Pity the poor Madisonian who chooses the week of July 26-31 to vacation out of town. That's when Madison Restaurant Week returns in its summer incarnation. Thirty area restaurants will feature prix fixe menus, $25 for a three-course meal. A handful also offer a three-course lunch for $15. Dinner in particular isn't a bad deal at all, and it offers a chance for diners to benefit from a chef's special efforts. Afraid of showing up at restaurant only to find you don't like what's on the special menu? Almost every restaurant has a choice of three items for each course, whether it's the appetizer, the entree or the dessert. Some have more. Samba Brazilian Grill has basically the whole smorgasbord on sale for $25.
Throughout the menus, there is an emphasis on seasonal produce when possible. Desserts are often fruit-based (peach crisp, berry pound cake), which doesn't mean they won't be decadent all the same.
Some tempters to look for when you're planning your eating:
- Quivey's Grove Stable Grill's crispy fried pickle chips, duck and raspberry salad (lunch entree), Wisconsin fish sampler (dinner entree) and raspberry fool or blueberry cobbler for dessert
- Quivey's Grove Stone House's heirloom tomato and watermelon salad (with Carr Valley Cardona cheese) and raspberry barbecue duck as an entree
- Bluephie's sweet pea soup starter, with lavender marshmallows, pink peppercorns and crème frache; seared scallops with sweet corn succotash and berry pound cake for dessert
- Liliana's bananas foster for a Bayou dessert
- Harvest's braised beef short ribs with polenta
- Lombardino's locally sourced wood-grilled Jordandal Farm pork loin and Boca-Nera flourless chocolate cake to top it off
- Capitol Chophouse's heirloom tomato sampler -- with fresh mozzarella and basil pesto
- Dayton Street Grille's Jordandal Farms marsala spiced organic chicken
- Eldorado Grill's grilled spinach enchiladas with tequila mangos with ice cream for dessert
- Osteria Papavero's budino di caramello -- that's homemade butterscotch pudding
- LaBrioche True Food's macadamia-crusted mahi and peach and mascarpone gelato
- Le Chardonnay's inclusion of Julia Child's salade nioise for starters and a Tunisian-style fricassée of chicken
- Ocean Grill's wonderful house salad, preparing the way for bacon-wrapped day boat scallops (with sautéed asparagus and béarnaise sauce
- Brocach's ploughman's plate (homemade brown bread, Cashel Irish blue cheese, vintage Irish cheddar, summer sausage, liverwurst and cornichons, served with horseradish and Colemans mustard -- that's an appetizer but sounds like a meal right there) and Guinness chocolate cake for afters
- Cafe Continental's penne paradiso pasta, with prosciutto, peas, cremini mushrooms and cream.
If none of this strikes your fancy, see full menus and a list of all participating restaurants here.