Sunday, June 27, 2010

Best Restaurants in Madison

I love going out to eat. It's something I do regularly. For a small city, we are spoiled with a lot of really good spots to dine. Here are my recommendations:

Best Pizza:

-Greenbush Pizza
Although not that old, has the feel of an institution. I have even heard a New Yorker say "This is the best pizza I have ever had!"

Best Sushi:

Best Outdoor Seating:
-Lake Vista Cafe
Overlooks Lake Monona on the top of the Terrace. You feel like you are sitting on the deck of a boat and the food tastes fresh.
On the top of MMOCA, has views of State Street and the Capitol. Also uses a lot of local food. Gourmet!

Best Breakfast/Brunch:
I am not a real "breakfast" kind of person. I enjoy a bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit, but if you want to go out for brunch, there are a fair amount of options.
-Sardine (same owners as Marigold)
Overlooking the lake, It has more of a "big city" ambiance with a menu of fresh options.
-Sophia's Bakery & Cafe
A little, tiny room where you have to sit with strangers at mismatched tables/chairs. I am guessing Sophia is a grandma who loves to bake, but doesn't have to do it for a living. Excellent muffins.

Best Italian:
Osteria Papavero

Best Thai:
Lao Laan-Xang

Best Ethnic (Nepalese):
Himal Chuli
A "hole in the wall" on State Street.

Best Medditarranean:
Mediatarranean Cafe
Great falafel. I just wish they were open for dinner, too.

Best Bars:
Plain cool all around

Natt Spil
Always attractive people (but cash only) Good food, too.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Plan B (Not the Birth Control)

Summer still has not officially started. For those "downers" who like to say a month from today that it is the "end of the summer," try to reevaluate the "half full" theory. Tomorrow is the summer solstice. And tomorrow is June 21st. Fall equinox is September 22nd. Keep that in mind the next time you try to say that it is the "end" of summer two months out.

This weekend in Madison, I enjoyed watching a little bit of the "Annual Pirate Days" on Lake Mendota. I sat at the Memorial Union at UW which overlooks Lake Mendota. The place was crowded with all ages of people drinking beer, working on their laptops, eating ice cream and spectating the Hoofers Sailing Club event. (I hardly watched. I was flapping my gums a little).

I ventured over to the inaugural "Fruitfest" hosted by - Plan B. I mentioned it in a blog posting from December. My friends know I love to go dancing. The "clubbing" venue is slim around here, although there are a few. I love Plan B. If I was able to psych myself up to do it every weekend, I would. But I manage to get there about once a month.

"Fruitfest" was an all-day block party hosted by Plan B with some vendors, beer, and drag queen performances. (See photo). Once the block party ended, we went in the club for some all night dancing. This is a LGBTG club. I am straight and I do very occasionally get hit on. I don't care one way or the other. It's all good and fun. Straight men and women go there as well (obviously).

It's what you would expect: dance music, grinding and the likes. The bartenders are dressed quite skimpily. On Saturday nights, it is always jam packed. The drinks are completely reasonable. I am happy to open a tab and I have never had a pricey bar tab at the end of the evening.

But let me warn you, the next day usually results in a headache and some "oh my Gods." I can't wait to do it again next weekend.

Now - here is a homework assignment:

I would like to gather photos of bike racks in other cities. Can you please e-mail me the first bike rack you approach? I am going to do a posting on it in July. Please e-mail photos by June 30th. Thanks in advance!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Summer Weekend in Madison

Technically, summer has not yet started. But the weather is right and the kids are wrapping up with school. The days are long. And the pool has opened.

Last week, I blogged about Ride the Drive. I am scared of biking. (Yes I admit it. Actually, I am traumatized and have a fear of being hit by a car). I chose to do it on foot with my dog. And, it's no surprise that the event was a huge success. The six mile loop was blocked off from traffic and people of all ages biked, walked, skated and ran through the city streets. I wish I had brought my camera. If I am going to describe the successful venues around Madison, it is time to start proving it.

Two problems. Actually three.

