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Madison: Sardine or The Old Fashioned or elsewhere?

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NYC 'hound (traveling with my wife and 4-yr-old daughter, a serious junior 'hound) heading from suburban Chicago (where I grew up) to Montello, WI for a reunion-y thing with my wife's family this weekend. From what I'm gathering, there's really nothing that makes sense for dinner on the way without stopping in Madison, which is fine by us. We're not looking for anything as serious as Harvest. We've narrowed it down to Sardine or The Old Fashioned. I know, they're different, but which is better? Or where else should we go?

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  1. Marc,

    I'd go with the Old Fashioned. Great Wisconsin atmosphere, kid friendly and great food, too. If you are not at a peak time, ask for one of the booths. Your daughter will like it.

    Kevin (grew up in Wheaton, IL, now in Madison)

    1. Old Fashioned is much more unique to Madison. Sardines is great, but it's a familiar bistro

      5 Replies
      1. re: chuckie cheesehead

        Old Fashioned is always good, but alas, seemingly always crowded. Sardine is simply my favorite restaurant in Madison. Honestly, I love both places It usually comes down to if I'm in the mood for an Anchor Steam on tap (Sardine) or a Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet (Old Fashioned). Really, you can't go wrong.

        1. re: billjames_88

          Thanks. Sardine sounds like it's totally up our alley, yet somewhat similar to places we frequent here. We're going to try Old Fashioned at about 6:30 on Saturday night, hopefully it won't be a total madhouse.

          1. re: MarcInSunnysideGardens

            If you can't get in to the old fashioned, head down King st. for lots of good options. Cafe Continental, Muramoto, the Great Dane, Nat Spil... if you keep going you can walk to Sardine

            1. re: chuckie cheesehead

              Just wanted to follow up on the dinner at The Old Fashioned. We got a little lucky in that parking became free around the corner at 6pm, and it was 5:45 when we arrived, so some small change and one open spot and we were able to get out of the car right around the corner and leave it. Additionally, we sort of beat the rush--we were told a 45 min wait, so we situated ourselves at the bar (4-yr-olds more welcome at the bar in WI than NYC) and ordered this crazy smoked fish app (delivered on a lazy susan), and just as it arrived 15 minutes after we sat down, our table was ready.

              For mains, my wife had an excellent fried whiting sandwich, I had the saturday trout special, the kid had a burger. That fish app was probably the best of a good assortment of dishes, especially the herring, which was a knockout. The help was great, and despite the place being quite tourist-friendly, it did seem to be occupied by a lot of locals. I'd go back in a heartbeat. It's worth mentioning that The Old Fashioned is sandwiched between L'Etoile and Harvest, reportedly the town's two best fine dining options. We were seeking something more casual, but looking in the window at Harvest, I felt we could have gotten away with dinner there at 6pm in casual attire. Next time, unless we head back to the Old Fashioned.

              1. re: MarcInSunnysideGardens

                Glad you did the Old Fashioned - definitely the most authentic. But I'm laughing at your comments about your 4 year old at the bar - our 'little one' is 19 now & I have more pictures of her sitting at more bars enjoying appetizers in Wisconsin... would never happen in California...