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Caspian Cafe

Update: Caspian Cafe has closed.

In a word: Raphael says it's good, and Raphael is absolutely right.

The specs: #0069
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp.

Latest Caspian Cafe news and reviews

JM ate the grilled chicken sandwich with fries and an orange soda.
John ate the kebab sandwich and a lemonade.
Nichole ate the Caspian platter (falafel, babaghanouj, hummus, pita).
The bill was $23, or $7.67/person, plus tip.
JM gave Caspian Cafe a B+ ; John gave Caspian Cafe an A-; Nichole gave Caspian Cafe an A (see our grading rubric).

At first we were flummoxed by the Caspian Cafe's hours. We had learned from past experience to check hours, but this time we had bad info - both Isthmus and the cafe's door proclaimed it open until 8pm on Friday, but we had no luck at 4pm. Moral: Call ahead.

Our return trip on a Saturday was worth it, as shown by the crowd enjoying lunch in the small, brightly painted dining room/kitchen. The close quarters of the layout did have the benefit of allowing us to have our food being prepared before our eyes, while a public radio opera played in the background.

The falafel was the best Nichole's ever had. The pita were still warm from the oven. John found the food to be a good change from his usual fare. Though he enjoyed his kebab sandwich, he'd like to come back to give the kuku sabzi a try. On this visit, we didn't have time for the half-hour wait, but reviews of the dish posted around the room testified to its goodness.

Finally, JM, who is disinclined to like Middle Eastern food (as mentioned before), said that he was "prepared to really not like" the Caspian Cafe's Iranian fare, but was won over by the basic tastiness of the dishes and the earnestness of the staff.  Having bread baked after you order is just the best way to have a sandwich prepared, he thinks.  Add to that a refreshing orange soda and french fries as a side, it adds to pretty good cuisine.  That said, it was crowded like a New York bistro and downtown parking is... downtown parking.

It seems the University Square demolition project is up in the air, with changes coming as early as 2006, so eat here while you can.

Comments

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OK, commenting on my own blog = dork. But I just got back from lunch at Caspian Cafe and it was wonderful again.

I had the fesenjan, chicken simmered in pomegranate-walnut sauce. Tabouli and a mountain of light, fluffy Basmati accompanied it. Oh, bliss.

Great great great food! Loved it!

The food, the atmosphere, and the owners are wonderful. The not-so-best-kept secret in Madison dining is the stuffed meatballs (Wednesday lunch special only!).

My daughter & I treated ourselves to lunch recently, she had Fesenjan, yoghurt sauce, pasta salad, lemon-ade, baklava. She said excepting the fact they weren't serving doogh, it was very nearly the perfect meal. I had khoresteh badamjuen, yoghurt sauce, kookooh sabzi w/o bread, diet pepsi. Neither of us can wait to go back, but for supper next time, so we might get doogh!

Highly recommended. The food here is fresh, generous, and of very high quality. Everything retains a "homemade" flavor. The marinated eggplant, kuku sabzi, and falafel sandwiches are all under $8 with plentiful portions and delicious tabbouleh and yogurt salad. The "Caspian Platter" is a solid selection of vegetarian options with a basket of fresh baked bread for under $9. Haven't tried the other entrees (mostly kabobs) yet, but will in the near future.

closed :( ...as of last Friday

mir and mohila sold it and are retiring to florida.

what a bummer, this place is gonna be missed

This is frickin' tragic. Anyone know who bought the restaurant? Will it be the same food?

Caspian Cafe has been replaced by Big Red's Steaks, a typical college dude restaurant and another bad addition to Madison's culinary scene.

This is indeed tragic! Mir and Mohila were gems, and their tasty homemade food helped sustain me through my PhD program (til 2000). They were a great and unique addition to the Madison culinary scene. If they ever read this, I wish them all the best and much happiness in their retirement.

Another Bad Addition was my favorite R&B/hip-hop act of the 1990's.

Before this place closed, the owners put me on an email list for a cookbook that was soon to be published by them. The email got lost somehow, and I was wondering if anyone else had a link, or a way to get the cookbook. Has anyone else heard of such a thing, even?

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