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Nov 22, 2007 08:32 AM

Madison WI for Parents Visiting UW Student

Actually, he's our nephew, but it's the same idea.

In a few weeks we will be visiting our nephew, a freshman at UW-Madison, for part of a day on a Sunday. We plan to take him out to eat, although we haven't yet decided what time we will get up there, so this could be for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Obviously it needs to be a place that's open on Sunday. Casual attire is a definite (knowing Madison, that probably doesn't eliminate much, especially since L'Etoile isn't open Sundays anyway). Proximity to the university campus is desirable. (I'm familiar with the downtown square immediately around the capitol, but not at all with the campus or the rest of town; I don't know if the downtown places are considered close, or if there are a bunch of other places closer to campus.) So much the better if it's a place that a university student would consider a real treat (which may be due to quality of food, special atmosphere, portion sizes, etc). I'm not aware of any specific preferences or requirements he may have regarding types of food, but AFAIK he's pretty open-minded. No sushi, please!

I've reviewed the two comprehensive discussions on Madison here (at and ) but haven't gotten far enough to know what places mentioned there might be (a) close to the university, (b) open Sundays, or (c) particularly impressive for a university student.


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  1. I don't think you should rule out the area around the Square on distance from campus. The campus abuts the end of State st., though it is large in area.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mike_d

      That is, campus extends west quite aways, but the east end is at the end of State St. 15 min. walk to the Capitol?

    2. I was visiting Madison last weekend and had a nice late-ish dinner of tapas at Magnus, near Monona Terrace. My companion and I shared a Spanish cheese plate, seared yellowfin with onion confit, and bay-scallop ceviche. If your nephew is adventurous enough to want to try a variety of small plates, it might be a fun place for you. (It's a couple of blocks from the capitol building, FYI.)

      Restaurant Magnus
      120 E Wilson St Ste 3, Madison, WI 53703

      1. As our plans evolve, I think it's more likely that we'll have Sunday brunch with him, rather than Sunday dinner. I've been looking through websites and menus, trying to find something that's nicer and offers more than, say, just a place to get an omelet. I've come up with several possibilities that sound pretty good:

        Café Continental -
        Cocoliquot -
        Sardine -
        Eldorado Grill -
        Nau-Ti-Gal -

        So if anyone has any comments on their brunches, or any additional suggestions, I'd appreciate them.

        Oh, I realize that the first four are all in downtown Madison. Nau-Ti-Gal is inconveniently located on the opposite side of Lake Mendota from campus, but if the food is good - ? - the fact that it's an all-you-can-eat buffet might appeal to an eighteen-year-old guy.

        5 Replies
        1. re: nsxtasy

          Of your list, I would recommend both Cocoliquot and Sardine, with Sardine edging out on top. In the Monroe street district, I would recommend Bluephies (eclectic veggie diner?) and Brasserie V (French/Belgian inspired bistro). I think Eldorado and Tex Tubb's would both be disappointing for you, being from Chicago and having a ready supply of fantastic Mexican. Cafe Continental is fine, although not as good as Sardine. As I mentioned in the Madison lunch thread, I'm a big fan of The Old Fashioned (upscale Wisconsin tavern) and the new Cabana Room (Brazilian-esqe cafe). Magnus is where I would want someone to take me, if they were coming to Madison and footing the bill.

          2701 Monroe St.
          Madison, WI

          Brasserie V
          1923 Monroe St.
          Madison, WI

          The Old Fashioned
          23 N. Pinckney St.
          Madison, WI

          Cabana Room
          240 W. Gilman St.
          Madison, WI

          1. re: itsbubbles

            Thanks for the additional information!

            Restaurant website links (so I have them handy, because I keep referring back to this topic):
            Bluephies -
            Brasserie V -
            The Old Fashioned -
            Cabana Room -

            1. re: nsxtasy

              thanks nsxtasy - you're amazing with the links!

              No one has mentioned Blue Marlin,, it's just off the square on Hamilton.

              We had a great dinner there last December. Anyone know if it's still there? I'd recommend it if it is.

              1. re: Cookiefiend

                Blue Marlin is fantastic...I've had a great dinner and an awesome Friday lunch there. Unfortunately, they're not open for brunch. However, if your visit stretches into dinner...

                1. re: itsbubbles

                  I've been checking out this post - Mr CF and I are going to be in Madsion today and tomorrow for meetings and we've been trying to decide where to go tonight. Since we've been to the Blue Marlin and really liked it (good wine list too), we're going to try a new place this time - provided I can get a reservation at the last minute.

                  I read your post (and followed nsxtasy's links) regarding Sardine, Cocoliquot and Mangus and I've checked out the menus. Hopefully we can give one of them a whirl. The Old Fashioned sounds great too and since they're open for lunch too - Saturday afternoon, here we come!

                  thanks everyone!

        2. As a college-age Madisonian, I think good bets would be Tex Tubb's Taco Palace at 2701 University ave (just west of campus), and cafe continental. Both are open on Sunday. Cafe Continental is more upscale and very tasty, but if you're looking for something more fun and casual, Tubb's Taco Palace is a great place. They are new at 2701, having replaced Firefly in September, but they've had an East side location for a while and they have been consistently well-reviewed. Here's their website:

          2 Replies
          1. re: Mangojane

            Argh! Tex has lost me for good. It was bad enough that they routinely put peas and carrots in my burrito. Last time, there were pineapple chunks in my el pastor!

            (Foodfight is growing too big for their britches, IMHO.)

            Take your nephew to Lombardino's. Great food, fun atmosphere, diverse menu.

            It's a place he could take a date and not kill his budget. Right down University Avenue from campus.

            Also independently owned. You'll find the owner running the kitchen.


            1. re: Monch

              I have no opinion on Tex, but pineapple is actually an authentic option for a taco al pastor.

          2. You mentioned 5 restaurants, 4 of which are high on quality, atmosphere, and even portion sizes. I can't, however recommend the Nautigal. I've been to their Sunday brunch. Its very high on starches and meats. Not much for quality. A lot of stuff hanging around in the steam table for a long time. Pretty uninspired fare. If its just quantity you're looking for (maybe your nephew is a football player) then by all means, go. Your other choices are far superior. I would rank Sardine tops, then Cafe Continental, Cocoliquot, El Dorado. These fit the category of a real treat particulary if you consider a student's budget.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jalanc

              I'm really looking primarily for quality rather than quantity. Sounds like Nau-ti-gal is a No-no-no. So with Tubb's in the mix, I've now got two Tex-Mex-ish places, two French places, and one Euro-everything. All sound like they're good choices.

              Thanks for the comments...

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I've enjoyed dinners (not brunch) at both Sardine and Cocoliquot. Sardine is very much a French brasserie style. The food was quite nice, with my only complaint being that, at dinner, it was very noisy. Cocoliquot is a bit more contemporary/creative american. If your nephew is into chocolate, Cocoliquot makes their own creative chocolates on premises, and you can order them by the piece (sort of sushi style) for dessert. My Badger son enjoyed both places, and a friend has now taken his freshman daughter (who has thoughts of going into the industry) to Cocoliquot twice because she liked it so much. Both are walking distance from campus, altough Sardine will take a half an hour or so.