Madison is known as a quaint beach town with an adorable town center that attracts tourists in the summer months. But long before the tourists arrive, a meal at Elizabeth's Café offers a vacation feeling.
Elizabeth's has the style of a French country inn. Its exposed beam ceilings and varied seating options create a homey but elegant feel. Benches with fluffy cushions covered in vibrant, patterned fabrics line the longer walls. The white-wood paneled walls include framed watercolors and decorative plates that accent the yellow and white decor. Fresh flowers on each table add an intimate touch, and the rows of mason jars at the drink station signal an eye toward trendiness.
Cool jazz played while we perused the extensive gourmet lunch menu of creative salads and sandwiches. After much deliberation, I chose the sopresatta sandwich on ciabatta, which looked too good to touch. Inside was thin sopresatta with fresh mozzarella, arugula, roaster red peppers, a pesto spread and a small amount of a balsamic-based dressing. Once I was able to figure out how to fit it into my mouth, I found the combination delicious.
A grilled cheese was described as "the best I've ever had" by the hard-to-please diner with me, and a side of pommes frites was so perfect there was no need for ketchup.
Two other guests at our table ordered salads. The Tuscan chicken salad came with mixed greens, green beans, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, peppers, red onion and fresh mozzarella. It was a delight, well proportioned and perfectly coated in light balsamic vinaigrette.
The grilled salmon niçoise salad came with greens, baby new potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, niçoise olives, and hardboiled egg, all in red wine vinaigrette sided topped with a large piece of grilled salmon. Every last bite was consumed.
Next came dessert, which we could not justify skipping because of how wonderful our lunches had been. We ordered two carrot cupcakes, a chocolate cupcake and a raspberry tart. The cupcakes were perfection, topped with a rich icing. The raspberry tart was good, but not great. It was filled with a kind of semi-chilled custard and topped with raspberries that were nice and fresh.
Our $120 bill included a $30 bottle of wine, and all agreed it was well worth the price. The sandwiches at Elizabeth's range from $12 to $16, with a dozen offerings ranging from traditional BLTs, meatloaf and corned beef to more adventurous, including Pork Banh Mi, Crab Cake Po'Boy and Steak Capressi. The sopresatta sandwich was $13, and came with chips on the side. The grilled salmon salad was $20, a reasonable price for a salad with such a large piece of fish with it. And the Tuscan salad was $15, again a reasonable price for an elaborate salad with meat added to it. Each of the cupcakes was $4, and the tart was about $6.
The verdict: Elizabeth's is a must go if you're in the area and looking for a nice place with something for everyone.
>>Elizabeth's Café, 885 Boston Post Road, Madison, is open for Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Sunday brunch is served 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. Information: 203-245-0250 and perfectparties.com.