Seek Real Recommendations

Resident foodies dish on their favorite dining experiences

Sep 20, 2012

A restaurant recommendation is a risky request; it can either satisfy the most demanding cravings or go terribly awry or. Foodie Tyler Cowen’s advice? “Start by finding people who themselves love good food and take pride in it … If you ask people for a food tip, and their eyes don’t light up with excitement, ignore them,” says Cowen, author of “Six Rules for Dining Out,” published in The Atlantic Monthly.

To test this theory, I posed a nearly impossible question to Madison Magazine’s three resident foodies: If a guest were in town for one night and could have only one dining experience, what is the most passionate recommendation you’d give them and why?

Neil Heinen

Editorial director and co-author of the monthly food and culture column Genuine Articles

Recommendation: Osteria Papavero

Reasoning: “One night, one dining experience … Sardine is more Madison … but the Osteria is the best meal in town. I like the blend of local sourcing and authentic recipes. If the ingredient can’t be gotten locally and is needed to preserve the authenticity of the dish then that trumps local. But [chef Francesco Mangano] has a wonderfully deft hand in the kitchen. His pastas in particular are beautifully made and served in the genuine Italian tradition … lightly sauced, fresh ingredients, true flavors.”

Menu picks: The house-made salumi misti, budino di caramello butterscotch pudding and panna cotta al caffé

Osteria Papavero, 128 E. Wilson St., 255-8376,

Dan Curd

Food columnist and Small Dishes blogger

Recommendation: The Old Fashioned

Reasoning and menu picks: “One answer would not fit all, but assuming that he or she had never been to Wisconsin before, I would choose The Old Fashioned for cheese curds, a Lazy Susan and fried walleye with local microbrews.”

The Old Fashioned, 23 N. Pinckney St., 310-4545,

Otehlia Cassidy

Author of the Dining In column and Local Flavor blog

Recommendation: Alchemy Café

Reasoning: “It is a busy place, but really reflects the flavors of Wisconsin with a seasonal menu, great pub fare, housemade sauces and locally made delicious desserts. Stop in early if you prefer quiet dining, or head over for a late dinner and the free nightly music.”

Menu picks: Locally made desserts by Liz Chapa, the tap beer selection and the Nessalla kombucha, a fermented tea

Alchemy Cafe, 1980 Atwood Ave., 204-7644,


Next rule: Have No Reservations about Reservations

Back to Six Secrets to Dining Out in Madison

Brianna Wilson is a former editorial intern at Madison Magazine.

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