The sushi bar and dining area at VIP Asian Cuisine was like a touch of Las Vegas in Madison.
The lavish VIP Asian Cuisine, which served Japanese and Chinese food on Madison's West Side, has closed after almost six years.
The location, on the 6700 block of Odana Road, saw a lot of turnover between when Mandarin Palace left in the mid-90s and VIP opened. The spot had hosted at least four troubled restaurants and night clubs that were prone to fights, even gunfire. Some were forced to shut down by the city.
VIP's phone number has been disconnected and a sign on the door says "CLOSED PERMANENTLY."
Cheng Zheng and Joe Zheng, who are unrelated, put a lot of money into remodeling the space, creating an elegant, relaxing room with lots of colored light that would be right at home in Las Vegas.
Former manager Fiona Zheng, unrelated to the other Zhengs, didn't know why the restaurant closed. She said the men sold the restaurant a few years ago, and she didn't know how to reach the most recent owners.
For burgers: Dotty Dumpling's Dowry
Back in the day, Dotty Dumpling's Dowry was one of the more colorful things about Madison, mainly due to its owner, founder and "Hamburger King" Jeff Stanley. Its Fairchild Street spot was its most famous, but Stanley had to leave it in 2001 to make way for the Overture Center. The restaurant is now operated by Stanley's daughter near the Kohl Center.
Location: 317 N. Frances St. Phone: 608-259-0000 Website: www.dottydumplingsdowry.com
Hours: Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
For burgers: Graze
When executive chef and co-owner Tory Miller created the Graze Burger, he wanted to make a burger that was a step above the rest. The burger uses Wisconsin-raised meat, along with Swiss cheese from Mineral Point and red wine caramelized onion to elevate the eating experience.
Location: 1 S. Pinckney St. Phone: 608-251-2700 Website: www.grazemadison.com
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For burgers: Harmony Bar
This landmark tavern is a reliable bet for burgers, especially with its best-known and loved veggie burger, the walnut burger. The menu has a selection of burgers, specialty pizzas and other bar foods.
Location: 2201 Atwood Ave. Phone: 608-249-4333 Website: www.harmonybarandgrill.com
Grill hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight (9 p.m. on band nights); Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For burgers: The Nitty Gritty
Known as Madison's official birthday place, it's one of the longest-operating restaurants in Madison, at 50 years. You can have an enjoyable evening at the Nitty with burgers, shakes, brats and more. The restaurant also has Sun Prairie and Middleton locations.
Location: 223 N. Frances St. Phone: 608-251-2521 Website: www.thegritty.com
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to midnight
For burgers: The Plaza Tavern
The Plazaburger, a quarter-pound hamburger, has been the tavern's signature item since the creation of the burger and secret sauce in 1964. It's so good that it was featured in George Motz's book, "Hamburger America: One Man's Cross-Country Odyssey to Find the Best Burgers in the Nation."
Location: 319 N Henry St. Phone: 608-255-6592 Website: www.theplazatavern.com
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
For Italian: Cento
With a dinner menu divided into six sections, Cento brings contemporary Italian to Madison. The menu features different pastas, meats and drinks to make you want one of everything. The excellent menu is complemented by a refined yet comfortable ambiance.
Location: 122 W. Mifflin St. Phone: 608-284-9378 Website: www.centomadison.com
Dinner: Monday through Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, 4 p.m. to midnight; and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For Italian: Fraboni's Italian Specialties and Delicatessen
This Italian deli's original Italian sub has been part of the menu since the 1970s, with ingredients that have never changed.
Location: 108 Owen Road, Monona. Phone: 608-222-6632 Website: www.frabonisdeli.com
Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For Italian: Lombardino's
Lombardino’s serves authentic Italian cuisine, including its staple spaghetti Bolognese. With fresh, local and imported Italian ingredients, owners Patrick O’Halloran and Michael Banas create genuine Italian comfort food.
Location: 2500 university Ave. Phone: 608-238-1922 Website: www.lombardinos.com
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
For Italian: Paisan's
Another long-time restaurant in Madison (about 67 years), Paisan’s is a great place for large groups because of the roomy space and great service. The menu items are quite similar to its sister restaurant Porta Bella, which means the food at both places is exceptional.
Location: 131 W. Wilson St. Website: www.paisansrest.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily.
For Italian: Salvatore's Tomato Pies
It’s come a long way since its inception in 2011, but the pizza is still the star. These tomato pies are pizzas made in reverse, with the tomato sauce on top of the cheese. The flavor combinations are so good, they’ll stick in your head for a while.
Location: 912 E. Johnson St. (There is also a Sun Prairie location.) Phone: 608-238-6040 Website: www.salvatorestomatopies.com
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
For Mexican: Canteen
This highly-stylized, but inexpensive taco shop on the Capitol Square has a fun and funky atmosphere and great cocktails, including Down the Rabbit Hole with reposado tequila — aged in oak barrels — spiced orange liqueur, carrot, grapefruit and fennel bitters. Canteen’s tacos are equally creative.
