or something similar - the Russian and the Czech differ) are even better than my grandmother made...buttery and lucious.

I never had this prior to going to Arbat, but the stuffed cabbage is now one of my favorite meals. Add a Baltika or a Svyturys and you've got yourself a good time!
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby eriedasch » Mon Dec 29, 2008 4:29 pm

towanda wrote:After we were done eating, we sat at the table for forty minutes trying to flag down anybody who looked like they could bring us the check. It finally arrived, and after recovering from the sticker shock for our overpriced and completely unsatisfactory meal, we paid and left. We won't be back and I'm not going to recommend the place to anyone.

I bet you were waited on by the owner's wife. She should really consider retirement. Kind of a sad situation with that place because I would have defended them for their road kill burrito alone a few years back overlooking crappy service, but saw firsthand what a good friend went thru as a waiter and have watched the place go downhill the past few years. They still serve a pretty mean burger at a decent price and I still go in occasionally for the roadkill, but the place is not what it once was. I've never heard anything good about the veggie burgers.

Although I have to laugh at anyone calling the Village Green a "dining experience" even when on top of their game.
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby wallrock » Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:08 pm

I've had similar experiences with the Village Green and I don't particularly like the place. Conversely, my friend adores the place and used to always come up with excuses on why the service was so slow or why the staff were surly, usually hinging on it being my fault somehow. The last time I was there I ordered the reuben and received the split-brat version. Honest mistake, but when I brought this to the waitress' attention she insisted that I had in fact received what I ordered. I haven't been back since. The food was OK but not worth the money or the hassle, especially since there's quite a few other places in town.
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Re: What is your best dining experience in Madison? Worst?

Postby green union terrace chair » Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:38 pm

wallrock wrote:I've had similar experiences with the Village Green and I don't particularly like the place. Conversely, my friend adores the place and used to always come up with excuses on why the service was so slow or why the staff were surly, usually hinging on it being my fault somehow. The last time I was there I ordered the reuben and received the split-brat version. Honest mistake, but when I brought this to the waitress' attention she insisted that I had in fact received what I ordered. I haven't been back since. The food was OK but not worth the money or the hassle, especially since there's quite a few other places in town.


I love the Village Green, but it is what it is. And I'd argue that it's far more representative of a Wisconsin tavern than the Old Fashioned could ever claim to be. I foolishly ordered the "Crab Gumbo" there once and got a cup of broth with rice and very obvious Alaskan whitefish.

Best experience: Orpheum catered events (I've been to weddings and other private parties there). Amazing buffet.

Worst experience: Orpheum Lobby. Had a meal where EVERYTHING was undercooked. Had to send the blue gill back for another swim in the deep fry because I didn't order sushi.
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