The Must-Try Restaurants In Madison, Wisconsin

Vincent JS Wood

The capital of Wisconsin and the county seat of Dane County, Madison is the state’s foodie capital, combining locally sourced produce with all-American tradition and a dash of international flavour. We explore the city’s dining scene and select 10 must-try restaurants.

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The Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned draws the best of ingredients from all over the state to craft meals closely associated with Wisconsin. Local farmers and suppliers provide the restaurant’s produce, which allows the chefs to concoct mouth-watering fish dishes, cheese platters and brats. The goal here is to create a level of nostalgia around state traditions and foodstuffs, such as wood-fired chicken and spicy pickled eggs. A selection of ‘home and away’ beers and wines to compliment each meal is available.

Bonfyre Grille

Serving up contemporary American cuisine in an upscale yet relaxed atmosphere, that’s the motto of the popular Bonfyre Grille. Wood-fired steaks, rotisserie chicken and seafood selections are firm favourites along with the now-renowned pot roast. And yet, with a seasonal menu in place, the dining options are constantly changing. Bonfyre Grille also offers a wide array of local beers on tap, along with cocktails and an extensive wine list.


Born of the New York Gastro pub scene, Graze aims to provide an atmosphere of comfort, starting with the surroundings and finishing with the food itself. The restaurant’s name comes from the importance it places on rotational grazing to get the best out of each meat product, here, nothing is wasted and guests can be assured of the food’s intense quality. The specialty smaller plates of ‘comfort food’ allow guests to sample more of the delicious dishes on offer in a convivial, laid-back atmosphere.

Ha Long Bay

A family-owned business that is named after the Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, the restaurant Ha Long Bay specialises in Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian food including rice dishes, noodle dishes and a range of Thai curries. Specialties that bring authentic flavours of Asia to the tables of Wisconsin include the tamarind-fried red snapper or the lightly battered chicken in house sesame sauce.

Sushi Muramoto

Sushi Muramoto is a sumptuously decorated sushi restaurant that also serves up a great line in Japanese cooked foods, such as deep-fried shrimp or tofu and crab croquettes. With extra bites from contemporary American fare, like grilled steak and pork cutlets, Sushi Muramoto is a fail safe option for an orientally infused dinner. Chef’s tasting sessions are available during the week for those looking for expert guidance on how best to sample the gems of modern Japanese cuisine.

The Green Owl Café

Claiming to be Madison’s only vegetarian restaurant, The Green Owl Café serves up gourmet delights without any meat in sight, offering a vegan and gluten-free menu as well. Vegetarian jambalaya and vegan schnitzel are house favourites, whilst a custom salad bar means that guests can pick and choose their own greenery. The restaurant tries to maintain local connections by sourcing food and ideas from nearby farmers and producers. So highly lauded is the food at The Green Owl Café that in 2010 it won the best BLT sandwich award at the 2010 Madison Restaurants Awards, a feat made more impressive by the fact they only serve vegetarian bacon.

A Pig in A Fur Coat

Despite the whimsical name, A Pig in A Fur Coat presents itself as a highly sophisticated, upmarket charcuterie and restaurant the serves up such delicacies as rabbit rillettes or foie gras mousse in a refined and relaxed atmosphere. With a community focus that has brought it close to local suppliers, the restaurant also hosts events such as a sherry appreciation evening. Occasional musical accompaniment frequents the restaurant and offers a pleasant, melodic backdrop to the Mediterranean dining ambiance.

Habanero’s Mexican Grill

Habanero’s Mexican Grill combines Mexican flavours with a local twist, as the restaurant uses only local, organic produce. A broad range of burritos makes them stand out from the crowd, and signature dishes include the fajita burrito, which sees onions take the place of beans in the traditional burrito. Veggie options abound next to meat feasts, making choosing a near-impossibility with tacos, tortillas and other well-known Mexican fare making up a fair portion of the menu.

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