We visited the Daisy Cafe on our first-ever visit to Madison for business. The Cafe is well-known to locals and recommended by people we met. As in our many foreign travels, we find the best food and cultural experiences are to be discovered in neighborhoods off the beaten path, and Daisy Cafe, located about 2 miles from city-center, didn't disappoint. Nothing cookie-cutter here.
We now know that the restaurant started 3 years ago as Daisy Cupcakery, and the display of gourmet cupcakes greets guests inside the door. The decor is neighborhood-friendly with large windows connecting patrons to the busy street. Living-room seating gives those waiting for a table extra comfort, and large hanging leaded-glass art panels and support columns define the otherwise open floor. Diners sit at tables for two or four, and each furniture group is unique - we sat at a table that was like those I grew up with at our family vacation home over many decades. Artworks adorn the walls, and we learned that all pieces are by the owners or their family members. Restaurantuers as artists seems a good marriage of talents. Eclectisism permeates traditional in this decor.
We were there for a late lunch on a Friday. My wife's order of huevos rancheros were, in both our estimates, the best we've ever tasted. We've visited at least 25 major cities in Mexico over the years (including going to cooking school in Oaxaca), and Daisy's version is exceptional. I ordered from the highlighted meatloaf menu - chorizo and cheese - and I could now see myself eating their meatloaf every week. Both meals came quickly, were well-presented, and were more-than-filling. Great food at great values. The lunch menu is extensive and the many attractive items hard to chose among. If we hadn't planned short on a busy UW football game day, we would have returned to explore other items on our way to the airport.
During our "long" lunch hour - Daisy's serves beer, wine (including every varietal of 'Cupcake Vineyards' production), and cocktails - we observed the owner's attention to everything going on in the restaurant as he conversed with some new guests. He maintained an eagle-eye on customer reception, food prep, and even the replacement of a wet napkin. If there is one common characteristic of good restaurants, it is active owner / manager involvement. It is clearly part of the "bones" of this place, and that is probably the biggest reason that Daisy's sits in the top 6% of TA ratings of Madison restaurants.