We found the 3 best restaurants in Madison

We found the 3 best restaurants in Madison

Photo courtesy of Tornado Steak House

By UpNorthNews Staff

March 14, 2024

Madison, a city known for its vibrant food scene, is home to an array of places to eat that cater to every palate. But when it comes to identifying the crème de la crème, the task can seem daunting. That’s why we scoured the city, consulted with locals, and tallied votes from our readers to bring you the definitive list of the best restaurants in Madison. From mouthwatering steaks to the finest old fashioned you’ll ever sip, these establishments are culinary experiences waiting for you. So let’s dive into the flavors, stories, and unique charm of these beloved Madison restaurants.

3. Sardine: Madison’s Best Restaurant on the Water

Food at Sardine

Photo courtesy of Sardine

Nestled along the serene waterfront of Lake Monona, Sardine effortlessly blends French cuisine with Madison’s easygoing spirit. This charming bistro offers expansive windows framing idyllic lake views. It invites diners into a world where each meal feels like a mini-vacation, a delightful escape into a realm of gourmet delights.

Sardine’s atmosphere strikes the perfect balance between elegance and comfort. The chic decor, complemented by the soft shimmer of light reflecting off the water, sets the stage for an unparalleled dining experience. It’s here, in this enchanting setting, that the magic of Sardine unfolds.

The chefs at Sardine wield their culinary skills like artists, turning fresh ingredients into masterpieces of flavor. The menu, a vibrant mosaic of dishes, reflects a commitment to creativity and excellence. For those seeking a sublime start to their day, the brunch offerings are nothing short of spectacular, featuring classics reimagined with a sophisticated twist. As the day transitions to evening, the dinner menu takes center stage, presenting a collection of entrees that marry rustic charm with refined flavors.

Among the standout dishes, the choucrotte de poisson is a revelation. Three forms of seafood (scallops, shrimp, and salmon) sit atop a bed of buttery potatoes and sauerkraut, creating a harmonious symphony of flavors that’s as pleasing to the palate as it is to the eye. If you’re looking for a dish that embodies the comforting warmth of bistro cuisine, the cassoulet offers a succulent journey through textures and tastes,. The earthy depth of white beans complement the rich, tender duck.

But the journey through Sardine’s culinary landscape isn’t complete without indulging in an exquisite dessert. The baba au rhum, a fragrant and stunning creation, provides a sweetly aromatic finish that lingers on the taste buds, ensuring your dining experience concludes on a high note.

Whether you’re nestled inside, absorbing the bistro’s vibrant energy, or enjoying the tranquil beauty of the lakeside on the outdoor patio, Sardine offers a setting for every occasion. It’s the ideal spot for leisurely brunches that stretch into the afternoon, romantic dinners under the stars, or celebratory gatherings with loved ones. It’s a destination where food lovers converge, drawn by the promise of flavors that captivate and enchant, and by the opportunity to partake in a dining experience that’s as memorable as it is delicious.

For those yearning to discover this slice of gourmet paradise, to immerse themselves in a dining adventure that spans the globe yet feels intimately local, Sardine awaits. To ensure your place in this culinary haven, visit their website to explore the menu further and make your reservation.

DINNER WITH A VIEW: 5 more Wisconsin waterfront restaurants

2. Toby’s Supper Club: Where Tradition Meets Taste

Stepping into Toby’s Supper Club feels like entering a portal to an era where dining out was synonymous with celebration and community. This Madison gem revives the cherished tradition of Wisconsin’s supper clubs, blending nostalgia with gastronomic delight. At Toby’s, every evening is an occasion.

Toby’s charm lies in its commitment to the ethos of the classic supper club experience—where every guest is treated like family, and every meal is prepared with a passion that’s palpable from the first bite to the last. The ambiance here harks back to a time of convivial gatherings, with its warm lighting and welcoming decor setting the perfect stage for an unforgettable night.

The crown jewel of Toby’s, earning accolades from locals and visitors alike, is its rendition of Wisconsin’s beloved brandy old fashioned. Voted Best Old Fashioned by our readers, Toby’s crafts this iconic cocktail with a reverence for tradition and a flair for innovation. The balance achieved between the bitters, spirits, and sweetness is nothing short of alchemy, making it the perfect prelude to the culinary journey that awaits.

But Toby’s allure extends well beyond its celebrated drinks. The menu is a loving tribute to the staples of supper club cuisine, with dishes that embody the heart and soul of Wisconsin’s culinary heritage. From the succulent sirloin that melts in your mouth to the golden, crispy lake perch that echoes the state’s Friday fish fry tradition, each offering is a testament to the quality and care that Toby’s puts into its food. Not to be overlooked are the relish trays, an essential part of the supper club experience, serving as a delightful preamble to the main course.

Beyond the food and drink, what sets Toby’s apart is its atmosphere of genuine hospitality. The staff at Toby’s goes above and beyond to ensure that each patron feels valued, contributing to a dining experience that’s as comforting as it is exquisite.

Toby’s Supper Club is a destination that offers a voyage back in time to when dining out was a communal celebration, a ritual that forged connections and left lasting memories. It stands as a a reminder of the times when meals were about more than sustenance—they were about togetherness, tradition, and taste.

For those seeking an authentic supper club experience, Toby’s Supper Club awaits. It’s an experience that’s cherished, leaving an indelible mark on all who walk through its doors. Whether you’re a long-time resident of Madison or just passing through, a visit to Toby’s is an essential chapter in the story of Madison’s culinary culture.

1. Tornado Steak House: A Twister of Flavors

Tornado Steak House

Photo courtesy of Tornado Steak House

To enter Tornado Steak House is to step into a whirlwind of sensory delight, where every dish promises a story and every bite is a chapter worth savoring. Situated on South Hamilton Street, this esteemed establishment stands out as a lighthouse for those in pursuit of excellence. It’s a place where the warmth of a welcoming atmosphere meets unmatched quality, creating an unforgettable dining experience.

What sets Tornado apart is its dedication to creating an immersive experience for each guest. The ambiance, reminiscent of a bygone era, is both elegant and inviting. Picture yourself nestled in a cozy booth, the soft glow of candlelight enhancing the richness of the wood-paneled interior, as you peruse an extensive wine list. Here, the pairing of a robust red with the succulent juiciness of a medium-rare steak is a moment to be treasured. Tornado elevates that humble steak to an art form. The 28-ounce ribeye, a favorite among regulars, is a testament to this, offering a depth of flavor that is as complex as it is captivating.

The culinary adventure continues further into the menu. The pan-roasted duck breast, known for its tender juiciness, is complemented by the earthy notes of its accompanying currant sauce. Meanwhile, the rack of lamb is a sumptuous specialty that’s become a signature of the house. Each dish is presented with a flair that’s both impressive and understated.

Looking for something lighter? Madison’s own Sen. Kelda Roys is a fan of Tornado’s wedge salad.

Tornado Steak House is a celebration of community, a place where memories are savored as much as the dishes that grace its tables. It’s where friendships are forged over shared meals and where special moments are commemorated with toast after toast.

For those eager for a twister of flavors, a visit to the Tornado Steak House promises an experience that transcends the ordinary. Whether you’re marking a milestone, looking for the perfect spot for a romantic dinner, or simply in the mood to treat yourself, this is a place where every occasion is celebrated and every meal is an event. To embark on this flavorful journey and secure your spot at one of Madison’s culinary jewels, be sure to make a reservation. In the whirlwind of life, the Tornado Steak House offers a moment of pure, unadulterated pleasure.

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