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Jun 13, 2014 04:04 PM

Madison, WI - non-dairy with sticky rice eats?

I'm from Hawaii and I'll be here for the summer at the university. I have eaten at a number of different restaurants here but I just can't find anything that I really like. I have tried the below restaurants so far:

L'Etoile, Graze, Tornado Steakhouse, Marigolds Kitchen, Short Stack Eatery, Himul Chuli, Taste of India, some Mediterrean Cafe place but not the one that closes early, and Pig In a Fur Coat.

I did like Marigolds though and Himul Chuli as well even though the portions were small. Normally back home I eat a lot of Korean food and Filipino food but I only see Filipino restaurant on Yelp for Madison and two Korean restaurants. I will try Sols tonight since it is within walking distance from the university where I am living. But the Filipino place and the other Korean place seem to be too far away. Is Madison or Wisconsin in general just not the place for me since I abhor dairy or am I just not going to the right places? Thank you.

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  1. For a city its size, Madison has quite a wide variety of restaurants, including many Asian cuisines, and the level of quality overall is very high. If you can't find food you like in Madison, you probably won't find food you like in most other cities around the country. (Perhaps this is your first time living on the U.S. mainland, and you're assuming that Madison's restaurants are somehow different from those elsewhere? It's not, except perhaps for offering more variety and higher quality than other cities of similar size.)

    It sounds to me as though the issue here is, you just don't like very many types of food - not just "dairy" (which is not any more prevalent in Madison than anywhere else) but rather, you just don't like most types of food, as one can see from the long list of restaurants you found dissatisfying. Granted, there may be one particular type of food you can't find in Madison, but if you are so unhappy over not being able to find one particular cuisine, that proves the point - you just don't like many types of food.

    This may also be exacerbated by your apparent refusal to go to places that aren't within walking distance. Madison covers a wide area, and like most university towns, the places close to the university (where you live) often adhere to a specific formula attractive to students (cheap foods like burgers and pizza, with an emphasis on alcohol). Even if you don't have a car, Madison has a good bus system that will take you just about anywhere from the university. But if you limit yourself from exploring what Madison has to offer, well of course you won't find as many options.

    Many people who have very narrow tastes and can't find restaurants they enjoy, spend most of their time cooking at home for themselves, learning how to do so if needed. Which can be a perfectly satisfactory solution.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Yes, Sol's was very disappointing last night. I've never seen such a small menu at a Korean restaurant here or anywhere else in the world I've visited. Nevertheless, it was very comforting to finally have some food like back home.

      I may have underestimated Madison's bus system. I will give it a deeper examination soon and venture outside of this university area. It should give a good chance to really get to know the 'real' Madison better.

      1. re: bloodboy

        You can find information about the city's Metro Transit system, including maps, schedules, etc., at

    2. Welcome! Rising Sons, Lao Laan Xang, and Ha Long Bay might have the sticky rice you crave. New Seoul is another Korean spot to try, and I vaguely remember that Sushi Box next door to it has a connection to Hawaii somehow...

      Summer's a good time to hit up the farmer's markets and food carts, too.

      1. I wish I'd seen this in time to warn you away from Sol's -- not terrible, but definitely not as good as the Korean food you're probably used to in Hawaii, and the whole menu + banchan were sadly limited in scope.
        New Seoul, the "other" Korean place, isn't as far away as you're thinking, and you can easily reach it on the #2 bus if you don't want to walk, but I think their kimchi is heavy on the ginger. As with Sol's, the folks running it are very nice, though! I haven't tried the Filipino place, but the Yelp reviews are pretty negative.

        If you do find yourself needing good kimchi, you can get jars at the Asian market on Park Street or the Korean market down University. Get yourself a bus pass if you don't have a bike/don't like walking.

        Soga Shabu Shabu and Fugu both have (imo) pretty good -- sometimes very good -- Sichuan food, and they're right on State Street.

        1. Picture updates from all the restaurants I visited while in Madison this summer:

          Carson's Market (UW Madison):



          Himal Chuli:

          Taste of India:



          Palmyra Mediterranean Grill:

          Short Stack Eatery:

          Sol on the Square:

          Tornado Room Steakhouse:

          Pig in a Fur Coat:

          Rising Suns Deli: