Critiques, Cravings and Conundrums From the Madison Food and Dining Scene
Dec 16, 2013
09:47 AM
Small Dishes

Madison's Best Restaurants

Madison's Best Restaurants

PHOTO BY DAN CURD

Too often I’m challenged to recall what I had for dinner the previous night. Yet, there are many memorable meals as well—some remembered for the wrong reason. I wish I could dissect what sets apart a great dining experience from a mediocre one, but sometimes it’s as much about smoke and mirrors as it is about substance. Any restaurant can disappoint, but some rarely do. Even if the food is a bit off on any given night, somehow the soul of the place is there to save the day.

Lists are outrageously popular today and I have to admit I’m inevitably attracted to them on Huffington Post. Ones like “The Nine Most Hated Halloween Candies” (only nine?), “The Best Donuts in America” (hoping Madison made the list and knowing it did not) and “The 10 Worst Breakfast Cereals of All Time” (I hate all cereal). These lists proliferate especially as the year draws to an end. As a matter of fair disclosure, I write for a magazine who each year assembles an iconic list, The Best of Madison. I rarely agree with the voters’ picks for best restaurants regardless of the categories.  My disagreement isn’t limited to this publication’s poll, either.  They all leave me crying, “You’ve got to be kidding!” I’m particularly dismayed by those “Best” banners that appear at the top of my computer screen when I do a Google search. This year, I thought I’d massage my own ego and put together my list of our town’s top dining establishments. Those that made the Top 10 List were as much about innovation and imagination as the quality of the food. I think they all would be standouts in most any town where they decided to set up shop, but fortunately they choose Madison.   

1. Forequarter

2. Heritage Tavern

3. L’Etoile

4. A Pig in a Fur Coat

5. Nostrano

6. Lombardino’s

7. Muramoto

8. Harvest

9. Tornado Steakhouse

10. Grampa’s Pizzeria

Honorable Mention

All of these places bring something to Madison’s table. Though they may not strive to be trendy, they are reliable choices for quality food and the overall dining experience—no small accomplishment.

Brasserie V

Capitol Chophouse

Graze

Sardine

Tempest Oyster Bar

The Old Fashioned

The Wonder Bar

Next: The Madison Restaurant Hall of Fame

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About This Blog

Dan CurdI found my interest in writing by accident. My training and first job was as a graphic designer. Unemployed, the only employment I could find in advertising at that time was as a copywriter. Somehow, I convinced Richard Newman & Associates to hire me. Later I learned they were desperate. Madison has been my home off and on since 1957 (nonstop for the past 31 years). I write about food, which I love. – Dan Curd

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