Would you believe that we drive from Rochester, NY to Ithaca, NY just to eat a Madeline's. It is our special occasion restaurant. It is where we go to celebrate life's events. It is a place where we take out of town guests.
What we find so special about Madeline's is their excellent food. For example, we have yet to find a restaurant in western New york that prepares seared Ahi Tuna as perfectly as Madeline's. The quality of the Tuna is extraordinary and it is cooked to just sear the fish. Most other restaurants cook the Tuna until it turns a sickly gray. Over the years, I have ordered everything on the menu and not once have I been disappointed. Everything on the menu offers are little surprise that makes it stand out from how you may have experienced the same dish prepared at another restaurant. I urge you to try something that you have never had before. However do not expect to get the same dish of the same quality anywhere else.
If you don't order soups when you go out to eat because your palate has been abused by too many that have been canned or poorly made, now is your time to experiment. If Madeline's were located near me, I would go there just for soup several nights a week. Don't try to decipher what Madeline's soups will taste like from their names. For example, a carrot soup at Madeline's will be a culinary delight even if you are a carrot soup fan. If you are not a carrot soup fan, you might become one after tasting Madeline's.
Then, there is Madeline's dessert case. All other dessert cases dream of being Madeline's when they go to sleep at night. At the end of your meal, tell your server that you will visit the dessert case to select yours. You may have to stand in line just to view it. There are so many to chose from that diners tend to stand at the case for a long time. I have had most and every one seems to be better than the last. I tend to favor flourless chocolate desserts that contain coffee.
One caveat that I have to offer is to not take someone who prefers very plain foods to Madeline's. We once observed a family where the mother did not like the sound of anything she read from the menu and asked if she could just get plain grilled chicken. The server graciously honored the request, but the mother forgot to ask that no seasonings be added to the rest of the meal. Her dining experience was unpleasant and she let everyone in her party know about it. The rest of her family were amazed by their food. So don't waste Madeline's on someone who Calvin Trillin describes on page 130 of Travels with Alice as having a Naugahyde palate.
It is best to call Madeline's for reservations, especially during parent weekends at the local colleges.
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