Park Street is the place where you can find everything from Sichauan fare to tacos, Peruvian dishes to Jewish delicacies. This ever-changing thoroughfare to downtown underscores where Madison's cultural diversity may be best represented—in its restaurants.
As you head south on Park Street, three Asian restaurants welcome you in quick succession: Ichiban Sichuan, Edo Japanese and Orient House.
Across the street, La Hacienda, a Madison staple, offers Mexican fare while nearby Inka Heritage is a local favorite featuring Peruvian cuisine. Farther south you will find Asian Sweet Bakery, Taj Indian and Noosh, a newly opened Jewish-Israeli restaurant by Laila Borokhim of Layla’s Persian Food. (Editor's Note: Noosh is temporarily closed, according to Borokhim. She says she plans to reopen once she finds a new building for the restaurant.)
The Mexican restaurants alone are numerous and worth a mention—in addition to La Hacienda, you can enjoy great Mexican fare at Sol Azteca Fusion Cuisine, El Rancho Mexican Grill, Naty’s Fast Food, El Pastor, Taqueria Guadalajara and Mercado Marimar, an unassuming grocery store with some café seating inside. Whether you are heading to or from campus or Capitol Square, these Park Street restaurants are worth a stop.
610 S. Park St., 819-8808
Given the extensive menu, you might just want to point to something that looks good at another table and say, “I’ll have what they’re having.” Ichiban features spicy Sichuan-style food and ample seating. Bring a crowd and share a few items, including familiar dishes such as the ma po tofu, dandan noodles or Sichaun eggplant. Mix it up with something a bit more unusual, such as kidney in garlic sauce, rabbit hot pot or duck with beer sauce.
532 S. Park St., 268-0247
Edo has always offered delicious sushi, as well as bento boxes, hibachi and other Japanese fare, including my personal favorites, the dragon roll and reef roll. More recently they started offering Korean barbeque—a fun cook-your-own experience for a group of friends or for date night. There’s a great wine and beer selection, too!
El Rancho Mexican Grill
819 S. Park St., 284-9702
New to Park street, El Rancho offers authentic Mexican fast food: Build your own burrito, taco or torta, piling on your choice of rice, meat, salsa, beans, cheese and other toppings. Mexican rice and barbacoa with medium green salsa make a great meal, for under $10! The build-your-own burrito concept is not new, but owner Jose Torres says that the biggest difference is taste: “We make everything in-house.”
Sol Azteca Fusion Grill
1821 S. Park St., 561-8211
Sol Azteca offers a truly unique dining experience, including an ample selection of house favorites such as marinated beef tacos and a Mexican-style hamburger complete with a fried egg on top. But the biggest draw may be the daily karaoke—in Spanish! Every day from 4 p.m. until close, the party is on. Why not stop in for a happy hour tamarind margarita, then stay for dinner and a tune?
602 S. Park St., 310-4282
Inka Heritage has become a mainstay in Madison’s culinary scene, offering a welcome taste of Peruvian cuisine in a classy atmosphere. The food reflects Peru’s African, Indigenous and Spanish influences. The ceviche is a must-have, followed by shrimp soup for a light meal. The aji chicken entree and chicha morada, a purple corn drink, bring back diners time and again. Top off your meal with the dessert mousse de lucuma, made from a fruit of the Andes.
2102 S. Park St., 260-8924
Grocery shopping on Park Street is an adventure in itself. At Mercado Marimar, you can pick up everything you need to make a Mexican feast: fresh produce and cheeses, canned moles, marinated meats from the butcher counter and fresh corn tortillas. Or you can order freshly made corn tortillas, tacos, burritos and delicious barbacoa from the small kitchen area if you prefer to have someone do the cooking for you. Family-style tables are set with fresh salsa and guacamole making it a great place to take a break and grab a bite.
Taj Indian Restaurant
1256 S. Park St., 268-0772
Sample curries, samosas and the popular vegetable biryani from the extensive lunch buffet. The malai kofta, or vegetable balls, are a delicious mix of potatoes, paneer cheese and spices, fried and served with a creamy sauce thickened with almonds and cashews and are bound to impress even a devoted meat eater. Come back for dinner to savor the creamy lamb korma or the pakora, a mixed-vegetable fritter, along with the addictive naan bread.
1033 S. Park St., 250-1824 or 335-5914
One of the original taquerias in Madison, and a favorite spot for Mexican food aficionados, Taqueria Guadalajara offers a consistently delicious assortment of Mexican fare including rellenos, tortas and gorditas—thick, fried corn tortillas stuffed with meat, beans and cheese. To satisfy a heartier appetite, order the mi rancho, a plate of steak, chorizo, beans, nopales, potatoes, onions and peppers.