Best Restaurants

Out of all the restaurants in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places with the most appeal and the best reputations. We offer carefully vetted selections to let you explore Madison dining on your own. If time is really tight, though, and you don't have the leisure to look through all our offerings, we present our Madison Best Restaurants list. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can't miss.

Ella's Deli
Much-loved by children, this whimsical eatery mesmerizes young and old alike with its displays of vintage toys, suspended collectibles, and animated figures. There's even a merry-go-round out front that has all the kids clamoring for a ride from spring to early fall. The menu leans heavily towards sandwiches, soups, and other kid-friendly fare, and the signature ice cream is fantastic, cold, creamy, and homemade. Ideal when you're in that soda shop frame of mind. (608-241-5291)

Stone House at Quivey's Grove
Heritage runs strong at this stone mansion, built in 1855 by John Mann. Featuring six parlors and native woods, the home now serves traditional foods with rich ingredients and makes a delightful destination for dinner. Among the treats you'll find are herb-crusted rack of lamb, roast duck with maple-ginger glaze, beef tenderloin with madeira-cream sauce, and mushroom crepes. For dessert, don't forget the turtle pie, a house specialty. The adjacent Stable Grill occupies a renovated barn and provides casual dining and a bar. (608-273-4900)

Bandung Restaurant
Named for a prominent city on the island of Java, this Indonesian restaurant breathes life into Madison's dining scene. The family-run place, adorned with artwork and artifacts, promises a culinary adventure, thanks to its homemade dishes. Marinated chicken, grilled lamb, fried catfish, and tender shrimp pair with fresh herbs, vegetables, and seductive sauces in irresistible combinations. Bandung also hosts a "rijsttafel," the elaborate feast where rice is the backdrop for 10 meat- and vegetable-based accompaniments. The meal includes authentic music and dancing and requires advance booking. Reservations recommended, especially on weekends. 10-item rijsttafel $25. (608-255-6910)

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Bahn Thai
Should you find yourself craving fresh vegetables and lemongrass-scented dishes that recall Far Eastern culinary traditions, this intimate place is well-equipped to sate the desire. Madison's first Thai restaurant (and still its most popular by far), Bahn Thai is the city's best destination for Thai food aficionados. The menu features plenty of options, from tasty curries to a classic pad Thai that still draws raves, even after some 20 years. (608-256-0202)

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Restaurant Magnus
Gracious and sophisticated, this restaurant has risen steadily in the eyes of patrons and critics since its much-anticipated premiere and is lauded for both cuisine and nightlife. A refined setting serves as apt backdrop for Nuevo Latino fare, which includes elk tenderloin medallions, grilled calamari steak, black pepper-sesame-encrusted ahi tuna, lamb sirloin, and delicious Argentinian beef. Local, seasonal ingredients boost the cuisine's quality, and an enviable tapas menu features ceviche, scallop stew, Spanish serrano ham, and blue potato frittata. A full bar, live jazz nightly, and strong prospects for dancing also add appeal to Magnus. Fantastic desserts and incredible wines, too. Tapas average about $10 each. (608-258-8787)

Tornado Club Steak House
Mellow and softly lit, this celebrated restaurant makes a strong showing as one of Madison's top steak houses. Flawless cuts of beef arrive with a crisp crust and pink, juicy interior, whether you choose an 8-ounce filet or a 25-ounce rib-eye. Rack of lamb, pork tenderloin, venison, duck breast, braised rabbit, pan-fried walleye, and crab legs also make a welcome showing. In fact, the restaurant is invariably accomplished in service, cuisine, and ambience. Plus, consistency is a strong suit and has patrons returning again and again. (608-256-3570)

A city institution, Lombardino's has been one of Madison's most recognizable restaurants since 1952. Given to kitschy charm, the interior is a throwback to Italian eateries of past decades, a look patrons love for its unchanging character. The cuisine has also stood the test of time, as evidenced by roasted veal tenderloin, skillet-seared sea scallops, spaghetti puttanesca alla mare, and grilled black Angus filet of beef. Pastas and creative Napoletana pizzas are appealing as well. (608-238-1922)

Arguably the city's most renowned restaurant, this much-applauded enterprise revels in the attention of chef-proprietor Tory Miller. Sublime cuisine marries the best local Wisconsin ingredients with French culinary tradition, and menus change weekly as they follow the seasons. You may find, for example, seared wild king salmon with fennel-pollen citrus crust, tea-smoked quail, beef tenderloin with red wine jus, cinnamon-smoked pork, and herb-glazed chicken. Local cheeses and dairy products also appear, and the dining experience is one you're not likely to encounter frequently. (608-251-0500)

Johnny Delmonico's
Cleanly elegant and rife with luxurious materials and details, this sophisticated steak house makes a perfect destination for special-occasion or expense-account dining. Aged steaks range from the signature rib-eye to tenderloins and NY strips. Other options include Moroccan-spiced chicken, chipotle pork tenderloin, Maine lobster, salmon en papillote, and seared sea scallops with candied cashews. Fresh oysters and mussels make appetizing starters, and a full bar with an international wine list is available as well. Attentive and professional service adds to the 1940s-style ambience. (608-257-8325)

A simple, elegant dining room sets the scene for this wonderful restaurant, whose chef-owners trained at nearby L'Etoile. The accomplished cuisine relies on fresh, seasonal ingredients and may feature buttermilk and dill-roasted chicken, seared wild striped bass with Manila clams, Black Angus New York strip, or tomato-saffron risotto with summer vegetables. Lovely presentation and incomparable flavor distinguish each dish, and sidewalk dining is available when the weather's mild. (608-255-6075)

Maps and Directions

Ella's Deli 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Deli, Ice Cream
Neighborhood: East
Cost: $
Stone House at Quivey's Grove 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Continental
Neighborhood: West
Cost: $$
Bandung Restaurant 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Asian, Indonesian
Neighborhood: East
Cost: $
Bahn Thai 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Asian, Thai
Neighborhood: East
Cost: $
Restaurant Magnus 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Latin
Cost: $$
Tornado Club Steak House 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Steakhouse
Cost: $$
Lombardino's 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, Italian
Cost: $$
L'Etoile 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, French, Local Specialty
Cost: $$$
Johnny Delmonico's 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Steakhouse
Cost: $$
Harvest 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Continental, New American
Cost: $$
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