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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 33.0° F  Overcast
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2010 saw the dawn of a new dining era in Madison
City does not go on a diet
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Credit:Carolyn Fath

During the 2010 race for governor, Democrat Tom Barrett vowed to "put Madison on a diet" and Republican Scott Walker used a brown paper lunch sack to symbolize a state that needed to reduce spending (to a menu of bologna sandwiches, apparently).

Simultaneously, diners in the capital city were thrilling to a $19 burger at the new Graze, on the Square, which features a triumvirate of locally sourced fresh ground sirloin, ribeye and short rib meat. (File under: "Why they hate us.")

This year food lovers had their cake and ate it, too; a number of strong new restaurants opened on and around the Square. High-quality ingredients, casual but well-designed interiors and manageable portions were the order of the day.

But the Walker regime has already influenced our dining scene, even before its inauguration, as the loss of the high-speed rail project put an end to the projected Velo Bahn pub, across the street from what once was to be the train station.

What's next - artisanal bologna on organic spelt loaves?

Saviors

The reign of the Great Dane continued as it replaced the short-lived Jovian Taphaus in a restaurant space on Jupiter Drive in the Grandview Commons neighborhood, pioneering Madison dining east of I-39/90. This makes the fourth local Great Dane (with a fifth in Wausau).

Irish-inflected gastropub the Coopers Tavern seems to have redeemed the McDonald's space (briefly Sucre) on the Square. And Nostrano opened, bringing locally sourced, rustic, Italian-inspired food to the old (and radically remodeled) Peppino's space.

The eagerly awaited debut this fall of Underground Kitchen, from the DIY-butchering, local-everything Underground Food Collective, revamped the too-long-empty Cafe Montmartre space.

New in town

Fiesta 38 opened on South Park Street, serving South American street food; intimate tavern the Mason Lounge opened in the next block. Fuzzy's Tacos brought Tex-Mex to University Avenue. Victory Cafe opened on Atwood, as did Honey Bee Bakery. Taste of Tibet opened on State Street; the Taco Shop went into a space on University Avenue across from the Fluno Center; Merchant, a restaurant and craft cocktail bar, came to South Pinckney Street and Francesca's Al Lago to MLK Blvd. BrickHouse BBQ opened on Gorham.

Harold's Chicken Shack, a Chicago shrine, opened near Woodman's West. Full of Bull, Sub Hero and Capriotti's - two of 'em - opened. Faouzi's and Puerto Escondido opened on frontage roads off the West Beltline. Bella Vita Italian Grille, Bloom Bake Shop, Sprecher's Pub, Pollo Inka, Cilantro, Tai's Asian Bistro, Pho Nam Noodle House - all new in the far west side/Middleton area. Lee Asian Bistro opened on Monona Drive and Porktropolis in Sun Prairie.

Sort of new

Roman Candle expanded with a branch in Fitchburg, next to the new Atomic Koi Cocktail Lounge. La Mestiza opened a downtown branch on Main Street, and Los Gemelos opened a campus-area branch in the old D.P. Dough. Vintage opened its own brewpub, Vintage Brewing, on Whitney Way.

Transformations

El Pescador closed and became Bub's Burger Joint; Uno's Chicago Grill on Gorham became a Quaker Steak and Lube; the Local Tavern became King & Mane. Cafe Continental closed, and 43 North took its place.

King of Falafel became Asian One; House of Wisconsin Cheese closed, and Capital Tap Haus opened; Spice 'N Curry became Turmeric.

Vientiane Restaurant moved from Park Street to Sherman Avenue, while Orient House moved into the Park Street spot. Mexico Lindo opened in the long vacant Steak 'n Shake building at East Towne. Beef O'Brady's became Buck & Honey's.

Madison Sourdough moved to Willy Street. L'Etoile moved down the block from North to South Pinckney; its Cafe Soleil closed, replaced at the new location by the higher-concept Graze. That left space for the Old Fashioned to expand. Kitchen Hearth closed; its Main Street branch in the Tenney Building became a Cranberry Creek.

Jo's Tazzina became Eight Seasons Grill. Tex Tubb's-west upgraded its menu and became the Cadillac Ranch, then changed its name to Cactus Ranch to avoid trademark issues.

Ancora-Monroe Street closed and became another Gallup Coffeehouse. And the former Ancora-Fitchburg turned into a True Coffee, which later moved to Nesbit Road, while the original location became another EVP. Got that?

This is the end

The Blue Spoon Cafe closed, as did Signature Deli, Doug's Soul Food, D.P. Dough, the Russian restaurant Arbat, Bangkok Cuisine (in the Gateway Mall) and Charley's Grilled Subs on State Street.

Kickshaw was apparently not the restaurant to bring high-end dining to Fitchburg - it closed less than a year after it opened.

Restaurant Magnus' 2009 switch from South American to New Scandinavian cuisine didn't take off, and the restaurant will serve its last meal on New Year's Eve.

La Finca, a Mexican restaurant in the old Jimmy Frank's on the north side, opened and closed. Brothers Wok opened and closed, as did Porky Pine Pete's and Taco Heaven.

Pug Mahone's, Supreme Pizza, Madeleine's Patisserie, BD's Mongolian Grill and Applebee's-Middleton also closed their doors.

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