Madison’s Food Escapes

By Neil Heinen, Shayna Miller, Brennan Nardi and Katie Vaughn Madison Magazine

Sure, we love Madison,otherwise we wouldn?t live here. But it?s nice to imagine just for an hour or two that we?re somewhere else?whether it?s the steamy streets of Bangkok, the sun-washed beaches of the Caribbean or even the crazed urban life of New York City. Wherever it is, these local restaurants will take you there?no passport required.

Coastal Cuisines It?s a fact that culinary innovations and trends start on the coasts and work their way inward. And these kitchens are certainly indicative of the east and west coasts both in atmosphere and taste.

West CoastSea World The new downtown hotspot Tempest Oyster Bar features outstanding,sustainable seafood in a laid-back atmosphere carried out with bleached and weathered wood, white stucco walls and a bar fronted with old green bottles. Tempest feels like a trendy, understated place that would pop up in San Diego, and the fact that an old wooden Chris Craft boat and impressive blue marlin grace the front room of the restaurant gives the impression that the ocean isn?t far away.

Bay Beat From the gorgeous natural light that filters in to the character of the old brick walls, wood floors and bentwood chairs, Sardine reminds me of a place I?d stumble upon in a San Francisco neighborhood and return to again and again. Set near the waterfront, this bistro always has a nice wine list, cool cocktails and a relaxed but sophisticated vibe. Maybe it?s all because co-owner/chef Phillip Hurley has worked in several kitchens in the City by the Bay.

Wine Time Warm yet modern, earthy but sexy, Harvest could be set in the Napa Valley?if it weren?t so committed to food grown here in the Midwest. The upscale restaurant, like the best of its wine country counterparts, focuses on local and organic ingredients, with menus that change constantly to reflect what?s in season. Special dinners highlight area farmers and, of course, everything pairs beautifully with a good wine. (KV)

East CoastNew York State of Mind It?s tempting to say the only thing Gotham Bagels and Stalzy?s Deli lack in terms of authentic New York feel is attitude. But the truth is, New York City stopped being rude a long time ago, so not even the orderly and efficient service gives away that both are a long cab ride from the Big Apple. What really causes one to look for an Upper West Side address for Gotham?or Lower East Side for Stalzy?s?is bagels with a bite and a chew and a decent schmear, and a pastrami that?s tender and just a little fatty with good mustard and a pickle?and we?ve finally got ?em both. For many years the question of what the Madison food scene lacked got the same answer?a real deli. Cross that one off the list. Now, if there were just a subway from Mifflin to Atwood. (NH)

To read more about more Madison food escapes, including places that make you feel like you’re in San Antonio, Naples, Italy, and the Caribbean islands, read the rest of the story here!