1)If you are a runner, then you understand that it is an inconvenience to run with anything. Let alone a camera.

2) My camera is an antique. It should be collecting social security. (Oh - and I am a horrible photographer).

3) Since I was about 18, I was always avoiding looking like a "tourist." Even in my own city. So the camera doesn't help.

Anyway, I did take photographs and it worked out well.

You can see the amount of bikers in town, based on the bike rack I photographed. You know how I always praise Madison for being "biker friendly?" This is any given rack around town.

I attended the annual Marquette Waterfront Festival in Madison. I blogged about it last summer. An outdoor music festival brings a melting pot of people together. While Madison is not the most diverse city, this is one place where it appears slightly diverse. The photo of the tables and tents was taken there - along the shore of Lake Monona. The "Dime a Dozen" photo shows some dread headed hippies, watching "The Handphibians" - the Brazilian-style percussionists. (These spectators are a "dime in dozen around here.) You get the scent of patchouli, bad body odor and lots of kids with two moms/two dads. Nothing wrong with that. I heart Madison!

I visited New Glarus, home of the world famous, "Spotted Cow" beer. My mom finally likes drinking due to this tasty brew. New Glarus is also known as "Little Switzerland." Everything there is pronounced like "Scnitzelheinen this" and "Schtuberazian that" (I totally made that up).

After co-hosting a party involving karaoke, I finally did my solo act of Frank Sinatra's, "The Lady is a Tramp." I worked the stage and hammed it up a bit. I only have about four songs I can do. So if I ever get a second job as a lounge singer, you'll be hearing four songs over and over again. We also did "Janie's Got a Gun." How come people still tell me they have never heard of my name before? Do they know who Aerosmith is?

It was an event filled weekend. The market is my weekly ritual (see photos) and they had emergency vehicles on the square yesterday for demos. The kids could see the sheriff's car, fire trucks, police dogs and the likes.

Who knows what's happening next weekend in Madison, but I am sure it will be festive.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Progressive Madison and its Healthy Lifestyle

Madison, Wisconsin. A healthy, liberal and economically stable city. My parents were visiting this spring. My Dad said to me, "As soon as I got off the beltline, runners and walkers were everywhere. Just like you're always talking about in your blog."

Runners and bikers do rule the roads here. I wish I could do more to promote the city of Madison. It is continuously voted "best place to live." How are people missing this?

I feel like there is a certain level of sophistication that is necessary for people to "get Madison." Like, if you aren't well read, then you probably don't know anything about Madison. Whereas you probably don't know anything about Austin, then. Because they are supposed to be very similar.

Take the guy who I met in Montreal. An extremely wealthy businessman. How do I know he was very wealthy? Besides the fact that he told me what he does for a living, google works, people. (Why aren't more people taking advantage of this? Because so many Americans are lazy, that's why.) So Mr. Wealthy man from Buffalo, New York and I are talking. He is very smart. That's for sure. But he is not refined, so to speak. First, he tells me that he travels a ton for work, but has never left the continent. When I asked him why, (he obviously could afford a trip to Australia, if he wanted to,) he says, "I don't know." Ok - that is so weird. But ok. Then he asks in a condescending way, "What is there to do in Madison, Wisconsin?"

Where do I start? Concerts, outdoor films, an ironman, the USA Cycling 2010 Collegiate Road National Championships,skiing, boating, hiking, running, biking, great food, waterfront festivals, jazz concerts, umm... there is a University here and the country's largest farmer's market. So why does this guy not know that? Why don't more people know this?

It appears that if you don't move to large cities like Chicago or New York, you're not worthy. But I would much rather be living in my Madison condo down town, paying the exact same rent I was paying in 2003 living in Boston. And have money left over to enjoy my surroundings. Because there is actually a lot more that I enjoy in this little city than there was in Boston.

So I suppose the secret remains. This is one of the best cities to live in. Yesterday, I watched thousands of people walking by for Breast Cancer. And right now, I am heading out to ride the drive. Guess who else is going to attend the next Ride the Drive in this "small town?" Have you ever heard of Lance Armstrong?