An eye for design, innovative cocktails at Madison on Park

Madison on Park. (K.C. Alfred/ Union-Tribune)
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

With its soaring ceiling, cedar walls and immersive geometric accents, Madison on Park sparkles as one of San Diego’s most aesthetically appealing eateries. Since bursting onto the University Heights scene at the end of 2015, this upscale yet approachable restaurant has dropped innumerable jaws with its astonishing design and thrilled endless taste buds with its tantalizing, Mediterranean-style plates. And, as if there weren’t already enough reasons to swing by this swanky Uptown spot, Madison’s new barrel-aged cocktail program offers an additional excuse to spend a night out in their spacious dining room.

“Our ambiance lends itself to drinking Old Fashioneds and other classic cocktails,” says Matt Sieve, Madison’s general manager. “It was a natural progression. We’re just adding onto our existing program of elegantly constructed classic cocktails.”

The restaurant’s innovative new table service includes any of six distinct barrel-aged cocktails delivered to customers’ tables in 1-liter barrels, containing up to 13 drinks. Oversized ice cubes, creative glassware and fresh garnishes arrive alongside the beverage bounty, giving patrons the freedom to tweak drinks to their liking. The experience is akin to nightclub table service, but with an elevated twist thanks to the specialty, barrel-aged cocktails.

“I personally love the barrel-aged Mezcal Old Fashioned,” Sieve says. “We use chocolate bitters and blue agave to complete the outfit. It’s beautiful. The Woodsmen is also a favorite. Using Bulliet Rye, Fernet and Allspice Dram, it’s a great winter sipper.”

There’s more.

“There are lots of bourbon and mezcal additions, too,” Sieve says. “Both spirits contain depth very much like wine. And the barrel-aging adds another layer to the spirit or cocktail that smooths and rounds out the drink, while adding some really nice oak notes.”

From a visual-appeal standpoint, the meticulous attention Madison pays to its elegant décor mirrors the care the restaurant devotes to its cocktail program.

“Madison’s design, much like its menu, seeks to approach guests and offer something new, yet comfortable; exciting, and at the same time, classic,” Sieve says. “And where else can you get an amazing, elegant cocktail for under $10 in a design this beautiful?”

Madison on Park: 4622 Park Blvd., University Heights, 619.269.6566,

“Madison bar and restaurant design pulls from mid-century modern and Italian design traditions. Function leads the design, while clean lines and local wood species define the space. Madison is divided between a cozy, bar-centric space and a dramatically high-arched cedar-lined dining room with sky views and intricate wood joinery. Further, the use of a site-specific rope installation, reminiscent of guitar or harp strings, is ... used to partition the cozy booths in the bar area. The new Madison storefront is almost post-modern in its playful replication of the Victorian-era storefronts throughout San Diego; streamlined and painted in a single wash of sky blue, it is both eye-catching and inviting. Throughout the rest of the cedar-dominated space, color is contrasted with colorful geometric wood puzzles that function both as the walls and the art in much of the space.” - Anna and David Sindelar, wife and husband design/build team at ARCHISECTS, the industrial design firm responsible for Madison’s majesty. The Sindelar’s work on the restaurant was celebrated in October, when Madison won an Orchid for Interior Design at the 40th Annual Orchids & Onions Awards hosted by the San Diego Architectural Foundation.