Neighborhood Buzz: Madison Street

October 22 2010, 11:00 AM

Despite talk of neighborhood dissension, when Madison Street opened last Wednesday, it was packed. And given the barren parking lot and the strollers parked outside, I was happy to see that most of the diners were local residents who walked over to fill the seats.

Why Congress Park was worried about an established, locally owned restaurant group opening a family-friendly bar and grill is beyond me. As far as I'm concerned—and I live a couple blocks from the eatery—a bustling, well-maintained space is better than an empty, decrepit one. Even better: Madison Street is affiliated with Larimer Associates, which already owns Billy's Inn, LoHi SteakBar, and Ernie's Bar & Pizza—all well-loved neighborhood spots.

The food here is what you expect, with a few twists. You can see consulting chef Sean Kelly's influence in items such as the cumin-roasted almonds and olives, the hummus platter, and the kettle chips served with blue-cheese fondue. If you ever dined at any of Kelly's former restaurants (Aubergine, Clair de Lune, or Somethin' Else), you've likely had renditions of these appetizers.

The rest of the menu is more bar-and-grill like: heavy on salads, burgers, and sandwiches (don't miss the porchetta sammy). There are also tacos (the pulled rotisserie chicken is especially good) and a strip steak with herb butter that hints at LoHi's menu.

Bonus: Prices are reasonable (most dishes come in around $10), and the restaurant's polished but comfy vibe perfectly suits the 'hood.

1222 Madison St., 303-736-2260