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Located on the university campus, this enterprise is affiliated with UW-Madison and serves as a practical learning experience for certain of its students. Ice creams and cheeses produced by the university are renowned for their flavor and quality, and you'll often see folks tackling a multi-scoop cone in absolute bliss. A number of recipes are standards (chocolate peanut butter, orange custard, chocolate chip), and monthly innovations also appear (tiramisu, cotton candy, rootbeer float). Make sure not to let this one slip by untested. And they're open year-round, so summer visitors won't miss out!

Read more about Babcock Hall Dairy Store →


9
State Street


Placate your sushi urges at this enviable establishment, which boasts dozens of hand-crafted rolls. Just-caught seafood graces the beautiful morsels, which sushi chefs create to please the eye as much as the tongue. Wasabi's talents are also showcased in noodle dishes and in teriyaki, tempura, sukiyaki, and hibachi items. Try several from the menu, or simply graze on your favorite rolls. Pleasant service and a selection of alcoholic beverages sweeten the deal.

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8
Downtown


Romantic and intimate, Porta Bella has entranced Madison diners since 1968, and loyal patrons give it praise for food and ambience again and again. Lush dishes include meaty lasagna, shrimp tetrazzini, oven-baked salmon, and a NY strip stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, almonds, and mozzarella. Pastas (both stuffed and topped) also draw raves, and a wine suggestion follows each item on the menu. Desserts are worth saving room for, especially the tiramisu and the cannoli. Downstairs, Porta Bella's Cellar stocks a wide array of beers, wines, and other libations and serves as a pleasant hangout. Reservations accepted Sunday-Thursday.

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Yes, it's small, and yes, you may have to wait briefly to be seated, but these are small inconveniences to brook for the superb Laotian cuisine at this family-operated place. Folks flock to Lao Laan-Xang for incredible curries, noodle dishes, and lots of other, more exotic entrees. Impeccable ingredients and a masterful culinary hand produce flavorful, spicy items as authentic and good as you could hope for. Seafood and poultry are common, and soups laced with coconut milk, chilis, and cilantro are delicious as well.

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Clean-lined Western style mixes with a warehouse setting in this warm, rustic restaurant. Glowing with light and patinated woods, Eldorado transports patrons to the Southwest of days gone by. Even the menu is infused with Mexican and Spanish influences. It features grilled lamb loin with lime cream sauce, blackened catfish, chicken-fried steak with pasilla chile gravy, and lobster, crab, and shrimp enchiladas. Fresh fish, fajitas, and chalupas also make appearances, and an extensive tequila menu keeps with the theme as well. Sunday brunch and outdoor dining, too.

Read more about Eldorado Grill →


5


Located at street level in the estimable L'Etoile restaurant building, this cafe has been a godsend according to those local folks who appreciate European-style bakeries and incredible pastries. House-baked goods include croissants, gougeres, cakes, breads, and pain au chocolat. Sweet and savory options are both available, and you'll also find gourmet sandwiches and soups. Ingredients for the cafe foods come from the Farmers' Market, and when it's open on Saturday mornings, space can get tight. Still, don't let that deter you from indulging in some of the city's best light fare.

Read more about Café Soleil →


4
Downtown
Essen Haus


Teutonic spirit runs deep and proud at this local institution, which caters to folks of German heritage and aficionados of the culture. The staff wear authentic costumes, and oompah music rings out as eager patrons tuck into wienerschnitzel, sauerbraten, and a variety of wursts. Beer-lovers can choose from 16 German varieties on tap or more than 200 international brands. A convivial ambience and instant camaraderie provide additional reasons to polka over and spend the evening.

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A pastoral setting and a renovated, 19th-century farmhouse provide the backdrop for dining at Otto's. Known for certified Angus steaks and Mediterranean fare, the restaurant appeals to professionals and is especially nice during the summer, when the deck is open and jazz musicians play. Pastas, roasted quail, and grilled lamb chops sing of rustic origins, and specialties include grilled salmon in grape leaves and roasted sea bass with citrus beurre blanc. Pleasant bar scene as well.

Read more about Otto's Restaurant & Bar →


Biaggi's


Biaggi's serves patrons well with large portions, an extensive menu, and a comfortable, convivial ambience. Local folks prize favorites like osso buco, chicken saltimbocca, pork chops al forno, seared salmon, veal marsala, and an herb-tinged NY strip. Pastas and individual pizzas also make for appetizing fare, and the wine list features Italian and domestic vintages. Service is attentive, and children are easily accommodated, as are groups. A great, anytime restaurant.

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1
Downtown
Paisan's


With its sunny patio, cozy wooden booths, and casual ambience, Paisan's plays host to folks seeking affordable Italian fare and some of the city's best pizza. Sandwiches and pasta standards have their place, but thin-crust pies are the signature. Test a Vegetarian Pesto from their combo list, or choose your favorite toppings and revel in the freshness. Weekday pasta specials satisfy budget-conscious diners, and pitchers of sangria call out to the college contingent. Plus, there's tiramisu! Reservations accepted Monday-Thursday.

Read more about Paisan's →


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