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12 at Madison’s chef-owner Jeff Osaka has created an inviting neighborhood restaurant in Congress Park that isn’t afraid to be innovative. Photo by Matt Nager

Best Restaurants 2018: 12 at Madison

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There are at least 12 things to adore about 12 at Madison, but there’s not enough space to list them all here. Suffice it to say that chef-owner Jeff Osaka has created a neighborhood eatery in Congress Park that’s as inspiring as it is welcoming. The small plates menu changes seasonally, spans continents, and is always surprising; daily specials, meant for two to four people to share, are upscale yet homey renditions of classics (think: roasted chicken, cassoulet, shrimp and grits). Sunday brunch here is a delight, with oversize spritzes, baskets of freshly baked pastries, and, when available, a paragon of a prime rib hash plate. At dinnertime, Osaka gives his team of cooks the freedom to play, which results in dishes like jerk cauliflower with wild rice or an early summer stunner of beef carpaccio with Bibb lettuce sauce, cornbread purée, and ranch powder. Bizarre as those combos may sound, they always work beautifully on the plate. $$, 1160 Madison St., 720-216-0190

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