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L.A. hound in search of downtown Madison, Wisconsin dining advice!

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I'm coming to Madison this weekend and need to take a client out to dinner. I want to go somewhere nice (business casual), but not somewhere formal. I don't have a car, and am staying near the Civic Center.

A plus would be a place that serves food that highlights regional styles and food. I've heard about the Friday night fish frys, but don't know if it's too casual. I've also been reading about supper clubs.

I've read through all the threads and have found them to be very useful, but would like some advice on the following places (that have only been selected because the hotel indicated that these were geographically desirable):

Le Chardonnay
Madison's
Ocean Grill
Peppino's
Takara

Any other ideas, please please let me know.

Thanks, hounds!

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  1. First, almost any place in Madison is business casual- not like eating out on the coast where you would put on a jacket and tie for the best restaurants.

    As for the restaurants you listed, here is my take:
    Le Chardonnay- never been and not on my list to try based on local reviews.
    Madison's- good upscale bar food.
    Ocean Grill- OK- overrated
    Peppino's- will never go back- had my worst customer service experience there ever, in any industry.
    Takara- love the food and the service- typical Japanese experience.

    Other ideas- If you want authentic Wisconsin, try Avenue Bar. I have not been there in years because it was always smoky, but the recent smoking ban here may have eliminated that problem. Nothing in MAdison represents the Wisconsin experience better. They used to have an outstanding and plentiful fish fry. May be more casual than you want.

    Bandung has good Indonesian food on Williamson Street.
    Restaurant Magnus is an upscale beef and fish place- some of the best steaks in town and good wine list.

    Cocoliquot near the Capital is great- French style tapas and they make their own chocolate. Good place to take a client. If you like fish, Blue Marlin is usually good, plus you can get a view of the Capital across the street. Harvest is near by and has been written up before. Also, L'Etoile was solid the last time I ate there and has been a favorite of Gourmet magazine's- much pricier than the others at $100 per head with wine. It is like the place in Berkeley- Chez Panisse, maybe (cannot remember right now).

    Finally, Lombardino's is good Italian food.

    I also recommend going to http://www.thedailypage.com/ to get food reviews- they tend to be reliable and you can search on cuisine. I suggest you stick with Downtown restaurants.

    Best of luck.

    1. l'Etoile fits the bill perfectly!