Location: 111 S. Hamilton St. Phone: 608-285-5703 Website: canteentaco.com
Hours: Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
For Mexican: Gloria's
Gloria's is well known for its great tacos, margaritas and casual atmosphere. It has a large drink menu, featuring specials like the “luxury margarita,” and a menu that boasts “the best tamales in town.”
Location: 610 Junction Road Phone: 608-203-9222 Website: gloriasmexicanrestaurant.com
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For Mexican: La Hacienda
In business since 1996, La Hacienda is one of Madison’s most established Mexican restaurants. Everyone who has ever taken Spanish as a second language wants to fight over the correct pronunciation of La Hacienda. While most people want to say it as two distinct words, it’s actually pronounced “Lacienda.”
Location: 515 S Park St. Phone: 608-255-8227 Website: None
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 a.m.
For Mexican: Taqueria Guadalajara
Taqueria Guadalajara is known for its tacos al pastor, which translates to shepherd’s tacos. This traditional dish is made with pork and a blend of pineapple slices, lime, garlic, cilantro, oregano, salt and two other secret ingredients.
Location: 1033 S. Park St. Phone: 608-250-1824 Website: www.lataqueriaguadalajara.com
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For Mexican: Tex Tubb's Taco Palace
For great fish tacos, head to Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace. With its cheap, frozen margaritas, it’s perfect for a quick bite. The restaurant also hosts live acoustic music.
Location: 2009 Atwood Ave. Phone: 608-242-1800 Website: www.textubbstacos.com
Hours: Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For kid-friendly fare: Ian's Pizza
As Madison’s most popular pizza place, Ian’s is a classic and favorite choice among kids. Ian's is best known for its Mac n' Cheese pizza.
Locations: 100 State St. and 319 N Frances St. Phone: 608-257-9248 Website: www.ianspizza.com Hours for State Street location: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Hours for Frances Street location: Daily from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
For kid-friendly food: Pat O'Malley's Jet Room
The Jet Room is perfect for anyone who likes eating with a view. The kids can enjoy a meal while they watch planes arrive and depart from the Wisconsin Aviation building. The Jet Room also has a special $100 burger certificate, which includes a 30-minute scenic plane ride for two around Madison and dining credit.
Location: 3606 Corben Court Phone: 608-268-5010 Website: www.jetroomrestaurant.com
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For kid-friendly fare: Pizza Brutta
Pizza Brutta is known for its strict Neapolitan-style pizza, an Italian-style pizza made with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes. The wood-fired pizzas are always fresh and quick.
Location: 1805 Monroe St. Phone: 608-257-2120 Website: www.pizzabrutta.com
Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For kid-friendly fare: Yola's Cafe
Yola’s Cafe opened in 2009 on the Far West Side with a mission of providing breakfast, lunch and an oasis of calm in the busy lives of its customers. Owner Lance Ratze used to work at Crema Cafe and Yola's is a tribute to his grandmother and her cooking. (Grandma's waffle iron is pictured here.)
Location: 494 Commerce Drive Phone: 608-827-5800 Website: www.yolascafe.com
Hours: Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
For kid-friendly fare: Zuzu Cafe
This neighborhood gathering place near Vilas Zoo offers unusually good, creative food, including Mediterranean fare. It’s a big draw in the summer with a wonderful patio and a sandbox for the kids.
Location: 1336 Drake St. Phone: 608-260-9898 Website: www.facebook.com/ZuZu.Cafe.in.Madison/
Hours: Monday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For supper-club fare: The Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned offers a new spin on Wisconsin’s favorite restaurant type: the supper club. The restaurant not only offers the state’s most famous cocktail, its namesake, but puts out a stellar fish fry, along with beer, brats and cheese curds.
Location: 23 N Pinckney St. Phone: 608-310-4545 Website: www.theoldfashioned.com
Hours: Monday and Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.; and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Supper club fare: Avenue Club
Avenue Club, once the Avenue Bar, is now owned by the Food Fight Restaurant Group. The restaurant is a modernized supper club with a menu full of classic and updated cocktails.
Location: 1128 E. Washington Ave. Phone: 608-257-6877 Website: www.avenueclubmadison.com
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., kitchen closes at 10 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., kitchen closes at 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For supper club fare: Kavanaugh's Esquire Club
At this venerable North Side supper club, it can take 45 minutes to get a table for its Friday night family-style fish fry. But there's generally immediate seating in its windowless basement, where the long tables are reminiscent of a church basement fish fry.
Location: 1025 N. Sherman Ave. Website: www.kavanaughsesquire.club
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
For supper-club fare: Smoky's Club
As a supper club that dates back to 1953, Smoky’s is an upscale steakhouse, with steak so tender it can be cut with a butter knife. Not only is the meat tender, but it has excellent flavor. There's a good reason why Smoky's has been around for 65 years.
Location: 3005 University Ave. Phone: 608-233-2120 Website: www.smokysclub.com
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
For supper-club fare: Toby's Supper Club
Toby’s Supper Club has been family owned for more than 40 years, with many claiming it has the city’s best fish fry. The restaurant is also known for its frog legs and hash brown potatoes.
