Nishino scores highest
When it was announced that KeyBank would be moving into the neighborhood, filling space that was once home to three or more retails shops, a local wag commented that Madison Park was in danger of becoming a place where you do just three things: get a good meal, make a deposit, or have a spa treatment. An oversimplification, to be sure, but still a somewhat legitimate depiction of our business district’s current critical mass. You may no longer be able to buy a book, rent a video, or try on a new dress in a Madison Park shop, but you certainly can still find a good meal here. And if you roll nearby Madison Valley into the mix, the area's good-cuisine selection is both wide and deep, beginning with Crush at the top of Madison and ending with Madison Park Conservatory at the bottom.
Madison Park's claim to culinary excellence is a fact noted by just about every guide to the neighborhood we've ever seen, and of course those of us who’ve lived here for any length of time know there are plenty of great eats within walking distance. Nevertheless, we've been wondering how our restaurants actually stack up in the opinion of their patrons. To find out, we took a look at what the three principal customer-rating sites (Yelp, Urban Spoon, and Zagat) have to say. In addition, we looked at a top foodie site, Gayot, for its insights. With all of that information in hand, we compiled this ranking of the Top Dozen Madison Park/Madison Valley restaurants, as seen through the eyes of those who dined and then took the time to share their opinions:
1) Nishino (3140 E. Madison St.)
Average 4.5 Stars on Yelp (225 Reviews)
(Zagat: 96% Like / Urban Spoon: 89% Like)
Nishino scored high for its great sushi but gets occasional dings for service issues. It is Number 8 on Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten Food Ratings in Seattle list.
2) Rover's (2808 E. Madison St.)
Average 4.5 Stars on Yelp (146 Reviews)
(Zagat: 95% Like / Urban Spoon: 86% Like)
Rover’s is rated Number 10 on Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten Food Ratings in Seattle list.
3) The Harvest Vine (2701 E. Madison St.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (183 Reviews)
(Zagat: 95% Like / Urban Spoon: 89% Like)
The Harvest Vine made Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten Seattle Small Plates list.
4) Cactus! (4220 E. Madison St.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (188 Reviews)
(Zagat: 92% Like / Urban Spoon: 88% Like)
Cactus! made Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten Outdoor Dining Restaurants in Seattle list.
5) Crush (2319 E. Madison St.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (64 Reviews)
(Zagat: 89% Like / Urban Spoon: 80% Like)
Crush made Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten “Hot” Restaurants in Seattle list.
6) Café Flora (2901 E. Madison St.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (301 Reviews)
(Zagat: 83% Like / Urban Spoon: 88% Like)
Gayot refers to this vegetarian mainstay as "delightful" and "upscale," noting the innovative menu and the joy of the atrium setting.
7) Voila! Bistrot (2805 E Madison St.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (57 Reviews)
(Zagat: 79% Like / Urban Spoon 88% Like)
8) La Cote Creperie (2811 E. Madison St.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (57 Reviews)
(Zagat: 75% Like / Urban Spoon: 96% Like)
9) Madison Park Conservatory (1927 43rd Ave. E.)
Average 4 Stars on Yelp (27 Reviews)
(Zagat: Not Rated / Urban Spoon: 83% Like)
10) Madison Park Café (1807 42nd Avenue E.)
Average 3.5 Stars on Yelp (45 Reviews)
(Zagat: 89% Like / Urban Spoon: 91% Like)
The Madison Park Café made Gayot’s 2011 Top Ten Seattle Outdoor Dining Restaurants list.
11) Luc (2800 E. Madison St.)
Average 3.5 stars on Yelp (89 Reviews)
(Zagat: 89% Like / Urban Spoon: 85% Like)
Gayot calls this "quintessential neighborhood bistro" a "casual-chic place," praising both the food and the hand-crafted cocktails.
12) Jae's Asian Bistro & Sushi (2801 E. Madison St.)
Average 3.5 Stars on Yelp (59 Reviews)
(Zagat: Not Rated / Urban Spoon: 86% Like)
Gayot cites Jae’s for its “innovative Pan-Asian cuisine in a stylish, lively setting.”
In addition to having a couple restaurants noted for up-and-coming chefs (Crush and Madison Park Conservatory), Madison Park and Madison Valley are home to no less than five superior French restaurants (Rover's, Voila! Bistrot, La Cote Creperie, Madison Park Cafe and Luc), two top-rated Asian restaurants (Nishino and Jae's Asian Bistro & Sushi), and one of the very best vegetarian restaurants in town (Cafe Flora). Add to that great places for tapas (The Harvest Vine) and Southwest cuisine (Cactus!) and you have an excellent array of neighborhood dining choices. Not bad for a section of street stretching but 1.5 miles from hilltop to water.
[Note: This list is not an attempt to evaluate or make coherent the critical restaurant reviews of professional cuisine journalists. It is simply a ranking of neighborhood restaurants based on the evaluation of patrons, as cited by three major aggregator websites. The list was prioritized based first on Yelp's ratings, since that site has by far the greatest number of reviews of each restaurant and a five-star ranking system (the other sites only have a Like/Don't Like differentiator). Zagat's score was then evaluated, unless it was not available (as in the case of the relatively new restaurants, Jae's and Madison Park Conservatory). The Urban Spoon ratings were given the last consideration. Note that users of these ratings sites may skew towards a younger demographic than may be typical of the patrons of some Madison Park eating venues.
Using Yelp as the principal determiner of the rankings has an definite impact on the outcome. If the Zagat ratings had been given the highest weighting rather than Yelp's, for example, Madison Park Cafe would have moved from Number 10 to Number 6 on the list, though the other restaurants would have been basically ranked in the same order. If Urban Spoon's ratings had been given first priority, La Cote Creperie would have topped our list, with 96% positive customer response, and Madison Park Cafe would have been in second place, with 91% approval.]
Photo courtesy of Nishino.