There's something about these long, late summer days when the cicadas start singing and the school year looms large on the horizon.

We start to get antsy. It's time to get out of town.

Downtown Madison's dining scene, for all its accelerated growth, is not the only place to find creative, quality cuisine. Maybe the evidence is only anecdotal, but it seems like the values of farm to table, locavore eating are making their way into smaller cities and towns, one restaurant at a time.

We found seven such restaurants, all a short day trip from Madison at the most. Each has opened within the last year and a half or so in spots like Oregon, Waunakee, Dodgeville and New Glarus.

And while each restaurant is a worthy destination in its own right, they're also great spots to get lunch or dinner before a trip to a state park, a performance at American Players Theatre or a date night at the Stoughton Opera House.

These restaurants offer the kind of relaxed, small-town attitude that, for better or for worse, many Madison establishments no longer have.

"In the city, it's cool to be seen," said Gorman Hayes, who owns Windmill Pizzeria and Sourdough Co. in Sauk City. "You check in, put your pictures on Instagram and Facebook and tweet that you're at Dan Fox's new place.

"In small towns ... people tend to dine out based on budget," Hayes said. "We're getting to be part of people's regular habits."

Since 2008, Lindsay Christians has been writing about fine arts and food for The Capital Times. She loves eating at the bar, going to the theater, fine wine and good stories. She lives on the east side with her husband, two cats and too many cookbooks.