I've looked through the various discussions on Madison here, such as:
and it seems like a lot of the recommended restaurants have closed. I hope nobody minds if I open this new discussion.
I'm planning on visiting on the graduation weekend for UW in May, and I know the town will be swamped with a bazillion visitors. For that reason, I'm trying to avoid places that don't take reservations and are likely to involve incredibly long waits to be seated (like the Old Fashioned and Marigold Kitchen, both of which I've been to in previous visits and liked).
What I'm looking for are three meals:
1. AN UPSCALE FINER DINING RESTAURANT FOR DINNER. I should note, I'd prefer not to go to a steakhouse, and I'm also not that big on Italian unless someone tells me it's different from, and WAY better than, typical big city Italian. And no bait... I mean, no sushi. :) I know L'Etoile is still there and still great. I've been to Harvest and Fresco and enjoyed both of them immensely. So those are three choices, all perfectly acceptable. Is there anyplace else I should also be considering? Anything new and compelling?
2. A MORE MODERATELY PRICED RESTAURANT FOR DINNER. This is where I'm having the most trouble coming up with ideas. This could be an ethnic place, or, well, just about anything. It doesn't have to be "cheap eats" like burgers and hot dogs; just not something with $30 entrees. What about Eno Vino, the wine bar and tapas place - is that any good? I've seen Sa-Bai Thong recommended for Thai food; I haven't been there, but that seems like a possibility. Do they take reservations? If not, are they likely to be slammed on graduation weekend (and is one location more likely than the other)? What about Mekong or Lao Laan Xang as alternatives for Thai? Are any (or all) these Thai places truly excellent, or just okay? Other than these, I need more recommendations for this meal, because I haven't seen anything else in the previous discussions that really grabs me. Part of the problem is that we have so much great Mexican food, Indian food, and deep-dish pizza at home in Chicago that I tend to avoid those foods when out of town. I know there's more to Madison than just these kinds of foods (and a thousand bars with bar/comfort food) but I just can't think of anything. I'm sure you 'hounds can help me here!
3. SUNDAY BRUNCH. I've had Sunday brunch at Sardine, sitting on the deck overlooking the lake, and I liked it a lot! So that's one possibility. I also read a recommendation for brunch at the Great Dane, so that's another. If there are any other really great brunches in town that should also be considered, please tell me!
Oh, and I'll be staying near the airport on the East Side. Madison isn't huge so I don't mind driving just about anywhere - heck, I'll probably hit Original Pancake House in Monona for breakfast another day I'm there - but I just wanted to note that, for example, places in Middleton will be less convenient for me than those on the east side or in Sun Prairie. But it's not a showstopper, just more of a "nice to have".