The Audrey is an inspired new start at the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace

Restaurant replaces Capitol Chophouse

The backstory: The Hilton Madison Monona Terrace is not how you might remember it. The 19-year-old hotel on East Wilson Street recently underwent a renovation from top to bottom, and one of the most exciting new features is The Audrey Kitchen + Bar. This light-filled open space offers every kind of dining experience – a casual breakfast, a business lunch, a quick snack and a romantic dinner. Seasoned chef Jeff Orr worked six years as an attorney before taking his wife’s advice to follow his passion and go to culinary school. Orr runs Audrey’s kitchen and the hotel’s food programs. He got his culinary degree in New York and worked at many notable Madison restaurants before getting into the institutional food business. He formerly served as executive chef for both Madison College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was the national culinary director for Chartwells, the world’s largest contract food service company.The Audrey is an inspired new start at the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace

The vibe: A stunning new lounge filled with artwork and installations by Wisconsin artists seamlessly connects to The Audrey’s bar and dining space. The open atmosphere is a huge shift from the former Capitol Chophouse dining area that was dark and tucked away. “It just all flows,” Orr says. The eatery was named after Audrey Marie Munson, the model for the bronze statue atop the Wisconsin state Capitol’s dome.

The menu: In addition to the breakfast buffet and breakfast menu, an all-day menu offers dishes in varying sizes. North African spiced lamb meatballs, ale-marinated chicken wings with yakitori sauce as well as crab and sweet corn cakes are options in the small plates section. Sandwiches, burgers and a hanger steak salad on the main menu are fit for lunch. An “after 5 p.m.” section offers larger entrees like sauteed shrimp and grilled hanger steak.The Audrey is an inspired new start at the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace

The must-try: The chilled soba noodle salad is an example of how well chef Orr can pull off many different cuisine types. Silky noodles drenched in a tamari ginger dressing come with pickled shiitake mushrooms, carrots and Persian cucumbers.

The bottom line: This Hilton eatery now feels like a downtown destination restaurant. It has sidewalk appeal, the concept feels more inspired, the space is gorgeous and chef Orr has created an exciting menu. The popularity of hotel dining has come and gone, but places like The Audrey make the case that some shouldn’t be overlooked by travelers and locals alike.The Audrey is an inspired new start at the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace

9 E. Wilson St., 255-0165

Andrea Behling is editor of Madison Magazine.