By Grace Timmerman | Photography By Sunny Frantz
As the holiday stress and excitement finally ebbs away each year, it can be hard not to fall into the couch-potato throes of fickle February. But, these three Madison restaurants give you excellent reasons to get out of the house. And be sure to bring someone along to share these delicious, convivial plates with, because basking in a warm, cozy environment for a few hours is all it takes to melt the winter blues away.
Hilldale has gained yet another hot spot in the past year, right next to the Apple store. Bartaco is an easy choice for a casual bite before catching a movie at the AMC theater down the block. With its laid-back, Los Angeles coastal vibe, unique cocktails and street tacos, the buzzy atmosphere of this beach-inspired restaurant will undoubtedly lift your spirits.
Invite a couple of friends for a lunch date and snap crisp tortilla shells over fresh, citrusy guacamole or bond over the rich and cheesy corn fritters. Also great for sharing are the plantains—beautifully caramelized and accompanied by a complimentary garlicky aioli—or the puffed, golden chicken empanadas. Make sure to save room for the cinnamon sugar-coated churros dipped generously in bittersweet chocolate sauce. bartaco.com
Nose-to-tail concepts have gathered steam over the past decade, and Pig in a Fur Coat on East Williamson Street is a top- notch example of why the trend continues. This snug restaurant features mismatched chandeliers and quirky artwork, while potted plants on the windowsills convey a gentle reminder of spring’s anticipated arrival.
In his desire to use the whole animal, owner and chef Daniel Bonanno creates decadent dishes that beg to be shared, such as wholesome meatballs in a savory bone marrow sauce and an extremely tender octopus tendril teetering on a bed of crispy pig’s head accented with a smoky, complex mole. More adventurous diners might go for the duck hearts tamed with fresh and spicy kimchi. The menu’s crown jewel, however, is the foie gras mousse: a thin, velvety layer of luxurious mousse atop a donut and amethyst fig compote throne; it’s a luscious combination of sweet and savory, smooth and rich. (You may find yourself reluctant to share this dish with anyone at all!) apiginafurcoat.com
Another romantic eatery is Eno Vino Wine Bar & Bistro, with a location on the west side, and downtown, in the top floor of the AC Hotel. The west side location is opulent and intimate, with low lighting and jazztronica music playing throughout, while the downtown spot is notable for its stunning views of the Capitol building and both lakes. The tapas- style menus vary slightly between locations, but regardless of which one you’re at, you can always count on perfectly seared scallops, inventive flatbreads and bruschettas. Their hefty wine selection boasts many varietals by the bottle or glass that always harmonize perfectly with the eats. eno-vino.com