I like the idea of doing 4 (or so) places with some grocery/other activities thrown in for good measure.
My four top contenders? Well, I'm flexible, of course, but I can envision something like this:
Doug's Soul Food
One of the BBQ places
Whatever is on the schedule from the A-Z site
Something "ethnic" (Asian? Latin American?)
I ate at Vientane once and had an absolutely amazing Squash Curry there--perhaps even Buddy, our resident curcubitophobe, would like it.
But there are many ethnic places in Madison that I haven't been to--I hear there's a really good Peruvian restaurant near campus, for example.
I like the idea of doing the A-Z thing with N & JM. It sounds like a fun way to try something kind of random, and to talk to Madison foodies.
What non-meal stops to make? Dunno. There are some artisanal cheese shops around there. There's also a chocolatier (or two) in town that makes nifty flavors. We could always stop at the Great Dane for a beer..... A stop for custard somewhere seems more than reasonable....
Doug's Soul Food is located in what's basically an industrial park but it does have the Mexican restaurant right next door. Plus I can give you a tour of the Caterpillar dealership where I work, and if you're nice I'll let you sit on a machine and make engine noises while you pretend to steer.
If Doug's winds up on the itinerary then the logical choice for barbecue is Fat Jack's in Monona, as it's just north of the Beltline and everyone will be coming into town that way. Plus it's next to a Japanese steakhouse (the name escapes me) and a Mexican market.
Heading south on Fish Hatchery Road from Greenway Cross takes you the shopping plaza at Post Road, where there's a little Hispanic market run IIRC by Tomas, the former owner of La Paella. There's also a very good liquor store right next door if anyone wants to buy some craft beers or wines not found in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas. One of the Pizza Extreme locations is also right here and Buddy will undoubtedly want to get a foot-long chili-cheese dog from the Dairy Queen.
Going further south leads to Casa Del Sol, which used to be the "other" Casa De Lara (the original's on State). I've eaten there and the food's OK, but I also know very little about authenticity when it comes to Mexican. There's also a "fast sushi" kind of place and one of the Great Dane locations, but once you get to McKee Road you're just a stone's throw from Liliana's
, which is one of our favorites (Abita Turbodog on tap - yay!). However, it's also more upscale and it's frighteningly easy to spend a lot of money there. Further down Fish Hatchery is The Continental, which is another classy place. 2 places that aren't really Roadfoody but if anybody's ever looking for more of a "dining experience" while in Madison they're definitely worth considering.
<message edited by Brad_Olson on Tue, 02/23/10 10:28 AM>