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Good chow on west side of Madison WI?

Hi all. Long-time Chow lurker, first-time poster. I'll be in Madison on March 9-15, 2008, for training at Avid Technology Inc. (6400 Enterprise Lane; east of West Towne Mall), and staying at the Baymont Inn (8102 Excelsior Drive; north-northwest of West Towne Mall). I'm hoping you fine midwestern CHounders can help me find some good food and drink (any price range or type, except sushi) on what appears to be the western edge of Madison. I'd like to avoid the usual national chain slop if at all possible. Past posts were very helpful for places in town, but I'm not always going to have the time or energy to drive into downtown or the campus for dinner or lunch. Many thanks in advance!

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  1. Without going too far (and "far" is relative, since unfortunately you are plop in the middle of chainland), here are some good bets, in order of distance from the Baymont:

    Eno Vino Wine Bar and Bistro - noisy tapas place: http://www.eno-vino.com/

    Asia Express - surprisingly decent cheap Chinese: http://www.madisonatoz.com/2004/06/as... (sorry no official web site, check out the other reviews linked there


    India Darbar - they may even deliver: http://www.indiadarbar.com/

    Capital Brewery - ok, no food, but if you like beer ... : http://www.capital-brewery.com/

    2 Replies
    1. re: jumble

      Thank you, thank you, thank you!
      It's a relief to know that I can at least get tapas (one of my many favorites) "plop in the middle of chainland," as you so eloquently phrased it.
      Anybody else have suggestions? Even good take-out or delivery places?

      1. re: Mark M

        You're very welcome! I only hope the weather will be better for your visit - we've had record snowfall this year.

    2. Why do you have to stay on the west side? There are fun/great places all of 15 - 20 minutes away downtown. I would suggest the Blue Marlin - small and intimate...great curried crab soup! Also the Old Fashioned is a fun hamburger/bar/salad spot. Nearby is what some would say is a top restaurant in the state: L'toile. Sorry - these are all near the square but I think that's more fun!

      1. Barriques has a branch on a fancy strip mall at Middleton. It is a wine store, but they have wine by the glass, decent tea and coffee and sandwich/soup type of fare that is good for a nice lunch or a light dinner.


        You said no sushi, but if you like cooked Japanese fare, Muramoto might do good with their lunch specials. Again it is on a strip mall, at Hilldale, near west side of the town.

        For more upscale dining, Otto's might be good: http://ottosrestaurant.com/default.aspx
        Enjoy your visit.

        1. We have three favorite restaurants in Madison. Just one of them has a west side location. But Madison is so small, driving to the east side is not that inconvenient.

          New Orleans Take-Out is small, just a counter and stools, but has authentic Creole food. (Don’t say “Cajun” to the owner; he makes a sharp distinction.) The shrimp poorboys are a must. Oyster poorboys are available in season. The Etoufée is very good, but very hot. The original east side location is at 1920 Fordem Ave. There is now a west side location near the stadium, at 1517 Monroe St. http://www.eatmobettah.com/New%20Orle...

          The best barbecue in Wisconsin is found at Smokey Jon’s, 2310 Packers Ave. This is on the far east side, near the entrance to the airport, but well worth the drive. www.smokyjons.com

          We also love the Wah Kee Noodle House at 600 Williamson St. It is the type of authentic Asian noodle house found rarely in the Midwest. Its location is not too far east; it’s close to the Capitol. It is on the northeast corner of where Williamson, Wilson, Blair and John Nolan streets all meet.

          These are all down-scale places. For something upscale, one must dine at the venerable and nationally-known L’Etoile, found on the east side of the Capitol Square, at 25 N. Pinckney St.

          Now we must talk about drinking beer, a Madison essential. The Memorial Union on the UW campus has a wonderful German “Rathskeller” with muraled walls, where the students hang out. (Don’t miss the west wall mural “When Wine and Beer are at War”, written in German.) The Rathskeller leads out to the relaxing lakeside Terrace, a must-see during the summer months. (If you’re not a student, you must buy a one-day pass for a couple of bucks to drink beer there. The pass is not needed for food or non-alcoholic beverage purchases.)

          A fine brewpub, The Great Dane, stands one block to the southeast of the Capitol Square at 123 E. Doty St. (at Doty & King streets). The Essenhaus is an atmospheric German beer hall and restaurant at 514 E. Wilson St., just across from the Wah Kee Noodle House.

          1 Reply
          1. re: carts2

            The Great Dane has an outpost on the West side-- at Hilldale Mall. Mark M, if you're not able to go downtown, Hilldale may not be a bad place to check out-- Great Dane, Sushi Muramoto and a few other (not as terrific) places.

          2. Thank you one and all! I'd love to stay in the heart of town or near campus, but I'll be on the federal government's tab and the per diem is $143 per day for food AND lodging. Also, a rental car is not authorized, which means if I want wheels it comes out of my pocket. I'm staying at the Baymont because it's cheap and only 3 miles from Avid's offices. Also, the hotel has a free shuttle to Avid.
            Again, thanks for all the chow info!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Mark M

              For lunch you should put Sai Bai Tong (Thai), Maharajah (Indian Buffet) and Asian Noodles (Korean) on your list. Also, Granite City Brewery (OK, a small chain) at the West Towne mall is also very good. Try Laredo's for Mexican and JT Whitney's for an Irish pub scene. All of these are within 3 minutes of Avid.

