For L’Etoile, the sustainable food movement isn’t anything new. It’s been bringing fresh food from farms to its tables since 1976. Not surprisingly, this approach has earned it a reputation as the “shining star” in the Midwest. Its beautiful plates are perfect for special celebrations, especially romantic anniversaries. Begin with a spread of charcuterie and a bottle of wine. First Courses include Foie Gras Torchon and Smoked Artesian Trout that features locally grown beets. Mid Courses will keep you excited for your entrée. Try Black Truffle Crepinette or Korean-Style Stew. Finally, sink your fork into a Fountain Prairie Dry-Aged, Grass-Fed Steak. This meat is carefully paired with confit potato, Sung Haven spinach, mushrooms, Harmony Valley cippolini onions and beauty heart radish compound. Finish your dinner with an adventurous Gingerbread Waffle or Hazelnut Financier. An equally wise choice is Wisconsin’s best – cheese! These artisan selections are served with wonderfully complementing fruits and nuts. If this romantic setting with amazingly fresh food isn’t enough, it recently added a gastropub called Graze.
Casual waterfront dining is always fun, and by now, Nau-Ti-Gal is the expert. Since 1982, it’s been serving up seafood dishes in view of the beautiful Lake Mendota. It has one of the best brunches in Madison and live music on a weekly basis. For dinner, appetizers aren’t the typical fare. Try Shark Bites or Wisconsin White Cheddar Cheese Curds. There is a long menu of sandwiches, burgers and salads. Doesn’t a Cajun Grouper Caesar Salad and a Tex-Mex Panini sound delicious? Inland dinners such as Tortelloni Prima Vera and sea dinners such as Wisconsin Fish Fry are tasty options. Just save room for peanut butter pie.
The Ivory Room Piano Bar
Co-owners Jack Sosnowksi and Julie Stoleson wanted to bring a classy yet cozy feel to Madison, fashioned after piano bars in Chicago. The Ivory Room Piano Bar grew from their vision, and locals and visitors alike are happier for it. Show up to Capitol Square early enough to take advantage of happy-hour and the martini of the month. If you’re looking for a snazzy night out on the town with excellent live music, this is the place.
Fromagination is a cozy shop with bold tastes. It sells artisanal cheeses and whatever is paired with them best: Wines, breads, crackers, dried fruits and chocolates all perfect the cheese’s taste. You won’t find cheese wrapped in unbreakable plastic wrap here. Cheese is sold like it’s supposed to be, from the block or wheel. Tastings are encouraged, but you’ll have to wait and let the sample adjust to the room temperature before indulging. Find something very local – Hook’s Eight-Year Cheddar or Aged Swiss – from Wisconsin, or opt for a delicious import. Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano is so tasty that you won’t be disappointed it’s not American. If you give 24 hours’ notice, Fromadination will create you a picnic basket with a sampling of cheese, baguette, fruit, and more.
East Towne Mall
East Towne Mall is anchored by Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Boston Store, Dick’s Sporting Goods, gordmans, JCPenney, Sears and Steinhafels. The mall has more than 110 specialty retailers including Aéropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Buckle, Express, Hollister Co., Justice and Victoria’s Secret. Popular restaurant chains include Outback Steakhouse, Olive Garden Italian Restaurant and Auntie Anne’s Hand-Rolled Soft Pretzels. It’s a great place to spruce up your wardrobe, catch a bite to eat or watch a movie.