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:
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 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!
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 Ethnic (Nepalese):
A "hole in the wall" on State Street.
Great falafel. I just wish they were open for dinner, too.
Plain cool all around
Always attractive people (but cash only) Good food, too.