FUN & CASUAL
The Old Fashioned – we love this place. It looks to be a former drug store/soda fountain establishment and has a great menu with lots of Wisconsin foods, including the best cheese curds I have personally ever had. Also, great cheese trays and the prices are amazingly low for the quality and quantity provided.
Graze – This is a sister restaurant to the popular L’Etoile, with a similar menu, but at half the price and they don’t take reservations so be prepared for a wait no matter what time you go. Eclectic menu, great dishes for sharing, and the chefs really love matching color, texture, and taste to their dishes.
Sardine – the next on our list to visit because everyone who has stayed here that has visited has raved about it. Also an eclectic menu, a little pricey, noisy, but on the water and they are known for their creative menu, great food and service.
Cento – A hot spot downtown for Italian and variety cuisine, especially before and after the theatre which is across the street. Good food, but noisy due to the open atmosphere and all the metal and glass architecture.
The Great Dane & The Nitty Gritty – both hot spots with the university students and returning graduates that are visiting. Both are pubs/brewing companies known for their good old fashioned Wisconsin fare including burgers, salads, sandwiches and other filling foods – and oh yes, beer.
Buck and Honey’s – Locations in Sun Prairie, Waunakee, and in Monona. Each has its own design – Sun Prairie is more lodge-like with dark woods and Monona is more contemporary. Both have great menu’s and feature some wonderfully unique and delicious dishes – the bacon wrapped Cream cheese stuffed dates are our favorite! They have won many awards and have delighted our guests.
Erin’s Snug Irish Pub – Only a couple miles from us and an excellent choice, whether it’s Friday Fish Night or any other night. Great menu, great food and friendly service. Outdoor seating in warmer months, and the interior is exactly what you’d expect for a great little Irish pub.
GREAT FOR ANNIVERSARIES
L’Etoile – Beautiful glass encased surroundings overlooking the Capital. Pricey, but worth every penny. Many extra little touches, a special tiny course surprise if you let them know it’s your anniversary.
Eno Vino Wine Bar & Bistro – Overlooking the City, Capital, and Lake Mendota on the top floor of the AC Marriott Hotel downtown. Tapas (small plates) and wines with an amazing view.
Red – Which stands for (R)efreshing (E)legant (D)elicious, is offers a contemporary take on sushi and modern cuisine with creative recipes that go beyond Japanese tradition. They are known for the best sushi in Madison.
Rare Steakhouse – Known for excellent steak and wine bar. Located on Capital Square, great food and ambiance for a special occasion.
Heritage Tavern – Well known for its small plates and charcuterie, but also for its farm to table menu. Right off Capital Square.
Harvey House – Hidden behind Madison’s Historic Train Depot, The Harvey House is a Wisconsin true iconic supper club. Incredibly re-designed interiors and the menu features Midwestern cuisine with a twist – including all the wonderful foods that come from Wisconsin.
Ishnala – Located on Lake Delton (about 40 minutes from Madison), by far my favorite restaurant EVER. Beautiful lodge, owned by the Hoffman Brothers and known for their fabulous meats and iconic supper club experience, it’s worth the drive and every penny spent. But they don’t take reservations so get there early or plan to wait. But even if you have to wait, there’s music and a wonderful variety of supper club cocktails to enjoy as you meander or sit and enjoy the views.
WATERFRONT DINING – PATIOS & PIERS
Pier Side Service: Recent renovations at The Edgewater hotel brought a bigger pier with 40 slips and pier attendants so Lake Mendota boaters can tie up worry-free while enjoying its eateries. The Boathouse is located at lake level, and features fish fry, burgers, brats and a selection of craft brews. Or, get grab-and-go pizza and snacks at The Icehouse, located at the base of The Plaza.
Meanwhile, on Lake Monona: Paisan’s Restaurant has been a favorite for Italian since the ‘50s, but it’s only in more recent years that this family-friendly spot added a lake view to its menu. Classic, red-and-white-checked cloths cover the tables dotting the patio, and set the scene for a refreshing Porta Salad, authentic pizzas and pasta dishes.
Seafood by the Lakeshore: It’s no secret that Sardine is known for its oyster happy hour, which takes place every day from 4-6 p.m. But its bistro-style dining also features French and American fare for dinner—and brunch on both Saturday and Sunday. All with a stunning view, too!
IN & ON THE LAKE
On the Marina: The Mariner’s Inn was the von Rutenberg family’s first restaurant and is almost as famous for its steaks and seafood as it is for its spot in the marina on the north end of Lake Mendota. You won’t want to miss the sunset view from the patio—or the authentic antiques inside that create this restaurant’s renowned ambience.
Mom-Approved: Most people have probably perched on the porch at the Nau-ti-Gal, nestled along the Yahara River at the north end of Lake Mendota. This casual dining spot serves lunch, dinner and snacks, but may be most famous for its Mother’s Day brunch and bottomless mimosas.
Aye, Aye: Captain Bill’s, located on Lake Mendota, gets two nods from those in-the-know: this place does both seafood and setting well. Appetizer and entrée menus feature everything from crab cakes to lobster, and on chilly nights a giant round fireplace awaits—a great gathering spot for a group of friends.
All Aboard: From April through October, the family even offers the chance to dine aboard the Betty Lou, a chartered cruise around Lake Mendota or Monona that comes complete with a captain, bar and buffet service—all you have to do is enjoy!
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT FLAVOR
Top of the Terrace: If you’re a Frank Lloyd Wright fan, you’ll love the Lake Vista Café at Monona Terrace. Some say it’s a hidden gem but being located atop an architectural masterpiece makes it one of Madison’s most visible—and visited—dining destinations.
Comforts of Home: Just 20 miles west in nearby Spring Green—home to Taliesin, Wright’s residence, studio, theater and farm—is the Riverview Spring Green Restaurant at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center. This inviting restaurant features windows that span the entire length of the building, giving guests an unforgettable view overlooking the scenic Wisconsin River.
Enjoy a casual meal and drinks on the water at Fitz’s on the Lake. Just 20 minutes away in Lodi and located on the water, they offer indoor and outdoor dining. Outdoor dining is fun and relaxing, as you watch boaters come and go at the dock. They specialize in fish fry, so Fridays are really busy, but they offer burgers, sandwiches, salads, and pasta. They have nightly happy hour specials and also offer Sunday breakfast buffet and Sunday dinners. They’re also close to the Merrimac Ferry so it’s fun to hop on the ferry and get an ice cream – there’s an ice cream shop on both sides, and then take a scenic drive back another way.
WISCONSIN DELLS – MIRROR LAKE, LAKE DELTON
Ishnala – (608) 253-1771 S2011 Ishnala Rd., Lake Delton, 53940. Located on Lake Delton (about 40 minutes from Madison), by far my favorite restaurant EVER. Beautiful lodge, owned by the Hoffman Brothers and known for their fabulous meats and iconic supper club experience, it’s worth the drive and every penny spent. But they don’t take reservations so get there early or plan to wait. But even if you have to wait, there’s music and a wonderful variety of supper club cocktails to enjoy as you meander or sit and enjoy the views.