              For dinners, another small chain option is Biaggi's. It is in the same place as Eno Vino for a bout one-third the price (and one-half the quality). I'd second Otto's. It is real close to where you'll be during the day. George's Chop House is within walking distance from the Baymont. Five minutes away by shuttle would be Louisienne's (high-end creole/cajun), Vin Santo (great Italian), Village Pub (greasy cheeseburgers served on wax paper - old school Wisconsin tavern food). Blue Spoon Cafe recently opened as the second location of an upscale offering from the Culver's team.

            2. Madison transportation:

              I noticed that you will be staying at the Baymont Hotel on the west side and not have access to a car. The Baymont has a free shuttle van to and from the airport. (Sometimes hotel shuttle van drivers will take you other places for just a tip. Talk to the drivers directly.)

              Madison has a good bus system for a city its size. Unfortunately, the Baymont Hotel on Excelsior Drive is at the edge of the system. You will see farm fields from there.

              For public transit, your best bet is to walk about 3 blocks to the corner of Old Sauk Rd. and High Point Rd. There you can board the # 15 bus. It will take you through the west side, past the UW campus, to the Capitol Square downtown, and to the east side. The # 15 runs every half hour from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. on weekdays. The trip takes about 20 minutes to the campus, about 30 minutes to the Capitol Square. Fare is $1.50. There are also some bus options from West Towne Mall.

              (On weekends, the bus service is much more limited. Phone for details.)

              Here is the web site for Madison transit. You may want to print off the route map and bus schedule you leave home. In Madison, phone (608) 266-4466.


              There is also an affordable taxi service in Madison. It’s called Badger Cab. They operate with a zone fare system, not by meter; and they will pick other passengers en route. Phone (608) 256-5566. (Union Cab is a more expensive, metered cab service.)


              I hope this addresses your transportation issues in Madison.

              1 Reply
              1. re: carts2

                That's great advice (kudos to carts2). Madison is a great down for wining and dining, but a large portion of what makes it great are places in the downtown area. The immediate vicinity of the Baymont really limits you to a small number of choices that don't reflect how much Madison really has to offer.

                Here are some topics that have dining recommendations throughout Madison. If you look through them, you'll find that a great many of them are around the capitol area downtown. So hop on the bus, Gus, and take advantage of them!

              2. Madison from the # 15 bus:

                When you board, ask the bus driver to call out your desired stop. (You may also want to print off some Google Maps of these neighborhoods before you leave home.)

                1. Alight on Campus Drive, near Breeze Terrace or Randall Ave. Walk south to the stadium. Then walk southwest on Monroe to the corner of Monroe & Regent. There you will find New Orleans Take-Out (1517 Monroe St.). It is next to a kitschy cow-themed diner, Mickey’s Dairy Bar. It’s the real deal that has been there forever.

                2. Alight when the bus turns from Johnson St. on to State St. State Street connects the UW campus to the Capitol and is the commercial heart of downtown. You will probably want to explore State Street and walk its full length. On the 500 block you will find two venerable restaurants. Husnus at 547 W. State St. has been there since the ‘70s. Its menu spans from the eastern Mediterranean to Persia. The Kabul at 541 W. State St. serves Afghani cuisine and has been there since the ‘80s. They may not be “foodie-worthy”, but I’ve not had a bad meal at either.

                3. Alight on the Capitol Square at the corner of Main, Pinckney, and King streets. Walk one block east on King to Doty St. There you will find The Great Dane brewpub. (To board the westbound bus home, board on the opposite side of the Square, north of E. Washington Ave.)

                4. From The Great Dane brewpub, continue east one more block on King to Wilson St. Turn left (northeast) and walk 3 blocks to Wilson & Blair. There you can have Chinese noodles at Wah Kee and some German beer at the Essenhaus.

                1. One more bus tip:

                  Alight at Johnson & Park streets. Walk 3 blocks north on Park St. to the Memorial Union. Check out the “Rathskeller”, where the students drink. (You must buy a pass to drink beer there.)

                  1. Chidad's suggestions are terrific, especially for good but not too expensive fare (Vin Santo serves some of the best Italian in Madison, although it may be a little disappointing if you have lots of experience in the NY metro area). Also near there is the Hubbard Avenue Diner for more ecclectic than your average diner fare (think black bean burgers and incredible turkey chile/corn bread, plus great pies and desserts- not greasy burgers and 10,000 other items on the menu). Roman Candle also serves good pizza with a good selection of beer. All of these restaurants are no more than 5 to 10 minutes ride from where you are staying (you may even be able to walk it).

                    I will second Otto's (good steak (strip and filet are favorites and chops (lamb) with a Mediterranean flair) http://ottosrestaurant.com/menu.aspx and Sai-Bai Thong http://www.sabaithong.com/odanamenu.h...

                    New Orleans Take-Out on the west side is 10 minutes from your hotel. Well worth a cab ride. Some of the best creole this side of New Orleans.

                    Since you will be around for fish fry on Friday, a Wisconsin must, try Sweeney's Oak Creast Tavern on 5371 Old Middleton Rd. About a 5 minute ride from your hotel.

                    Hope this helps.
                    Let us know where you ended up and what you thought.