Bean Sprouts Café's wholesome, vegetarian-friendly menu supplies palates with a nutritious array of fresh smoothies, snacks, salads, sandwiches, wraps, pasta, and entrees in portions to please kids ($5.25 for a main dish), adults ($7.95), and big daddies ($9.50). Gather enough forearm strength to punish burly bullies with the spinach, gruyere, and hummus wrap, or satisfy a Lilliputian appetite with the turkey or veggie-tofu Bunchkin Burger. All main dishes come with a choice of healthy side, such as edamame or freshly harpooned banana octopus. Organic baby bites with clever names such as Pea Diddy and Sam I Yam ($2.50 each) and family meal packs cement Bean Sprouts' familial air like a Scythian blood oath.
As early as age 11, Joanne Weeden was baking treats for her mother to bring to patients at the hospital where she worked as a nurse. Years later, Weeden is still at it, making fresh cookies, cupcakes, dessert bars, and breads at Boomerang Bakery (the name is a tribute to her Australian roots). In addition to offering these goodies, Boomerang is dedicated to making a positive impact on the community in large and small ways, whether that means donating to local charities or teaching customers useful magic tricks such as how to make a cupcake disappear.
Only after studying wine literature, discussing options with distributors, and attending tastings do Frank and Abby Bowman decide which reds and whites will join their already massive stock of approximately 200 wine varietals. Their temperature-controlled wine cellar stores nearly 1,500 bottles, which the Bowmans—Linn Street Cafe's owners since 1996—uncork at daily meals, wine tastings, and multi-course wine-pairing dinners. Along with wine pours, their 70-seat restaurant houses contemporary American dishes crafted from sustainable seafood, local farmers' produce, and meats hand-plucked from Iowan gardens. The elegant meals continue to win raves from critics and outlets such as CityVoter, which awarded Linn Street Cafe a finalist position in its 2011 Best Romantic Restaurant competition.
The kitchen and wait staff at Los Portales cultivate a family-friendly atmosphere that is as warm and comforting as its cuisine. Mexican classics such as chimichangas, burritos, and nachos each come with a variety of protein options, from shrimp to steak. Fajitas and quesadillas join specialty menu items, including chicken mole and enchiladas suizas.
One of the best BLTs in Madison doesn't have bacon on it. Dubbed the TLT, Jennie Capellaro's meat-free version swaps out the pork for strips of tempeh, a type of cultured soy. The sandwich's smoky flavor won over the critics of 77 Square, claiming Best BLT honors in 2010. PETA named it one of the country's best vegan BLTs in 2012. And in 2013, it was named "Favorite Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurant" by The Daily Page.
Jennie and her team at The Green Owl Cafe strive to similarly surprise their diners by coaxing out unexpected flavors from their vegetarian and vegan dishes. Championing freshness, they prefer to work with local suppliers, such as Blue Skies Berry Farm and Sprouting Acres. They also throw monthly raw nights, treating guests to prix fixe dinners comprised of all raw courses. Jennie matches her menu's celebration of nature with a rustic, wood-paneled interior and an outdoor patio where diners can catch the free vitamin-D capsules regularly tossed down by the sun.
Bon Appétit's bright-red façade, alluring green doorway, and smells of fresh cooking coax patrons in to where they can peruse a frequently changing menu. The eatery's dishes are largely prepared with locally produced ingredients, including organic eggs and grass-fed, natural meat. Brunch opens its coat to offer passersby an ever-evolving selection of sandwiches ($7.75), such as the BLT on sourdough, and the Ben Yeddar, in which chopped roasted egg, feta cheese, shredded carrot, onion, roasted cashews, mild green chilies, and a cumin-infused mayonnaise are laid to rest on fresh pita bread. Broaden taste horizons with treats such as panquecas ($7.95), Brazilian crêpes stuffed with fresh banana, topped with honey, and served with a choice of Spanish potato salad, polenta, or fruit. Recent dinner specials include Algerian pan-seared chicken, marinated in a spicy bath infused with roasted anise seed and served with special rice ($15.95).