What’s Good in the Hood: Madison Park

Don’t believe the hype — this lakeside locale is more than just a ritzy part of town.

Over the years, Madison Park has developed a reputation as an upscale settlement of Spanish villas, sprawling cottages and brick Tudors — a place where dad works downtown, mom drives the kids to soccer practice and each lawn is perfectly manicured. Don’t be mistaken.  Despite its fussy, froo-froo image, Madison Park is a surprisingly laid back neighborhood with the feel of a quaint beach town.

The Haps:

Madison Park has numerous salons and spas that can help you (and your bichon frise) sit back and take a load off. If you’re looking for a peaceful retreat from the whine of cars and the glare of Westlake Avenue, on the other hand, perhaps the great, green outdoors will do the trick.

New Yorkers jog around the grassy knolls of Central Park and New Englanders pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd and ogle at the colorful fall foliage. Likewise, Seattleites amble through one of the Emerald City’s hidden natural gems, the Washington Park Arboretum.

The arboretum is located on a 200-acre spread that sustains roughly 40,000 different plant species. Think of a park that has the whimsy of Frodo’s Shire, the privacy of the Secret Garden, and the jaw-dropping landscape of Jurassic Park.

Take a stroll through the quiet, crisscrossing dirt roads to see the Pacific Northwest at its best.  Have some hardcore “me time” at a bench next to a picturesque pond in the heart of the park.  Though you’ll probably encounter runners, botanists and the occasional hand weight-wielding power-walker, you should have no problem achieving that much-needed Zen.

Deets on Eats:

Expectedly, the neighborhood sports its fair share of upscale eateries and shi shi cocktail lounges.  However, as you travel toward Lake Washington on E. Madison Street, you may be surprised by the number of more charming, low-key watering holes that you’ll find.

Take Attic Alehouse and Eatery, for example.  Housed in a small, Nordic-style cottage, this cozy pub offers delicious, unpretentious American fare, as well as 20 beers on draught (with more than a dozen rotating taps). Added perks — such as plush booths, pool tables, dart boards and ESPN HD quietly flickering in the background — make this an ideal neighborhood hideout.

At the Red Onion Tavern, grab a pitcher of Mac & Jack’s and snuggle up next to the roaring fireplace on one of their comfy leather couches.  Though its menu is less “glitzy” than other lounges in the area (only beer and wine are served), this low-key joint attracts twentysomethings and senior citizens alike. If you just want an ice cold Rainier and some friendly company, this is the hole-in-the-wall for you.

If booze can’t ease your state of mind, why not try a sweet treat instead? As far as ice cream, sorbet and other frozen goodies are concerned, Scoop du Jour has got you covered. In the summer months, you’d expect this lakeside storefront to be filled with armies of wet, barefoot kids — though this time of the year, it’s fairly laid-back. Both patrons and staff members agree that the waffle cones are a must-try.

At the quiet Madison Park Bakery, delectable baked favorites — including lemon bars, pink champagne cupcakes and old-fashioned donuts — are all whipped up from scratch. However, cakes are their specialty — and these cake bosses can bake and design a dessert for any occasion, whether it’s a ninth birthday party at Laser Quest or a swanky wedding at Bell Harbor.

So ignore what you’ve heard about Madison Park — and retreat from the fuss of downtown in this relaxing, surprisingly down-to-earth neighborhood.