Location: 3717 S. Dutch Mill Road Phone: 608-222-6913 Website: www.tobyssupperclub.com
Lunch: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner: Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
For global fare: Mirch Masala
Mirch Masala moved to a new location in 2014, to the delight of its loyal customers. This gem of an Indian restaurant is tucked away on State Street and offers a daily lunch buffet, as well as a variety of dinner options.
Location: 449 State St.
Hours: Daily 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For global fare: Buraka
Buraka is Madison’s only African restaurant now. This East African spot has a delicious menu that features traditional Ethiopian food including the popular dorowot and vegetarian peanut stew.
Location: 1210 Williamson St.
Hours: Daily 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
For global fare: Essen Haus
Location: 514 E Wilson St.
Madison’s most enduring German restaurant and beer hall. Its daily Oktoberfest atmosphere is enhanced by the monthly Stein Club, where membership entitles you to a free, 2-liter glass of beer in the shape of a boot on your birthday, among many other perks.
Hours: Sunday and Wednesday 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday 3 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 3 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
For global fare: Himal Chuli
This well-loved State Street mainstay serves Nepalese food in a warm, cozy, casual setting. The tarkari, a traditional vegetable stew and staple of a Nepalese diet, will never let you down.
Location: 318 State St.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
For global fare: Miko Poké
Miko Poke was Madison’s first poke restaurant, with many others following its lead. Customers can customize their poke bowls, which are essentially deconstructed sushi.
Location: 2701 Monroe St., Suite 250
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For fine dining: Harvest
For almost 20 years, Harvest has been one of Madison’s top fine dining restaurants, using local and organic ingredients. Its focus is on seasonality rather than on a specific cuisine. Owner Tami Lax is a disciple of Odessa Piper, L’Etoile’s founder, and she worked at L’Etoile as chef de cuisine and forager.
Location: 21 N. Pinckney St. Phone: 608-255-6075 Website: www.harvest-restaurant.com
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
For fine dining: Heritage Tavern
Chef Dan Fox takes farm to table to a new level with his Heritage Tavern. The menu changes frequently and includes global inspirations. Fox is also known for raising heritage pigs, and one of the restaurant's best known items is its family-style char sui heritage pork shoulder and tuna.
Location: 131 E. Mifflin St. Phone: 608-283-9500 Website: www.heritagetavern.com Dinner: Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. until 10 p.m.
Late night: Tuesday through Thursday, 10 p.m. until midnight; Friday and Saturday, 10 p.m. until 1 a.m.
For fine dining: L'Etoile
For more than four decades, L'Etoile has been leading the Madison culinary scene, serving farm-to-table meals before it became de rigueur. L'Etoile is seen as a special occasion restaurants.
Location: 1 S. Pinckney St. Phone: 608-251-0500 Website: www.letoile-restaurant.com
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, opens at 5:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, opens at 5 p.m.
For fine dining: A Pig in a Fur Coat
A Pig in a Fur Coat features some of the most creative and exquisite meals in Madison. With an extensive menu with daring dishes such as the pork tripe, it’s sure to be an interesting dining experience.
Location: 940 Williamson St. Phone: 608-316-3300 Website: www.apiginafurcoat.com
Dinner: Monday through Thursday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
For a romantic meal: Estrellón
Award-winning L’Etoile chef Tory Miller brings impressive Spanish-inspired tapas to Estrellón. The restaurant's tapas menu is extensive, and there’s also an equally long dinner menu available that features vegetables, seafood and meat.
Location: 313 W. Johnson St. Phone: 608-251-2111 Website: www.estrellonrestaurant.com
Dinner: Tuesday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For a romantic meal: Fresco
Fresco is known for its elegant dining experience and lovely Madison view. Perched on top of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art on State Street, its ever-changing menu features a wide range of meats and pastas.
Location: 227 State St. Phone: 608-663-7374 Website: www.frescomadison.com
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For a romantic meal: Porta Bella
Porta Bella is an indoor and outdoor sister restaurant to Paisan’s. The often overlooked European-style courtyard is a campus oasis. The dinners are unbeatable, with its Porta salad, vegetarian pesto pizza and sangria.
Location: 425 N. Frances St. Phone: 608-256-3186 Website: www.portabellarest.com
Hours: Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
For a romantic meal: Quivey's Grove
Quivey's Grove is two restaurants in one. It’s beloved for its historic stone house and its more casual Stable Grill, and good luck getting a seat for its famous Friday fish fry. The stone house is an Italianate fieldstone mansion with eighteen-inch thick walls. The original stone stable dates to 1855.
Location: 6261 Nesbitt Road Phone: 608-273-4900 Website: www.quiveysgrove.com
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For a romantic meal: Tempest Oyster Bar
Tempest Oyster Bar is probably one of the most overlooked fine dining establishments in Madison. Treat yourself to the smoke stack starter made with white fish salad, lox, trout, caviar and horseradish cream.
Location: 120 E. Wilson St. Phone: 608-258-1443 Website: tempestoysterbar.com
Hours: Dinner served daily, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; happy hour Monday-Friday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.; late night happy hour, Friday-Saturday, 10 p.m.
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