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Nov 7, 2011 12:05 PM

WI - Best Overall Restaurants (According to OpenTable)

I learn something new about Wisconsin restaurants every day. Who would have guessed that Cafe Manna would make the list of the ten best restaurants in Wisconsin while Sanford, Immigrant Room and Ristorante Bartolotta failed to make the list. I must be eating in the crap restaurants.

The saddest thing is that somewhere someone is planning a trip to Wisconsin for the first time and they are saying to themselves, "Gotta go to Capital Grille when I'm there. Best restaurant in Wisconsin".

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  1. Interesting observation. I think chowhound is so reliable for two reasons. People can ask specifically what they want to know and it's small enough where, on your regular board, you can learn who you do and do not share common tastes with. You can't get that from yelp or open table.

    1 Reply
    1. re: KoolWhip

      I agree, KoolWhip. Monk's is a good example. We went there for the first time based upon what you said and not anything from other online sources of information. Too many of the reviews on Yelp and sites like that are from either current employees or former disgruntled employees. Biased either way. With rare exception, I do not see too many shills on the Midwest board.

    2. Dang. What a gappy list. If that's all the research the hypothetical traveler is doing... sigh, it's an exercise in information literacy.

      I'm not up on Milwaukee so much, but for Madison I'd trust this list (that a lobbyist firm robo-tweets every three days) more than that one.

      4 Replies
      1. re: jumble

        Fascinating list, 10best...

        Can't say I agree, but that's opinion.

        One FACT is that #12, Le Chardonnay, has been out of business for months...the successor in that space has even shuttered operations.

        Another list that folks can turn to is:

        1. re: Monch

          Yup. "10best"'s #8 (Casbah) has also been closed for some time. In the spirit of talking to-instead-of-about, I reported both those oversights to its editors.

          Double yup, I know Isthmus' list (and they know I know it, so this isn't gossip). My advice: always call ahead.

            1. re: jumble

              Cafe Soleil has been closed for about a year and a half as well.

              Cafe Soleil
              25 N Pinckney St, Madison, WI 53703

        2. There are a lot of sources for people to rate restaurants. One of the most biased (market researchers call it "response bias") is when the answers come from people who go there. The highest rated restaurants tend to be places which have relatively fewer people trying them for the first time, where responders tend to be longtime frequent customers. So those who like it a lot comprise a higher percentage of those who fill in the survey.

          It's even worse when you have a service like which only includes restaurants who use its service. So many of the best restaurants in the state, such as Sanford, Margaux, Christian's Bistro, and the Immigrant Room, are not even eligible, because they don't accept reservations on Opentable.

          2 Replies
          1. re: nsxtasy

            Those are two very good points. Thanks. I did not know that only Opentable member restaurants were eligible for nomination. It reminds me of how some restaurants garner the Wine Spectator awards. Unless they submit a copy of their wine list along with a check payable to WS they will not be considered for any of the awards.

            1. re: Fowler

              Any time you make a reservation on for a restaurant and then eat there, you receive an e-mail asking you to fill out a survey about your meal. I believe creates their lists of top restaurants in various categories by compiling the responses to those surveys.

              And to give you an idea of the "response bias" inherent in that process, the list of ten best restaurants overall in CHICAGO also includes Capital Grille. 'nuff said... :)