A poured at-home old fashioned from Madison on Park, with clip-on lemon rind
I have to be honest: I did not expect to find myself ordering from Madison on Park during this shutdown. The University Heights restaurant has much going for it, but near the top of the list is the beautiful arched rooftop of its indoor/outdoor dining room. Add upscale dishes, excellent wine, and craft cocktails, and you get one of the most romantic dinner date settings in San Diego. We know this.
4622 Park Boulevard, San Diego
But there’s no taking a date to dine at Madison right now, or any romantic dinner venues. For those without established relationships prior to covid-19, dating takes place over video these days. At best, singles can hope for take-out shared outside, from a distance. Madison’s architecture can’t do anything to help that.
So what changed? Well, I heard how Madison is going about its business these days, with its dining room closed, and I think it’s awesome.
Take-out packaging, including a cocktail to go, with big ice cube packed separately
First: 100 percent of its revenue is going to support its employees. Not just what it gets from take-out orders, but what it makes in gift card sales too. For the kitchen staff it keeps working, that means full salaries, despite the slowdown in business. For service staff that can’t get in full shifts anymore, it means financial relief to help them weather the state’s shelter-in-place order. Like many restaurants, Madison has set up a GoFundMe campaign, soliciting donations for further support of its workers, but in that too the restaurant’s owners appear to be coming through for their team, pledging to quadruple match all donations.
A double-cut, bone-in fried pork chop, with panko and sesame crust
This is coming from a freelancing food writer who has been hit hard by the economic realities of a pandemic: if I’m going to spend money at a restaurant, to continue this column, I want that money to go as far as it can to help those in the struggling hospitality sector.
For me, that means sticking to locally owned small businesses, and it means supporting businesses that try to do right by their staff. By rule of thumb: if a business is one, it’s more likely to be the other.
The romantic, yet currently unavailable, Madison dining room
All that rationale is what led me to pick up Madison’s famous, double cut pork chop. The panko and sesame seed crusted chop was served with two of my favorite vegetables, broccolini and asparagus for $26. II added a harvest salad: baby spinach and brussels sprouts with bacon, gouda, corn, and roasted butternut squash with a balsamic vinaigrette ($12). I phoned in my order, and did get a chance to spend a couple minutes admiring the restaurant’s dining room while picking it up.
Madison on Park, a fine dining restaurant operating for employees during the pandemic
And though I’m currently well stocked for beer and booze at home, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to pick up one of the house cocktails served with the big ice cube. Madison’s perhaps best known for its negronis, but I did not go wrong picking the Old Fashioned, made with rye whiskey, pecan smoked maple syrup, and cherry bark vanilla bitters. The smooth yet strong beverage was served to go in two plastic cups: one with the mixed spirits, the other with the giant ice cube. It was ready to be poured at home, garnished with lemon rind held in place by an adorable miniature clothespin.
The whole set up still works out for a take-out dinner, romantic or otherwise. That said, if the romantic aspect works out well, Madison offers weekend brunch, to-go.